John Maynard Keynes:
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, chapter 24: [My] theory is moderately conservative in its implications…. The State will have to [i] exercise a guiding influence on the propensity to consume partly through its scheme of taxation, partly by fixing the rate of interest, and partly, perhaps, in other ways… [ii] influence… the rate of interest… [iii moreover] a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment; though this need not exclude all manner of compromises and of devices by which public authority will co-operate with private initiative. But beyond this no obvious case is made out for a system of State Socialism…. If the State is able to determine the aggregate amount of resources devoted to augmenting the instruments [i.e., the level of public plus private investment,] and the basic rate of reward to those who own them [i.e., the interest rate], it will have accomplished all that is necessary….
[I]f our central controls succeed in establishing an aggregate volume of output corresponding to full employment as nearly as is practicable, the classical [laissez-faire economic] theory comes into its own… then there is no objection to be raised against the classical [laissez-faire economic] analysis of the manner in which private self-interest will determine what in particular is produced, in what proportions the factors of production will be combined to produce it, and how the value of the final product will be distributed between them… here is no objection to be raised against the modern classical theory as to the degree of consilience between private and public advantage in conditions of perfect and imperfect competition… there is no more reason to socialise economic life than there was before….
Thus I agree with Gesell that the result of filling in the gaps in the classical theory is not to dispose of the ‘Manchester System’ [of laissez-aire], but to indicate the nature of the environment which the free play of economic forces requires if it is to realise the full potentialities…. [T]e traditional advantages of individualism will still hold good.
Let us stop for a moment to remind ourselves what these advantages are. They are partly advantages of efficiency — the advantages of decentralisation and of the play of self-interest. The advantage to efficiency of the decentralisation of decisions and of individual responsibility is even greater, perhaps, than the nineteenth century supposed; and the reaction against the appeal to self-interest may have gone too far. But, above all, individualism, if it can be purged of its defects and its abuses, is the best safeguard of personal liberty in the sense that, compared with any other system, it greatly widens the field for the exercise of personal choice. It is also the best safeguard of the variety of life, which emerges precisely from this extended field of personal choice, and the loss of which is the greatest of all the losses of the homogeneous or totalitarian state. For this variety preserves the traditions which embody the most secure and successful choices of former generations; it colours the present with the diversification of its fancy; and, being the handmaid of experiment as well as of tradition and of fancy, it is the most powerful instrument to better the future.
Whilst, therefore, the enlargement of the functions of government, involved in the task of adjusting to one another the propensity to consume and the inducement to invest, would seem to a nineteenth-century publicist or to a contemporary American financier to be a terrific encroachment on individualism. I defend it, on the contrary, both as the only practicable means of avoiding the destruction of existing economic forms in their entirety and as the condition of the successful functioning of individual initiative.
For if effective demand is deficient, not only is the public scandal of wasted resources intolerable, but the individual enterpriser who seeks to bring these resources into action is operating with the odds loaded against him. The game of hazard which he plays is furnished with many zeros, so that the players as a whole will lose if they have the energy and hope to deal all the cards. Hitherto… the difference has been made up by the losses of those whose courage and initiative have not been supplemented by exceptional skill or unusual good fortune. But if effective demand is adequate, average skill and average good fortune will be enough.