The Elgar Companion to John Maynard Keynes
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The Elgar Companion to John Maynard Keynes

Edited by Robert W. Dimand and Harald Hagemann

The most influential and controversial economist of the twentieth century, John Maynard Keynes was the leading founder of modern macroeconomics, and was also an important historical figure as a critic of the Versailles Peace Treaty after World War I and an architect of the Bretton Woods international monetary system after World War II. This comprehensive Companion elucidates his contributions, his significance, his historical context and his continuing legacy.
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Chapter 24: “The End of Laissez-Faire”

Sherry Davis Kasper


“The End of Laissez Faire” by John Maynard Keynes, first given as a 1924 lecture and later published in the 1931 Essays in Persuasion, represents a leading example of his work aimed at influencing opinions of individuals and policymakers as they made decisions about economics issues during the interwar period. Initially, this chapter summarizes “The End of Laissez Faire”: the first three sections utilized a history of ideas analysis to explain the predisposition toward laissez faire and the implications of that bias, and the final section offered policy recommendations for an economy in which Keynes argued that laissez faire was no longer relevant. Next the chapter reviews reactions to Keynes’s ideas. It concludes with an assessment of the importance of “The End of Laissez Faire,” including its role in helping Keynes to escape the special case of classical economics and in developing a “middle way” for economic policy.

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