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Revisiting KeynesEconomic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren$
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Lorenzo Pecchi and Gustavo Piga

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262162494

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262162494.001.0001

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Spreading the Bread Thin on the Butter

Spreading the Bread Thin on the Butter

(p.116) (p.117) 7 Spreading the Bread Thin on the Butter
Revisiting Keynes

Axel Leijonhufvud

The MIT Press

This chapter illustrates the ontological ignorance that is evident in every attempt to predict the distant future. Keynes was always clear that the future cannot be known, and most certainly not the distant future. The economist’s notion of rational choice, even if augmented with actuarial calculus, is to no avail in the face of ontological ignorance. In dealing with the incalculable future, he maintained, one always falls back on convention. When Keynes succumbed to the imprudent whim to speculate on the economic prospects of people two to three generations hence, he bequeathed us some glimpses of his own mental conventions. This chapter discusses how this affected his predictions of short work weeks, time to spare, and money to save, which is in direct contrast to the United States of today.

Keywords:   ontological ignorance, distant future, economist, rational choice, actuarial calculus, convention, incalculable future

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