John Maynard Keynes 1883to –1946
English economist, and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, whose ideas still guide the fiscal policies of governments around the world. He was born in Cambridge to a supportive and well-off family, and demonstrated an ability in mathematics from a young age. It earned him a scholarship to Eton College, where he had his first homosexual experiences, and first became associated with the artistic and intellectual Bloomsbury Group, alongside figures such as E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf. His work for the Treasury during World War I earned him a spot at the Versailles peace conference, but his warnings against punishing Germany with excessive reparations went largely ignored. In 1919 he published The Economic Consequences of the Peace, an influential book which predicted the damage that the treaty would have on Germany and the rest of Europe. He continued to write and lecture about economics, arguing for an end to the gold standard eight years before it occurred. But his greatest achievement came during the Great Depression, when he compiled the ideas that would eventually form Keynesian economics, the precursor to modern macroeconomics. These ideas came together in his 1936 book, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. It outlined his beliefs that demand dictated supply, not the other way around, and that government intervention was necessary for stabilizing the “boom and bust” of the free market. Though his ideas were divisive, Keynes’ charm and talent for speaking made him well-liked and respected by everyone. He was open about his many affairs with other men, and even kept detailed statistical journals of every sexual encounter he had. One of his lovers, Lytton Strachey, eventually became one of his closest friends as well as a romantic rival. In two instances, Keynes “stole” one of Strachey’s romantic interests, the second time when he fell in love with painter Duncan Grant, his partner for many years. Later in life, he surprised his friends by falling in love with a woman, the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. The two married in 1925 (with Duncan Grant as best man). Keynes’ economic ideas finally began to take hold toward the end of his life, when he was instrumental in forming the World Bank and the IMF. Though Keynesian economics fell out of favor in the 70s and 80s, it has found a new resurgence in the wake of the Great Recession, and Keynes’ theories are now more popular than ever.