Monday, November 07, 2011

What would John Maynard Keynes have said about Obamacare?

It is impossible to know, of course, but this passage from an open letter Keynes wrote to FDR in 1933 offers some hints (emphasis added):

You are engaged on a double task, Recovery and Reform;--recovery from the slump and the passage of those business and social reforms which are long overdue. For the first, speed and quick results are essential. The second may be urgent too; but haste will be injurious, and wisdom of long-range purpose is more necessary than immediate achievement. It will be through raising high the prestige of your administration by success in short-range Recovery, that you will have the driving force to accomplish long-range Reform. On the other hand, even wise and necessary Reform may, in some respects, impede and complicate Recovery. For it will upset the confidence of the business world and weaken their existing motives to action, before you have had time to put other motives in their place. It may over-task your bureaucratic machine, which the traditional individualism of the United States and the old "spoils system" have left none too strong. And it will confuse the thought and aim of yourself and your administration by giving you too much to think about all at once.
I know that some people would dismiss this appeal to the "confidence fairy," but clearly Keynes was a big believer in her importance to the short-run business cycle.