John Maynard Keynes Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS

La Théorie générale de Keynes a 80 ans

LONDRES – En 1935, John Maynard Keynes écrivait à George Bernard Shaw : « Je crois que je suis en train d'écrire un livre sur la théorie économique qui révolutionnera en grande partie – non pas, je suppose, d’un coup, mais au cours des dix prochaines années – la manière dont le monde réfléchit à propos de ses problèmes économiques. » Et, en effet, le magnum opus de Keynes, Théorie générale de l'emploi, de l’intérêtet de la monnaie, publié en février 1936, a transformé la science économique et la politique économique. Quatre-vingts ans plus tard, la théorie de Keynes tient-elle encore debout?

Deux éléments de l'héritage de Keynes semblent solides. Tout d'abord, Keynes a inventé la macroéconomie – la théorie de la production dans son ensemble. Il a appelé sa théorie « générale » pour la distinguer de la théorie pré-keynésienne, qui suppose un niveau de production unique – le plein emploi.

En montrant comment l'économie pouvait rester coincée dans un équilibre de « sous-emploi », Keynes a contesté l'idée centrale de la science économique orthodoxe de son époque, selon laquelle l’offre et la demande sont égalisées par les prix simultanément sur tous les marchés, y compris le marché du travail. Sa remise en cause impliquait une nouvelle dimension en matière d’élaboration de politiques : les gouvernements peuvent avoir besoin d'enregistrer des déficits pour maintenir le plein emploi.

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