Notes on Keynes - Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren
In 1930, Keynes imagines a transition to a post-scarcity society:
We may be on the eve of improvements in the efficiency of food production as great as those which have already taken place in mining, manufacture, and transport. In our own lifetimes ... we may be able to perform all the operations of agriculture, mining, and manufacture with a quarter of the human effort to which we have been accustomed.... assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years.
Keynes attributes this sudden technological progress to the first concentration of capital in the 1500s which yields compound interest over long periods of times (100s of years).
From the earliest times of which we have record – back, say, to two thousand years before Christ – down to the beginning of the eighteenth century, there was no very great change in the standard of life … This slow rate of progress, or lack of progress, was due to two reasons – to the remarkable absence of important technical improvements and to the failure of capital to accumulate. The modern age opened; I think, with the accumulation of capital which began in the sixteenth century … that this was initially due to … the treasure of gold and silver which Spain brought from the New World into the Old … From that time until to-day the power of accumulation by compound interest. … From the sixteenth century, with a cumulative crescendo after the eighteenth, the great age of science and technical inventions began, which since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been in full flood.
Keynes says trickle down economics will let these efficiency gains benefit us all.
The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance.
Compare to wikipedia definition:
term often used to criticize economic policies which favor the wealthy or privileged, while being framed as good for the average citizen"
He says the cost of rapid change is some temporary suffering:
unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour. But this is only a temporary phase of maladjustment. ... in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem.
Thus Keynes says we should embrace greed and envy, for 100 more years:
however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital ... for foul is useful and fair is not. Only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.
At which point mankind, having solved scarcity and economic survival, can transition:
I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue ... We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles ... by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues.... The love of money as a possession ... will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities. … For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. … to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while.