Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Apocryphal Keynes?

In the comment thread of an earlier post, Kevin writes: "I suspect others have pointed this out before but anyway: "When the facts change I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" which appears as a Keynes quote at the top of your blog, is apocryphal."

I would take issue with this, and I have before. Well - I guess I would just ask "what do you mean by apocryphal". What we have is an assertion that Keynes said it, which appeared in Harrod's biography and elsewhere, and which doesn't quite have the paper trail that we'd like it to have. I'm not sure we have any good reason to question it. It's just part of what one author has called the "Cambridge oral tradition". It was said at a closed door meeting - it was reported and widely attributed to him, we just don't have it printed and notarized.

As far as I can tell, there's no good reason to think he didn't say it or something like it. It sure sounds like Keynes. We aren't as sure as we are about "in the long run we're all dead", but I'm not sure that makes it apocryphal.

I go through a little history of the quote here.

Also - for what it's worth - the Keynes quote was a more recent addition to the blog banner. We started with just the John Adams quote, which of course is more relevant to the title of the blog. For those of you aren't aware this started with both Evan and I blogging, and then he dropped off the map. So he and I are the "other stubborn things".


  1. I agree with you.

    Most are happy to accept that George Washington added the words "so help be God" when sworn in as our first President. However, no eye witnesses made note of that. This assertion didn't begin to circulate until well after his death. This is the kind of quote that I think qualifies as apocryphal.

  2. Well - I guess I would just ask "what do you mean by apocryphal".

    Of questionable authorship or authenticity. Your "history of the quote" link doesn't seem to go anywhere.


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