I’m finally reading John Maynard Keynes’ magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. I’m enjoying it, though not the pace at which I need to finish it (e.g. large chunks by tomorrow morning). One quote I wasn’t already familiar with stood out to me and I felt the need to share. As you may know, Keynes trained as a mathematician before turning to economics. Some of his early work was on probability theory (resulting in a A Treatise on Probability). The General Theory is not especially laden with mathematics, but the title itself is a clear reference to Einstein’s general relativity and a few other hints of Keynes’ outside interests shine through. In particular, in chapter 2 on the postulates of the classical economists, Keynes asserts:
The classical theorists resemble Euclidean geometers in a non-Euclidean world who, discovering that in experience straight lines apparently parallel often meet, rebuke the lines for not keeping straight – as the only remedy for the unfortunate collisions which are occurring. Yet, in truth, there is no remedy except to throw over the axiom of parallels and to work a non-Euclidean geometry. Something similar is required to-day in economics. (16)
Two thoughts: it’s interesting that Keynes hitches his rhetorical wagon to both the triumph of early 20th century physics and the finding in 19th century mathematics that geometries were more varied than we had previously thought and we could not get rid of the pesky parallel postulate. Also, it suggests that Keynes and H.P. Lovecraft might have gotten along swimmingly.