On a Certain Blindness in Economic Theory: Keynes’s Giraffes and the Ordinary Textuality of Economic Ideas
In the 1926 essay, “The End of Laissez-Faire,” J.M Keynes used the giraffe as a metaphor of both welfare and herd dynamics, in order to argue for the importance of wise government intercession into markets. This article conducts a close textual analysis of that essay, demonstrating how Keynes’ own choice of metaphor reveals the economist’s deeper seated, even latent imperial preferences and pre-commitments. In the end, it argues, Keynes’ idea of national welfare depended on a world where Britain maintained a vast multinational empire.
KeywordsLaissez-Faire Animal spirits Keynes
My sincere thanks to the participants of the Global Studies seminar at Lehigh University (especially Bill Bullman, Nitzan Lebovic, and John Savage) for an extremely valuable discussion of an earlier version of this text. I also want to thank Betsy Carter, Francesco Bolidzonni, Robert Fredona, Marc Flandreau, Susanna Hecht, Sophus A. Reinert, Wolfgang Streeck, and Corey Tazzara for feedback at various stages. Finally, as promised, Justin from Kavarna Coffeehouse, whose espresso macchiato made this piece possible.