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Keynesian philosophical assumptions

By Thomas E. Brewton
web posted February 7, 2011

Keynesian macroeconomics is inconceivable without Darwinian evolution and secular socialism.

Keynesian macroeconomics is, at heart, a rationalization for collectivized state planning .  Its progenitor was the 18th century quest to discover social science laws of behavior paralleling Newton's mathematics and laws of motion that explained movements of the planets and of the earth around the sun.  By the early 1800s French socialist intellectuals were confident that they had identified sociological laws that would enable them to create a secular paradise here on earth.  A hundred years later, economist John Maynard Keynes propounded his ideas in the same tradition.

Along with Darwinism and socialism, Keynesianism sees humans as subject to manipulation by material factors such as government regulation.  All three discount free will and what Austrian economists view as the basic fact in economic activity: purposeful, individual human action.

In the Darwinian world-view, humans are the same as all other living creatures.  We just happened, by random chance, to have evolved into existence, with no greater claim on earthly resources than any other living organism.  Economic determinism, not free will, governs human conduct.  Changing material conditions in nature and the process of natural selection will, over the eons, channel our evolution into unforeseeable future life forms.

The human soul and its universal aspiration to comprehend and to obey the Will of God is viewed as a vestigial instinct acquired by humans in the evolutionary process of natural selection.  Spiritual religion in the Brave New World is therefore ignorant superstition to be banished from society by teaching Darwinian evolutionary doctrine.

Socialism and Darwinism agree in denying God's existence, in rejecting spiritual religion, and in believing that material conditions and forces are the only factors at work in the universe.  But they contradict each other in a fundamental way.

Socialism is quintessentially a secular religion of state planning in a command economy led by intellectuals and implemented by bureaucratic apparatchiks.  Darwinians, in contrast, acknowledge no higher purpose to the existence of human beings and no higher purpose to human action.  Perfection of human nature and of human society is not on Darwinian radar screens.  Appearances of order, apart from Darwin's law of natural selection, are deceptive.  All is unplanned and essentially purposeless.  Professor Richard Dawkins, the loudest present-day exponent of Darwinism, describes it thus:

"Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind.  It has no mind and no mind’s eye.  It does no plan for the future.  It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.  If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker." (The Blind Watchmaker, Chapter 1)

Absence of free will is a particularly prominent feature of both Darwinism and secular socialism.  As Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels opined, human nature is manipulable, being a product of the ways and conditions in which humans earn their livings.  Human nature, in a much shorter time span than envisioned by Darwinian evolution, thus can be changed by government policies that control economic activity.  Hence Lenin's New Soviet Man, who would take only what he needed and selflessly give his maximum work effort to the general welfare.

This vision permeated Obama's 2008 campaign rhetoric about "change,"  as well as the New Deal's promotion of socialism.  President Franklin Roosevelt in his 1933 inaugural address embraced the economic regimentation implicit in philosophical materialism:


"…if we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of the common discipline, because, without such discipline, no progress is made…We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good.…With this pledge taken, I assume unhesitatingly the leadership of this great army of our people, dedicated to a disciplined attack upon our common problems.…"

Keynesian macroeconomics beclouds the economic perceptions of Big Brother's administrators.  Keynesians view humans and human action as abstract statistical aggregates that are predictable, and therefore controllable, by their computer programs.  They speak of fine tuning the economy as if it were a single mechanism fully comprehensible by economic planners.  Fed chairman Bernanke, for example, aims to increase inflation from two percent annually to a rate closer to four percent, confident that the Fed's QE2 monetary policy will raise employment, revive the economy, and simultaneously maintain the dollar as the world's unblemished reserve currency.

When the Constitution was crafted, inhabitants of this country were thought of as citizens who had surrendered a limited amount of authority to the Federal government, retaining a large swath of inalienable natural rights to individual liberty.  Under liberal-progressive Keynesianism, inhabitants of the United States have become subjects of an omniscient Big Brother, who is free to arrogate any still remaining individual rights (cf. Obamacare's individual mandates).

Individuals' Fifth Amendment property rights and other political liberties are ignored in Keynesian doctrine.  State planners believe that only they know what is best for the masses.  Individual desires for larger automobiles, incandescent light bulbs, larger homes, and other things opposed by environmentalists must be forbidden by the apparatchiks.

The government's subjects are expected to react en masse in planned ways to selectively administered government policies.  When the government engages in Keynesian deficit spending, its subjects are expected to exhibit the appropriate Pavlovian response: they are to go forth immediately and spend their new fiat money to revive the economy.  No provision is made for the unreality of Keynesian  doctrine, for the likelihood that many people will not immediately spend their stimulus handouts, that they will instead save the money or pay down their debts.  In the real world, most people recognize that government stimulus spending will be short lived.

Because the utility of purposeful economic action by individuals in a free market is not a consideration in Keynesian macroeconomic theory, any economic activity is as good as the next.  Government spending can be for any purpose, however silly or wasteful.  In the Obama-Pelosi-Reid stimulus package, much of the spending increased or maintained labor union salaries and benefit programs, with no increase in employment or production of goods and services.  An example used by Lord Keynes in the 1930s was having the government employ men to bury bottles one day and crews to unearth them the next day.  Such is the logic of an abstract, statist theory like Keynesianism.

Darwinians and socialists alike see no moral dimension to individual free will.  Liberal-progressive-socialists in Soviet Russia and National Socialist Germany had no compunctions about liquidating tens of millions of individuals who stood in the way of a higher good perceptible only by the intellectuals.  Present-day liberal-progressives in the United States and Western Europe reject the moral standards of Judeo-Christianity, opting for no limits upon sexual promiscuity, marital infidelity, and drug abuse.  Murder by abortion is justified, among other things, as a sort of Darwinian natural selection.

Individuals who exercise prudence, conserving their resources and saving for future needs, are damned as social malefactors.  Their prudence, Keynesians say, creates a theoretical "liquidity trap" that selfishly drains the economy's lifeblood and causes economic recessions. 

If destruction of the coal and petroleum industries and subsidization of green energy and green automobiles are thought necessary for the salvation of society, people in the aggregate are expected to enlist in Franklin Roosevelt's proletarian army, prepared to submit their lives and property to the greater good defined by Keynesian intellectuals, labor unions, and Democrat/Socialist Party leaders. ESR

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is The View from 1776. Email comments to viewfrom1776@thomasbrewton.com.

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