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Schumpeter, Like Keynes, Was Childless

Schumpeter’s obituary of Keynes became news during May 2013, for all the wrong reasons. Schumpeter had said that Keynes “was childless”, and noted in the same sentence that Keynes’s “philosophy of life was essentially a short-run philosophy”. The latter does not follow from the former. Schumpeter was guilty of cramming that sentence, but says nothing of Keynes’s lack of concern for future generations, or his sexuality.

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In small part, Schumpeter did have in mind Keynes’s prewar lifestyle. It was a self-indulgent brand of English artistic intellectualism. Keynes’s friend E. M. Forster (the gossips should read VS Naipaul) described the Bloomsbury-cum-Charleston idyl thus: “In came the nice fat dividends, up rose the lofty thoughts, and we did not realise that all the time we were exploiting the poor of our country”. Some of the children experienced this lifestyle as alienating and neglectful (the atmosphere is vividly captured in Virginia Wolf’s novel ‘To The Lighthouse’, and there is the true story of Angelica Garnett).

To put this in perspective, heed the words of one of Schumpeter’s biographers: “Compared to Keynes, Schumpeter had no reason to think that life was something a person could expect to enjoy automatically … His own vision of life resembled his vision of capitalism as a perennial gale of creative destruction”.