Chapter 7: Rhetoric in the spirit of Keynes: metaphors to persuade economists, students and the public about fiscal policy
This chapter goes beyond reciting the letter of Keynes. It is about selling policies. Keynes had his mind on framing a valid theory so that its suitable application would enhance human wellbeing. Some of his policies were intended as short-period responses and others formed part of a strategy of social transformation. Keynes had personal and practical views about fiscal policy and about fiscal financing, but this chapter takes a different, less exegetical, direction. It veers unashamedly into rhetoric. In each context some specific aspect of the truth may be revealed or concealed by the method used to convey it. This chapter explores how our metaphors reveal our assumptions, some of which are tacit and perhaps even unknown to the unreflective debater. Roger Garrison (1995) put it splendidly: ‘the lens becomes more like a mirror’. The global financial crisis has lent a pragmatic respectability to interventionism, but it has not revived interest by the profession at large in the deeper conceptual foundations of Keynes’s macroeconomics. We may be missing a chance to make progress in widening the understanding of how Keynes strived to transform economics. Our rhetoric is not good enough; we are persuading neither our colleagues nor the public that fiscal intervention is based on prudence rather than espoused in desperation.
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