2013년 7월 17일 수요일

[발췌: Perspectives on Keynesian Economics] Keynes According to Robbins: A Comment (2011)

출처: Arie Arnon, Jimmy Weinblatt, Warren Young eds., Perspectives on Keynesian Economics (Springer, 2011)
자료: 구글도서 ; 차례


※ 발췌(excerpts):
  • 제목: Keynes According to Robbins: A Comment on Witztum's "Keynes, Robbins and the Nature of Economics
  • 지은이: Mauro Boianovsky
* * *

The difference between Lionel Robbins's and John Maynard Keynes's respective approaches to economic theory and methodology have been occasionally mentioned in the literature (see e.g. Gruchy 1949; Wright 1989; Davis 1991), but an indepth discussion is still wanting. Amos Witztum's critical assessment of Keynes's 1936 ^General Theory^ in the light of Robbins's 1932 ^Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science^ provides an opportunity to tackle the issue upfront. However by attempting to reconstruct what Robbins would have thought about the scientific status of the ^General Theory^, Witztum largely misses the opportunity. In particular, the conclusion that Robbins "implicitly denied Keynes's place in the science of economics" is not warranted by Robbins's ^explicit^ acknowledgement of the relevance of the ^General Theory^, especially after he gave up the Austrian business cycle frameworkㅡwhich had informed his 1934 book on the ^Great Depression^ㅡand endorsed several (althought not all) tenets of Keynesian employment policy (see Robbins, 1947, 1971).

  Despite some important methodological differences, Robbins and Maynard Keynes belonged to what Mark Blaug (1980) ahs aptly called the long "verificationist" tradition in economic method, which was started by J. S. Mill in the 1830s and prevailed until Terence Hutchison (1938) and especially Milton Friedman (1953) brought in Popperian falsificationism to the economic realm. For both Robbins and Keynes, data could and should be used to test whether a theory was applicable to a particular situation, but not to decide the overall validity of the theory itself. Significantly, Robbins (1938, p. 347) quoted a passage from volume 2 of Keynes's 1930 ^Treatise on Money^ to support his own view about the key role of empirical verification in economics. And defended Keynes from the charge (presumably made by Hutchison 1938) of neglecting economic data: " it is curious that the author of this passage and the distinguished contribution to the applied theory of money in which it occurs, should have recently been singled out for publuc censure for 'unscientific' methods of procedure". The two economists parted company when it came to the relation between the science of economics and the objectives of economic policy, which Robbins regarded as strictly separated. True enough, Keynes did not discuss Robbins's methodology in the ^General Theory^ㅡas one might expect, he did refer to Robbins's (1934) instead. However, in an oft-quoted letter he wrote Roy Harrod in 1938 about Harrod's presidential address published that same year, Keynes claimed that "against Robbins, economics is essentially a moral science and not a natural science. That is to say, it employs introspection and judgments of value" (Keynes, 1973, p. 297).

  Keynes's view of economics not as pure science, but as an applied, moral science (see also p. xxii of the preface to the ^General Theory^) reflected his Cambridge Marshallian background (Gruchy 1949; Colander 2009), against which Robbins (1932) put forward his alternative definition of the subject matter of economics. [42] Indeed, as pointed out by Richard Wright (1989), the circumstances surrounding Robbins's participation in the Committee of Economistsㅡset up by Keynes in 1930 to produce a diagnosis and remedies to the economic depressionㅡplayed an important role in prompting him to write his 1932 and 1934 books. Robbins, who at the time disagreed with Keynes's diagnosis and solutions, was unwilling to be bowled over by "the complexity and great aesthetic beauty of the theorems propounded by Mr. Keynes" (Howson and Winch 1977, p. 60, quoting from Robbins's answer to a questionnaire drafted by Keynes). In particular, Robbins was critical of the kind of interplay between theory and policy argued by Keynes, which played a key role in what Hugh Dalton (1986) called Robbins's "feud" with Keynes throughout the 1930s. From that perspective, it is hardly surprising that the ^General Theory^ does not pass the Robbinsian 1932 test as a scientific contributin to economics, as much as a substantial part of modern welfare economics for that matter (see Atkinson 2009).

{{
  However, as it is well-known (Robbins 1971, pp. 150-156; O'Brien 1988, pp. 115-117), although Robbins remained faithful to his 1932 methodological principles,
  • he would recant his 1934 Austrian-like business cycle theory and its policy implications
  • He would regard “this aspect of my dispute with Keynes as the greatest mistake of my professional career, and the book The Great Depression ... as something which I would willing see forgotten” (Robbins 1971, p. 154) [43] 
}}

Robbins's change of mind is reflected in his support and active participation in the elaboration of the famous White Paper on Employment Policy and in the Bretton Woods agreement during the Second World War, when he worked alongside Keynes in the Economic Section of the Treasurer. As pointed out by Robert Skidelsky (2003, p. 651), the "Keynes-Robbins axis" became crucial for the success of domestic and foreign British economic policy in the years 1943-1945 (see also Robbins 1971, Chapter 9).

a{
Although Robbins did not fully convert into Keynesianismㅡhe was very close to Dennis Robertson and accepted many of Robertson's critical points about Keynes's framework (see Boianovsky and Presley 2009)ㅡhe did eventually take in the notion that fluctuations of aggregate demand “must not be left to look after themselves” and that it is an “important function of government” to pay attention to such matters (Robbins 1971, p. 188).
}a

  A few years upon his return to the LSE after the Second World War, Robbins (1952) became engaged in the production of one of his most important investigations into the history of thought. His book about the theory of economic policy in classical economics cleared several issues about the economic role of government that had not been discussed in any detail in his 1932 ^Essay^. In view of Witztum's contrast between the Keynesian and the classical respective treatments of economic policy, it is worth noting that Robbins (1952, pp. 37-38) stressed the similarities between Maynard Keynes's ([1926] 1972) and Adam Smith's formulation of the economic role of the state. Notwithstanding the distinct contents of Keynes's later agenda (e.g. control of aggregate investment) as compared to Smith's, Robbins called attention to their "^formal^ similarity", which he did not regard an accident but an indication of the essential "continuity of thought in the tradition of economic liberalism concerning the positive nature of the co-operation between the state and the individual". In his LSE lecture delivered in 1979-1980 Robbins wondered whether Keynes had involuntarily appropriated Smith's definition of the functions of the state, given that the wording was almost the same (Robbins 1998, p. 153).

  Witztum's suggested distinction between (classical) "endogenous" and (Keynesian) "exogenous" role of the state may be found already under another guise in Richard Musgrave' (1959) well-known classification of the allocative, distributive and macroeconomic stabilization branches of the government, which are not opposed to one another. In the same vein, the notion of "involuntary employment" and its perverse effects on labor supply and growth is not necessarily incompatible with Keynes's concept of involuntary unemployment, as illustrated by Barro and Grossman's (1971, pp.90-91) treatment of the determination of output and employment under conditions of excess demand for labor and goods, which they distinguished from involuntary unemployment associated with excess supply. Hence, the supposed unscientific character of the ^General Theory^ remains unproven.


References

Atkinson, A. B. (2009). Economics as a moral science. ^Economica^, 76, 791-804.
...
Blaug, M. (1980). ^The Methodology of Economics^. Cambridge: University Press.
...

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