Here is a presentation that I’ll give today at the University of Denver at the annual J. Fagg Foster honors ceremony. Most of you will not know of Foster, but you should. While he did not publish much, he was the professor of a number of prominent institutionalists who attended DU in the early postwar period. I was lucky to have studied with his student, Marc Tool, and was introduced to Foster’s work at the very beginning of my studies of economics. My presentation below is based on two of Foster’s articles: J. Fagg Foster (1981) “Understandings and Misunderstandings of Keynesian Economics”, JEI, vol XV, No 4, p. 949-957.; and (1981) “The Reality of the Present and the Challenge of the Future”, JEI vol XV, No 4, p. 963-968. Both are from 1966, republished in a special issue of the Journal of Economic Issues, 1981. You should read them.
Is this the age of Keynes? That’s the question raised by Fagg Foster in 1966.
In the 1960s the answer seemed obvious. Keynes dominated economics—or, at least, macroeconomics—and Keynesianism dominated policy. And it worked! Or, so most thought.
Foster wasn’t sure. While he agreed that “[t]here probably has been no instance in history in which a pattern of ideas has had so much effect on the everyday life of everyone in so short a time”, he thought most of Keynes’s followers misunderstood his theory.