The theories forming the basis of Keynesian economics were first presented in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936.
In Keynes's theory, some micro-level actions of individuals and firms can lead to aggregate macroeconomic outcomes in which the economy operates below its potential output and growth. Many classical economists had believed in Say's Law, that supply creates its own demand, so that a "general glut" would therefore be impossible. Keynes contended that aggregate demand for goods might be insufficient during economic downturns, leading to unnecessarily high unemployment and losses of potential output. Keynes argued that government policies could be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity and reducing high unemployment and deflation.
Keynes argued that the solution to depression was to stimulate the economy ("inducement to invest") through some combination of two approaches:
- a reduction in interest rates.
- Government investment in infrastructure - the injection of income results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.
A central conclusion of Keynesian economics is that in some situations, no strong automatic mechanism moves output and employment towards full employment levels. This conclusion conflicts with economic approaches that assume a general tendency towards an equilibrium. In the 'neoclassical synthesis', which combines Keynesian macro concepts with a micro foundation, the conditions of General equilibrium allow for price adjustment to achieve this goal.
The New classical macroeconomics movement, which began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, criticized Keynesian theories, while New Keynesian economics have sought to base Keynes's idea on more rigorous theoretical foundations.
More broadly, Keynes saw his as a general theory, in which utilization of resources could be high or low, whereas previous economics focused on the particular case of full utilization.
Some interpretations of Keynes have emphasized his stress on the international coordination of Keynesian policies, the need for international economic institutions, and the ways in which economic forces could lead to war or could promote peace.
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