Robert Skidelsky
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Articles from Prospect Magazine

Essay: Keynes is Back
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Wednesday, October 22, 2008

 
I have always said that Keynes would live as long as the world needed him. What the world decided, 30 years ago, was that it no longer needed him. The Keynesian revolution had been reduced to a mechanical system for stabilising economies by means of budget surpluses and deficits—more deficits than surpluses, as it turned out, leading to the “stagflationary” crises of the 1970s. Keynes, the theoreticians said, was redundant, having failed to prove that the world needed “Keynesian” policies. The market system was automatically self-correcting; Keynesianism led only to inflation.
 
And from their point of view, the theoreticians were right. The only acceptable basis of economic theorising is the assumption that human beings are rational

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Portrait: Joseph Schumpeter
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Saturday, December 01, 2007

 
Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883-1950) was one of the greatest economists of the 20th century—commonly bracketed with such giants as Keynes, Hayek and Friedman. He is best known for his theory of "creative destruction"—the view that the capitalist system progresses by constantly revolutionising its economic structure. New firms, new products, new technologies continually replace old ones. Since innovation comes in fits and starts, the capitalist economy is naturally, and healthily, subject to cycles of boom and bust. The agent of this revolutionary process is the heroic entrepreneur: the individual owner in the 19th century, big business in the 20th. Innovation needs its reward, hence a dynamic economy is one which allows the innovator huge

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Essay: Putin’s Patrimony
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Thursday, March 01, 2007

 
When asked about the effects of the French revolution, Zhou Enlai is famously supposed to have said: "It is too early to tell." After only 15 years, post-communist Russia is still near the start of a film which clearly has a long time to run. Official and editorial commentary from the west takes the form of criticism and exhortation—the attitude of an improving, sometimes despairing, schoolmaster. Recently Russia has had an exceptionally bad press. The expulsion of "illegal" Georgian and other trans-Caucasian, central Asian and Chinese immigrants, the unexplained murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko, the interruption of oil supplies to Belarus, the forced sale to Gazprom of a controlling stake in Royal Dutch Shell's

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Book Review: John Bull’s Small Ideas
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Saturday, July 01, 2006

 
Absent Minds
by Stefan Collini
Oxford University Press, £25
 
This ambitious work is about British attitudes to intellectuals. Specifically, it is about why the British have been so reluctant to admit that they have intellectuals. Collini calls it the "denial" or "absence" or "exceptionalist" thesis. The claim to immunity from intellectual influences is part of Britain's definition of itself. Today hardly anyone bothers to deny that we have intellectuals, because the species is almost extinct. Perhaps a trace of the denial survives in the anti-Europeanism of many commentators.
 
Collini has little trouble in showing that the "denial" thesis is based on an unbalanced picture of what it is to be an intellectual. It is mainly derived from

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Essay: A Chinese Homecoming
Robert Skidelsky
Prospect | Sunday, January 01, 2006

 
I had been plotting my return to China for about a year, and now an invitation from Lanxin Xiang, author of a book on the Boxer rebellion, to lecture in Shanghai in September 2005 made it possible. I say "return," because the last time I had been on the mainland was in 1948, when I was nine years old. I was born in Harbin in Manchuria in 1939, came to England when I was three, and then went back to China with my parents in 1947, living for a little over a year in Tientsin (now Tianjin). We escaped to Hong Kong just before the communists took the city.
 
Why had we gone back to China in 1947? The brief answer is that the Skidelsky family owned large properties in Harbin, and leased the largest private coalmine in Manchuria—the Mulin Mining

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