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#BornThisDay: Economist, John Maynard Keynes

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Photograph The Economist via YouTube

 

June 5, 1883John Maynard Keynes:

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

I have never had much interest in Economics. Those who know me would not be surprised. I think I could choose to comprehend global economics, political economics, recessions, depressions, macroeconomics, business cycles, social liberalism, and Keynesian Thought if I really applied myself. Yet, when it comes to economics, I just go with my instincts, which are almost always wrong.

What I do knowing about a certain economist, one of the most important figures of the 20th century, is that John Maynard Keynes kept a written record of all his sexual encounters, even the assignations where he was alone, from his first days at Cambridge until his death. I admire this idea. ”Stephen Rutledge’s Sexcapades (1966-2012)” might generate some publishing interests and possibly a film version with Michael Fassbender, but who can remember the details?

I might not be all that bright, but I can name the song, the composer, the Broadway musical source and the year for nearly any song from the 20th century. The Husband says this doesn’t make me smart, only annoying.

If you Google “sex lives of politicians”, it gives you 7,000 hits. For famous artists, it’s a respectable, if that’s the word, 3,000 hits. But “sex lives of economists”? “No results found”.

Yet, Keynes applied a rather unconventional adventurism to his sex life. He was a very intellectual man who was also possessed by considerable carnal curiosity.

Keynes cataloged his sexual assignations as obsessively as other men did postage stamps (indeed that was an early hobby of his). His records, with names or initials of sex partners, began in 1901 with his first sexual experience, with a fellow schoolmate at Eton when he was 17-years-old.

He was promiscuous and even in Edwardian times, there was plenty of cruising, if you wanted it. And Keynes did. He went “feasting with panthers” across London, the gay neighborhoods of Soho and Bloomsbury, and also public parks and lavatories.

One list reveals his wide range of tastes:

“Stable boy of Park Lane; The Swede of the National Gallery; The Soldier at the baths; The French Conscript; The Blackmailer; Lift boy of Vauxhall; Jewboy; Grand Duke Cyril of the Paris Baths…”

He had 165 encounters in 1909 alone.

Keynes at least met guys from lower-classes and men who were not as smart, which may have made him more liberal and tolerant. They probably influenced his economic mission to ensure everyone had the means to get by in life and to enjoy the arts, a personal motivation.

Keynes moved with The Bloomsbury Group, an English bunch that spent a lot of time drinking, taking drugs and speaking to each other about aesthetics, criticism, feminism, pacifism, sexuality, and apparently, economics. I have done plenty of posts about their little club. A member of that noted literary and artist circle was Keynes’ longtime lover, the fabulous painter Duncan Grant. The pair remained friends long after the romance was over. For much of their time together Grant was also involved with Leonard Strachey. When Strachey found out about Grant and Keynes, it brought this bitchy reaction:

“Oh heaven! Heaven! The thought recoils, and I find myself shrieking and raving. Keynes was reeking of that semen”.

Keynes also managed to squeeze in some special time with Strachey. You really need a graph to keep track of the romances in that circle.

by Unknown photographer, July 1915, Members of the Bloomsbury Group, from left, Ottoline Morrell, Maria Nys, Strachey, Grant and Vanessa Bell, via Wikimedia Commons

Bloomsbury Group members: Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Virginia Woolf, and Keynes. Just another summer afternoon. Via Wikimedia Commons

 

Grant and Strachey had set up households with women, while they both continued to have sex with other men. Keynes soon followed in 1925, marrying Lydia Lopokpva, a ballet star in Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. They seem to have had a satisfying modern relationship. She was no beard, they were genuinely in love, and apparently enjoyed foreplay, because Keynes wrote in his sex diaries:

“I want to be foxed and gobbled abundantly…”

Gay philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, a real hottie, went on the honeymoon with them, which must have kept things spicy.

Keynes and Lopokova, Wikimedia Commons

 

Bi, bi-curious, gay, straight, or what? Keynes seemed, successively, mostly gay and then basically straight, changing his mind much in the way he rejected classical economics for his new theories.

There were rent boys and three-ways. Keynes wrote that a Mrs. Anderson, for example, was picked up because she wanted: “…to watch you two boys having a bit of fun together”. This later developed into a foursome, with another young man joining in. Keynes simply went out in search of another participant, as if he was going to get another bottle of brandy for the party.

Even after the life sentence laid down for sodomy in an 1885 law (it seems that lesbianism was omitted because Queen Victoria couldn’t understand it), and the trial of Oscar Wilde for ”gross indecency”, things were less repressive in the 1950s, when police persecution and entrapment of men such as Alan Turing and John Gielgud peaked in its cruelty.

Yet, I wonder what might have been lost had Keynes suffered what Turing did. Maybe Keynes would have found a link between gross domestic product and gross indecency!

On the good side: Keynes spent his life working energetically for the benefit of mankind. He was considered to be a fine and generous friend.

On the bad side: He was most certainly a racist and a supporter of the movement that desired enforced “racial hygiene”, human experimentation, and the extermination of “undesired” population groups. Or as I like to call them, Republicans.

Portrait of John Maynard Keynes (1908), by Duncan Grant

 

Keynes kicked the bucket, gone of a heart attack in 1948, when he was just 62-years-old, at his farm in England. Both of his parents, John Neville Keynes, also an economist and Florence Ada Keynes, one of the first women to graduate from Cambridge, and later the mayor of that city, both outlived him. Lydia Lopokpva lived into the early 1980s.

 


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