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Horizon Research Group - John Maynard Keynes as Investor

November 12, 2013 | About:
Murray’s Musings

John Maynard Keynes as Investor
John Maynard Keynes was an extraordinary person. The best English language term that we have to describe him would be a polymath. He was not merely an economist; he was a mathematician of great ability. As a matter of fact, his book entitled The Treatise on Probability is still read with great interest by mathematicians. He was a patron of the arts, a critic of government policy and a writer of scintillating English prose who probably should be considered one of the greater masters of the writing style of the 20th Century. He was a corporate official, and he managed money for some insurance companies. At various times, he was not merely a critic of the government, but a government official who participated in making government policy.

Most important for the purposes of this report, Keynes was also an investor whose investment style changed greatly throughout his investment career, which was unfortunately cut short by his untimely death at the end of the Second World War. By labeling Keynes a polymath, I mean that he was a multifaceted and multitalented individual. That word, in fact, does not properly describe such a human being. It might be more appropriate to use the Italian term uomo universale, or universal man.

Another aspect that is very important in understanding Keynes as an investor is that his investment career was conducted almost entirely during an extraordinarily turbulent era. He was an investor during a time that spans the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second World War. He experienced World War I and the post-war German hyperinflation, the reestablishment of the gold standard in England in 1925, which had the consequence of overvaluing sterling, and which resulted in the incredibly disruptive general strike of 1926. He lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War. During the latter part of that period, commencing in approximately 1937, he had grave health issues pertaining to his heart.

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