The Pamphleteers

“The Pamphleteers” blog features considered thoughts – somewhere between a knee-jerk editorial and a full-blown piece of research. The title is based on a quote by John Maynard Keynes: “Economists must leave to Adam Smith alone the glory of the Quarto, must pluck the day, fling pamphlets into the wind, write always sub specie temporis, and achieve immortality by accident, if at all.” Write for today and not for tomorrow.

Harold A Innis, who has inspired Long Finance thinking on whether money was time-binding, space-binding or both, wrote a 1951 review “Sub Specie Temporis” of R F Harrod’s biography of Keynes, picking out that quote as a summary of Keynes’ attitudes. Keynes was possibly referring to James Joyce’s declared intention to write Ulysses “sub specie temporis nostri” – “in the mode of our time”. William J Barber believes that Keynes was frustrated by his mentor, Alfred Marshall, who published slowly and carefully. In Keynes’ view Marshall’s caution and thoroughness denied the world the benefit of his thought.

Baroness Susan Greenfield laments contemporary “wow, yuck” culture. Wow, just saw something cool. Yuck, just saw something gross. Must tell everyone. These quick reactions substitute for considered thinking. Would Keynes relish today’s world of twitter and postings? Keynes published prolifically, clearly living by this quote, though with the odd digression also producing such tomes as the The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. He admired, as do we, the pamphlets of Ricardo, Malthus, Jevons, Bagehot, Madison, Hamilton and Jay. As ever in life, it’s a question of balance.

Long Finance addresses the question “when would we know our financial system is working?” Our timeframe for consideration is at least the lifetime-and-a-bit of today’s humans, call it a century or so. Our timeframe for change is whatever it takes. We are about evolution not revolution ("stirred not shaken" as Professor Mainelli says).  Though we respect those who flank us for more rapid reform, those who feel that any change would help, any change at all, we try to proceed with extreme caution in trying to improve such an important, inter-connected, and complex system. We push for positive change, based on inspiration, connections, research and discussions, not pure activism.

Long Finance places considerable energy into considered long-term research, but encourages discussion groups, panels and events for short-term reactions too. We hope that The Pamphleteers is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps some of our contributors will achieve immortality, but the most important thing is to drive a wedge of ideas between complacency and frustration, ideas that may form the basis for Quartos of glory in future. Carpe diem!

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