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The Economic Eugenicism of John Maynard Keynes

by | Apr 26, 2017

The Economic Eugenicism of John Maynard Keynes

by | Apr 26, 2017

Journal of Markets and Morality, Forthcoming, 21 Pages

Abstract

Scholars of John Maynard Keynes’ life and contributions to economics have tended to approach his involvement in the early 20th century eugenics movement by either:

(1) historicizing it as a regrettable political curiosity with only minor connections to his larger system of economic thought or,

(2) positing an evolutionary turn in Keynes’ thinking that led him to abandon his earlier neo-Malthusian principles in the late 1920s.

In this paper, we reexamine the role that eugenicist beliefs played in the formation of Keynesian macroeconomic theory, particularly as it concerned the problem of unemployment. Turning to a historical analysis of Keynes’ writings and accompanying archival material, we present evidence of a continuity of eugenicist themes that links his early work on population control to his embrace of state-organized economic design at the mature phase of his career. Taken in sum, eugenics adds a complicated moral dimension to the genesis of Keynesian thought, though one that we also note is highly consistent with the technocratic inclinations of progressive era policymaking.

Download and read the full paper at the Social Science Research Network.

Phillip W. Magness and Sean J Hernandez

Phillip W. Magness and Sean J Hernandez

Phillip W. Magness, George Mason University - Institute for Humane Studies; George Mason University - School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs. Sean J Hernandez, Independent.

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