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Keynes, updated.

1) According to Keynes,

“If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.”

Book 3, Chapter 10, Section 6 pg.129 “The General Theory..”

2) According to the Guardian,

Missing: hard drive containing Bitcoins worth £4m in Newport landfill site

A digital ‘wallet’ containing 7,500 Bitcoins that James Howells generated on his laptop is buried under four feet of rubbish

Buried somewhere under four feet of mud and rubbish, in the Docksway landfill site near Newport, Wales, in a space about the size of a football pitch is a computer hard drive worth more than £4m.

It belonged to James Howells, who threw it out when he was clearing up his desk in mid-summer and discovered the part, rescued from a defunct Dell laptop. He found it in a drawer and put it in a bin.

And then last Friday he realised that it held a digital wallet with 7,500 Bitcoins created for almost nothing in 2009 – and then worth about the same.

  1. November 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    News today reminds me of the value of classics other than Keynes and Dickens. David Cameron’s plan for a “new settlement” with Europe that would limit state benefits from EU nations, thus limiting cross -border movements of people, brings to mind Karl Polanyi’s account of what broke the march to full implementation of a system of self-regulating markets in 19th century Britain. Cross-parish movements of people made the old parish-based system of welfare inadequate in the face of cyclical unemployment (itself largely a consequence of industrialization in the context of a self-regulating market). Thus, we have the material for Dickens’ stories. And, in John Maurice Clark’s 1923 STUDIES IN THE ECONOMICS OF OVERHEAD COSTS (a neglected classic) we are reminded that people cannot be put on shelves as can other forms of unwanted inventory or left idle as factories and land can be. Either we have starvation or some unit of society has to feed the unwanted “human capital.” According to the New York Times yesterday, the cut in food stamp availability in the U.S. is bring back the breadlines of the 1930’s.

    It is enormously frustrating that the ongoing economic crisis has been so well described in the past, yet most pay little attention. Do any of you think that Cameron or leaders of the EU have read Polanyi? Or had their instructors and advisors? Have members of Congress ever heard of Clark or, more importantly, of his explanation of why labor must be treated systemically as an overlead rather than a variable cost? Virtually all know of Dickens but he can be dismissed as quaint. Keynes can be dismissed by too many as a mistaken leftist. What about the others who have told us so much that we desperately need to attend to today?

    • Marc Bebenroth
      November 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      For (quite a long) list of interesting, maybe even colourful, figures of economic history who are unjustly forgotton, see Sylvia Nasar: “Grand Pursuit. A Story of Economic Genius”. I can only recommend it to everyone, who is at least a bit into history and economics (and the history of ideas.)

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