Once when I asked him why he had never ventured on a Treatise he answered, with his characteristic smile and chuckle, that large-sclae enterprise, such as Treatises and marriage, had never appealed to him. It may be that the deemed them industries subject to diminishing return, or that they lay outside his powers or the limits he set to his local universe.
John Maynard Keynes, ‘Francis Ysidro Edgeworth’, in Essays in Biography, London, 1933, p. 232
The [Essay] can claim a place amongst those which have had great influence on the progress of thought. It is profoundly in the English tradition of humane science—in that tradition of Scotch and English thought, in which there has been, I think, an extraordinary continuity of feeling, if I may so express it, from the eighteenth century to the present time—the tradition which is suggested by the names of Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Paley, Bentham, Darwin, and Mill, a tradition marked by a love of truth and a most noble lucidity, by a prosaic sanity free from sentiment or metaphysic, and by an immense disinterestedness and public spirit.
John Maynard Keynes, ‘Robert Malthus: The First of the Cambridge Economists’, in Essays in Biography, London, 1933, p. 120
The death at the age of 26 of Frank Ramsey, Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, sometime scholar of Winchester and of Trinity, son of the President of Magdalene, is a heavy loss—though his primary interests were in Philosophy and Mathematical Logic—to the pure theory of Economics. From a very early age, about 16 I think, his precocious mind was intensely interested in economic problems. Economists living in Cambridge have been accustomed from his undergraduate days to try their theories on the keen edge of his critical and logical faculties. If he had followed the easier path of mere inclination, I am not sure that he would not have exchanged the tormenting exercises of the foundations of thought and of psychology, where the mind tries to catch its own tail, for the delightful paths of our own most agreeable branch of the moral sciences, in which theory and fact, intuitive imagination and practical judgment, are blended in a manner comfortable to the human intellect.
When he did descend from his accustomed stony heights, he still lived without effort in a rarer atmosphere than most economists care to breathe, and handled the technical apparatus of our science with the easy grace of one accustomed to something far more difficult.
John Maynard Keynes, ‘F. P. Ramsey’, The Economic Journal, vol. 40, no. 157, p. 153
[P]rofessional investment may be likened to those newspaper competitions in which the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view. It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practise the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.
The Blockade had become by that time a very perfect instrument. It had taken four years to create and was Whitehall’s finest achievement; it had evoked the qualities of the English at their subtlest. Its authors had grown to love it for its own sake; it included some recent improvements, which would be wasted if it came to an end; it was very complicated, and a vast organization had established a vested interest
John Maynard Keynes, ‘My Early Beliefs’, in Two Memoirs, London, 1949
The ideas which are here expressed so laboriously are extremely simple and should be obvious. The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.