Friday, June 28, 2013

How important is reputation?


The reputation which the world 
is like the wind, that shifts now here
   now there,
its name changed with the quarter
   whence it blows.

- Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Italian poet
From Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) 'Purgatorio' ('Purgatory')

How important is your good name?  In the above verse from Dante's Divine Comedy, reputation is portrayed in a very negative manner.  It's fickle and flighty and vagrant like the wind.  It is not something that is in the least desirable or commendable.  A similar attitude is expressed  in the following description of reputation from Shakespeare's Othello.

Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving.

- William Shakespeare, English dramatist (1664-1616)
From Othello (Act 2, Scene 3)

These words about reputation are spoken by Iago, the deceitful villain of this great Shakespearean tragedy.  Iago dismisses reputation as useless and bogus.  It is often earned under false pretences and lost unfairly, he claims, and it is very difficult to argue against him.  Yet, further on in the play, this same Iago extols the virtues of a good reputation with this statement:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls. 

Who steals my purse steals trash. 'Tis something, nothing:
'Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

- William Shakespeare, English dramatist (1664-1616)
From Othello (Act 3, Scene 3)

In the Book of Proverbs, the value of a good reputation is declared better than a treasure of silver and gold.

A good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs  22: 1

So, which is it?  Can one's good name be compared to a precious gem that must be guarded jealously or is reputation volatile and of not much real significance.  Well, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.  Although some deny they are concerned about public opinion, it's extremely difficult to ignore what others think.  Most  people seek approval and it is hard to accept the loss of one's good reputation undeservedly. Very few desire to be a pariah, an outcast, a persona non grata, unlike the roguish Rhett Butter in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind who declares:

Until you've lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.  

Rhett certainly wouldn't agree with the ancient Roman philosopher Cicerco who said:

To disregard what the world thinks of us is not only arrogant but utterly shameless.
- From De Officiis. 1. 28.

Publicity seekers claim that they don't care what's being written about them as long as their name is spelled correctly.  Then there are some who seek not approval but notoriety.  They purposely cultivate a bad reputation for various reasons, most of them psychological.  Some criminals, for example, commit heinous acts in order to be noticed and to capture public attention.  Others, however, are dissuaded from taking part in criminal behaviour because they do not wish to bring shame and dishonour upon their families.

There are also those who have the strength of purpose to ignore or defy public disapproval.  Despite widespread opprobrium, they truly believe that their causes are worthy and their theories have merit.  Often they are vindicated and eventually regarded as heroes or great innovators.  Yet, they would not have achieved as much if they had been overly concerned about their reputations.  Fear of criticism and ridicule would have stood in their way.

Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.

Luke 6: 26

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The devil's most devilish when respectable.   

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), English poet and author
From Aurora Leigh    

The 19th century bard, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, expresses the correlation between evil and respectability quite eloquently in these words from her epic poem/novel Aurora Leigh.  Published in 1856, Barrett Browning considered it "the most mature of my works."

Evil is most pernicious when it is cloaked in respectability.  It is particularly insidious when someone deemed trustworthy betrays a trust or is revealed as a complete hypocrite.

Lincoln in 1863

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow.  The shadow is what we think of it , the tree is the real thing.

- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States  
From Lincoln's Own Stories (Edited by Anthony Gross)          

In Lincoln's comparison, "character" is a far better attribute than "reputation." Character is true and authentic.  Like a tree, it is solid and consistent.  Reputation, on the other hand, is similar to a shadow.  It is changeable, depending on the source of light or the angle from which it is observed.  Character is one's real nature while reputation is dependent on the opinion of others.

Henry Ward Beecher

The American clergyman and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) defined the difference between character and reputation this way:

A man's character is the reliability of himself.  His reputation is the opinion others have formed of him.  Character is in him; reputation is from other people.

Auatin O'Malley

Reputation is an interpretation, more or less accurate, of character

- Austin O'Malley (1858-1932). American physicist and author
From Keystones of Thought

Note the words "interpretation" and "more or less." in this quotation from Austin O'Malley.  Although a good reputation can often reflect a sterling character, interpretations can be wrong and "more or less" is a qualifier.

William Hazlitt

A man's reputation is not in his own keeping, but lies at the mercy of the profligacy of others. Calumny requires no proof.  The throwing out (of) malicious imputations against any character leaves a stain, which no after-refutation can wipe out.  To create an unfavourable impression, it is not necessary that certain things should be true, but that they have been said.  The imagination is of so delicate a texture that even words wound it.

- William Hezlitt (1778-1830), English writer
From Characteristics

Reputation can be based on perception and not reality.  Perceptions, even if false, are extremely difficult to change. That is why a good name can be lost in the blink of an eye and is often difficult to regain.

It takes little or nothing to undo reputations, the merest trifle makes and remakes them, it is simply a question of finding the best means of engaging the confidence or interest of those who are to become one's unsuspecting echoes or accomplices.

- Jose Saramago (1922-2010), Portuguese writer
From Baltasar and Blimunda

Jose Saramago

Can one repair a severely damaged reputation?  According to French author, Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680), it is possible.  He stated:

Whatever ignominy or disgrace we have incurred it is almost always in our power to re-establish our reputation.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld 

Here are some more interesting reflections on the subject of reputation.

The easiest way to get a reputation is to go outside the fold, shout around for a few years as a violent atheist or a dangerous radical, and then crawl back to the shelter.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), American author
From: Notebooks

Washington Allston, self-portrait 1805

Reputation is but a synonym of popularity, dependent on suffrage, to be increased or diminished at the will of the voters.

- Washington Allston (1779-1843), American artist and poet
From Memoirs and Essays

Henry Ford

You can't build a reputation on what your are going to do.

- Henry Ford.(1863-1947), American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company

- Joanne

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Song Quiz

Today, as we celebrate the summer solstice, Number 16 presents an 11-question quiz on summer music and summer songs.  Why don't you test your knowledge.   Good luck!


1.  The song "Summer Nights" comes from which musical?

A  West Side Story

B.  The Music Man

C.  South Pacific

D.  Grease

E.   Guys and Dolls

2.  Who had a hit in 1962 with a song called "Sealed with a Kiss?"  The song has these lyrics:

 Though we've got to say
Goodbye for the summer
Baby, I promise you this
I'll send you all my love
Every day in a letter
Sealed with a kiss

A.  Frankie Avalon

B.  Brian Hyland

C.  The Beach Boys

D.  Bobby Rydell

E.  Jan and Dean

3.  Name the song that begins with the following words:

See the curtains hangin' in the window
In the evening on a Friday night
A little light-a-shinin' through the window
Lets me know everything's all right

A.  Summer Breeze

B.  Summer Moon

C.  Summer Light

D.  Sweet Summer

E.  Summer Shines Through

4.  Remember the song "Summertime Blues?"  Here is the first verse:

I'm gonna raise a fuss, I'm gonna raise a holler
About a workin' all summer just to try to earn a dollar
Every time I call my baby, and try to get a date
My boss says, "No dice son, you gotta work late"
Sometimes I wonder what I'm a gonna do
But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

When was "Summertime Blues" originally released?

A.  July of 1956

B.  June of 1960

C.  August of 1958

D.  August of 1955

E.  July of 1957

5.  Which of these artists recorded the original and most well-known version of "Summertime Blues?"

A.  Eddie Cochran

B.  Chuck Berry

C.  Carl Perkins

D.  Elvis Presley

E.  Buddy Holly

6.  What is the name of the 1991 summer rap song recorded by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

A.  Summertime

B. Summer Song

C.  Summer Days

D.  Summer Heat

E.  Summer People

7.  Do you remember these lyrics?

Callin' out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer's here and the time is right
For dancin' in the streets
They're dancin' in Chicago
Down in New Orleans
Up in New York City . . .

"Dancing in the Street:" was a big hit for Martha and the Vandellas back in 1964.  It is one of Motown's
most well known songs.  Who composed "Dancing in the Street?"

A.  Holland-Dozier-Holland (Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland)

B.  Marvin Gaye and William "Mickey" Stevenson

C.  Lionel Richie

D.  Diana Ross

E.  Martha Reeves

8.  Who recorded the classic summer song "Hot Fun in the Summertime?"

A.  Mungo Jerry

B.  The Beach Boys

C.  Sly and the Family Stone

D.  The Mamas and the Papas

E.  The Lovin' Spoonful

9.  Which summer song was written as the theme for a 1958 film starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue?

Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue

A.  Theme from Summer Love

B.  Theme from  A Summer Dream

C.  Theme from A Summer to Remember

D.  Theme from Summer Hearts

E.  Theme from A Summer Place

10.  Who recorded the most popular version of "Theme from a Summer Place?"

A.  Andy Williams

B.  Henry Mancini

C.  Perry Como

D.  Percy Faith

E.  Nelson Riddle

11.  Who wrote and recorded the song "Summer Fling?"  (This is your bonus question so give yourself an extra point if you answer it correctly)

A.  Joni Mitchell

B.  Linda Ronstadt

C.  Bette Midler

D.  Barbra Streisand

E.  k.d. lang


1.  D

The song "Summer Nights" comes from the 1971 musical Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.  In the 1978 film version of Grease, it was sung by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

2.  B

Brian Hyland

Brian Hyland had a hit with "Sealed with a Kiss" in 1962.  The song was written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld and it was originally recorded as a single in 1960 by The Four Voices.  Gary Lewis and the Playboys released a cover of  "Sealed with a Kiss" in 1968 and in 1972, Bobby Vinton released yet another version.  The Bobby Vinton recording was featured in the trailer and end credits of  the 2006 American horror film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.

Brian Hyland, who will turn 70 years old in November, still tours with his son Bodi.

3.  A

Jim Seals (right) and Dash Crofts in 1975 photo

The song "Summer Breeze" begins with those words.  It was a hit for a pair of Texans named Seals and Crofts when it was released in August of 1972.  Here is the chorus of the song:

Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze makes me feel fine
Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind

4.  C

"Summertime Blues" was first released in August of 1958.  It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 29, 1958.

5.  A

Eddie Cochran

"Summertime Blues" was co-written in the late 1950s by American rockabilly singer Eddie Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart.  Cochran recorded the song and released it as a single in 1958.  It is interesting to note that among the many artists who have done cover versions of "Summertime Blues" are Alan Jackson, The Who and Blue Cheer.

6.  A

"Summertime" is the name of the 1991 rap song recorded former by former hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.  DJ Jazzy Jeff's real name is Jeffrey Allen Townes and The French Prince is now better known as actor Will Smith.  The pair, from West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were introduced to each other in 1985 and their first album, Rock the House, was released in 1986.

To watch a video of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince performing "Summertime," click on the link below.

7. B
William "Mickey" Stevenson

The song "Dancing in the Street" was composed by  R&B vocalist Marvin Gaye and Motown record producer William "Mickey" Stevenson.  It was originally intended for singer Kim Weston, Stevenson's then-wife.  When she passed on the song, Martha and the Vandellas recorded it instead.  Stevenson and Gaye agreed to lead singer Martha Reeves' request to arrange her own vocals to suit the song and they also called in Motown songwriter Ivy Jo Hunter to assist with the recording.

Marvin Gaye died tragically on April 1, 1984 at the age of 44 after being shot to death by his own father following an argument over lost business documents.  Mickey Stevenson, who produced "Dancing in the Streeet," left Motown Records over a dispute in January of 1967.  Stevenson's last big hit for Motown was "It Takes Two," a 1966 duet between Gaye and Kim Weston.

8.  C
Sly and the Family Stone in 1969

Sly and the Family Stone, an influential band from Vallejo, California, recorded "Hot Fun in the Summetime."  It was released as a single in 1969 after the band's celebrated performance at the Woodstock Music Festival in August of that year.  Some have interpreted the song as a satire of the summertime race riots of '69 rather than a happy summer tune.

The music of Sly and the Family Stone reflected a mixture of the soul, rock, funk and psychedelic sounds of the 1960s.  The group was founded by Sylvester Stewart, now 70, who changed his name to Sly Stone while a radio disc jockey.

9. E

Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue starred the as the star-crossed lovers, Molly Jorgenson and Johnny Hunter, in the 1958 romantic drama A Summer Place.  Hugo Winterhalter recorded the theme for the film and it was originally known as the "Molly and Johnny Theme."    

10.  D

The most popular version of  "Theme from A Summer Place" was recorded by Percy Faith.  His instrumental version was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles for nine consecutive weeks in early 1960.  He won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961 for his recording.

Faith, a Canadian bandleader, conductor and composer, died of cancer on February 9, 1976 at the age of 67.  He was known for his beautiful arrangements of pop and Christmas standards.

Billy Vaughn also recorded an instrumental cover version of "Theme from a Summer Place" as the title track for his hit 1960 album.  Vocal cover versions of the song were recorded by Andy Williams in his 1962 album Moon River, Cliff Richard in his 1965 album Love is Forever and The Lettermen in 1965.

11.  E

"Summerfling" was written by k.d. lang and Dave Piltch for k.d.'s album Invincible Summer, which was released by Warner Brothers Records in 2000.

- Joanne

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thomas D'Arcy McGee: The Assassination of a Father of Confederation

There is no danger of my being converted into a political martyr.  If ever I were murdered, it would be by some wretch who would shoot me from behind.
- Thomas D'Arcy McGee
March 1868 
Thankfully, political assassinations in Canada have been few and far between.  There have been two in Canadian history and they occurred over a hundred years apart.  During the October Crisis of 1970, Quebec Deputy Premier and Minister of Labour Minister Pierre Laporte was kidnapped and murdered by the Front de libration du Quebec (FLQ) and on April 7, 1868, Thomas D'Arcy McGee was assassinated in Ottawa.

Thomas D'Arcy Etienne Hughes McGee (known as D'Arcy) was born on April 13, 1825 in Carlingford, Ireland, the son of James McGee, a coast guard, and Dorcas Catherine Morgan, a Dublin bookseller who had participated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  He became a journalist, a historian, a poet, a politician, a skilled orator and a Father of Canadian Confederation.  McGee described his good qualities as "a bold face, a fluid tongue and a love for argument."  Only five-foot-three (160.02 cm.), he was fiery, eloquent.and full of energy.

At the age of 17, young D'Arcy emigrated from Ireland to the United States where he eventually became editor of the Boston Pilot., a Catholic newspaper.  In 1845, he returned to Ireland where he edited the nationalist newspaper Nation and became involved with Young Ireland, a social and political movement that advocated rebellion against the British.  He married Mary Teresa Caffrey in Dublin on July 13, 1847.

After the Young Irelander Rebellion of  1848,  D'Arcy and his wife fled Ireland because D'Arcy was wanted by the police and there was a reward of 1,500 pounds for his capture.  They went to the United States and spent almost a decade there.  The couple had six children (five daughters and one son), only two of whom survived their father.  Their first child, Dorcas, died at the age of three and another child, Rose, died of scarlet fever.  While in the U.S., McGee gained prominence in the American Irish community.  He founded and edited the New York Nation and the American Celt of Boston.  Yet, he became increasingly disenchanted with American democracy and American ideals.

In the spring of 1857, at the request of some leading Irish Canadians, McGee left the United States and immigrated to pre-Confederation Canada.  He settled in Montreal where he began an Irish nationalist newspaper, New Era, which advocated the federation of British North America, a transcontinental railway, the settlement of the West, a protective tariff, distinctive Canadian literature and the creation of a province for Aboriginal peoples.  (It is interesting to note that during the general election of 1878, Sir John A. Macdonald proposed a "National Policy" consisting of a railway from sea to sea, tariff protection for Canadian manufacturers and Western settlement).  D'Arcy McGee studied law at Montreal's McGill University and received his degree in 1861.

In 1858, McGee was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada as the member for Montreal West.  By the 1860s, there was great instability in the land as a result of the American Civil War and legislative deadlock between English-speaking and French-speaking Canada.  McGee initially aligned himself with George Brown, Sir John A.'s political rival and founder of the Toronto Globe (later The Globe and Mail).  Brown's Reform Party, however, displayed a lack of enthusiasm for McGee's initiatives, causing McGee to join forces with John A. Macdonald and George-Etienne Cartier.  Cartier, co-premier with Macdonald, of the Province of Canada, was instrumental in persuading French-speaking Canadians to accept Confederation.

McGee became the minister of agriculture, immigration and statistics in the Conservative government of 1863.  He retained that portfolio in the "Great Coalition," led by Macdonald and Cartier.  This coalition of all the parties in the Legislative Assembly was proposed by George Brown and was formed to find a solution to the political impasse.  It made it possible to hold the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences of 1864 that set the stage for Confederation.  Thomas D'Arcy McGee was a delegate at both conferences.  At Quebec City, it was McGee who introduced a resolution calling for the guaranteed educational rights of religious minorities in English and French-speaking Canada.

By 1866, Darcy McGee's political career was on the wane.  He wasn't even invited to England that year for the London Conference in which delegates drafted the British North America Act, a constitution for a new country called Canada.  Although narrowly elected to the House of Commons in the fist Canadian Parliament of 1867 as the member for Montreal West, McGee was excluded from Prime Minister John A. Macdonald's first post-Confederation cabinet.  By 1868, he was contemplating retiring from politics and looking forward to working on his writing and poetry. He never got the chance.

On April 7, 1868, Thomas D'Arcy McGee attended a late night session of the House of Commons in Ottawa.  The parliamentary debate went on past midnight and McGee delivered a passionate speech in support of national unity.  He then returned home to his boarding boarding house on Sparks Street, just a few blocks from Parliament Hill.  While waiting for his landlady to open the door,  he was shot and killed  by a single bullet to the head.  McGee was 42 years old at the time of his death and was given a state funeral in the nation's capital.  He is interred in a crypt at the Cotes des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal.

Below is a photo of the rooming house on Sparks Street where D'Arcy McGee lived.  There is a plaque commemorating his assassination.

The assassination of D'Arcy McGee made international headlines.  On April 14th, 1868, the New York Times, reporting on McGee's funeral, estimated that "80,000 people were on the streets and 30,000 were in the procession."  The Times' account of the funeral declared that people wept aloud and that the "feeling of sorrow is sincere and deep, and pervades the entire community."

A $2,000 reward was offered for the capture of D'Arcy McGee's murderer.  The police and the government immediately suspected the Fenian Brotherhood, an American-based group that advocated the independence of Ireland from Britain by invading Canada and holding it hostage. In order to pressure the British into leaving Ireland, there had been Fenian raids on British army forts and other places in Canada.  Catholic Irish- Canadians were deeply divided in their feelings about the Fenians.  While sympathetic to the Fenian cause, they felt loyalty to their new home.

Since moving to Montreal, D'Arcy McGee had moderated his radical Irish nationalist views and had been quite vocal in his denunciation of the Fenians.  Although he once supported the American annexation of Canada, he became fiercely oppose the takeover of his adopted country.  He was a harsh critic of the 19th Century concept of Manifest Destiny, the idea that the United States was destined to expand across the North American continent and that God had given America a mission to spread its values and its Republican form of government.

It didn't take long for the authorities to arrest Patrick James Whelan, an Irish-born tailor, and a suspected Fenian sympathiser. Whelan, born circa 1840 in Galway (making him about 28 years old at the time of McGee's assassination), immigrated to Canada about 1865.  He worked as a tailor in Quebec City and later in Montreal.  On February 13, 1867, Whelan married Bridget Boyle at St. Patrick's Church in Montreal.  By November of 1867, he had moved to Ottawa and was employed by a tailor named Peter Eagleson.


According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Patrick J. Whelan was arrested within 20 hours of the murder when the police discovered a fully loaded .32 calibre Smith and Wesson revolver in his pocket.  Although more than 40 other suspects were imprisoned (shades of the War Measures Act), Whelan was charged with McGee's murder on April 9, 1868.  The other prisoners were soon released.or quickly acquitted.

After an eight-day trial by jury in Ottawa, a verdict of guilty was delivered.  On February, 11, 1869, before an estimated 5,000 spectators, Patrick J, Whelan was hanged for the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee at the Carleton County Gaol.  It was the  last public execution in Canadian history. Within months, a law was passed banning public executions in Canada.

Whelan declared himself to be innocent of the murder of D'Arcy McGee.  Upon hearing the jury's verdict, he declared, "I am held to be a murderer.  I am here standing on the brink of my grave, and I wish to declare to you and my God that I am innocent, that I never committed this deed." Before his execution, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, he admitted to knowing the person who perpetrated the crime.

Many have questioned whether Patrick J. Whelan was actually guilty of the murder of Thomas D'Arcy McGee.  Others have speculated that he was part of a conspiracy to assassinate McGee. Whelan's gun disappeared after his trial and was thought to have been lost forever.  The revolver was located in October of 1973 as an heirloom of the family of Scott Renwick.  Ballistics tests were done but the results were inconclusive.  Renwick, whose grandfather had given him the gun, decided that his family had owned it long enough.  In 2005, the weapon was offered at an auction in Hamilton, Ontario.  Bidding started at $55,000.


* To date, Thomas D'Arcy McGee is the only Canadian federal politician ever to be assassinated.

* On March 25, 1880, a disgruntled former employee of the Toronto Globe entered George Brown's office and shot him in the leg.  The man, George Bennett, who had worked in the Globe's engine room, was upset because he had been dismissed by a foreman.  At first, the injury did not seem life-threatening.  The wound, however, became gangrenous and Brown died on May 9, 1880.  The shooting was not politically motivated and Brown's parliamentary career had long ended.  Therefore, it is more accurately classified as murder rather than an assassination.

* During the trial of Patrick Whelan, the press dubbed him "the tailor with the red whiskers."

* D'Arcy McGee's wife, Mary Teresa Caffrey, died in Montreal on January 17, 1871.  Only two of the McGee offspring, daughters Agnes Clara (known as Peggy) and Mary Euphrasia (known as Fasa) outlived their father.

* Patrick Whelan's widow, Bridget, returned to Montreal where she lived in a reclusive manner until her death.

- Joanne

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Was John Maynard Keynes right?

The important thing for Government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better or a little worse, but to do those things which at present are not done at all.
- John Maynard Keynes
From The End of Laissez-Faire [1926]

Today is the 130th anniversary of the birth of John Maynard Keynes. The influential British economist, journalist and financier was born on June 5, 1883 in Cambridge, England.  His father, John Neville Keynes, was also an economist.  His mother, Florence Ada Keynes, was a social reformer who became Mayor of Cambridge in 1932 at the age of 70.

As a young man, Keynes was selected as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference after World War I.  He watch unhappily as the Allies imposed severe war reparations on a defeated Germany. When he returned home to England, he wrote a book, The Economic Consequences of Peace, in which he warned that the reparations would lead to a poor and unstable Germany that would eventually threaten the security of the entire European continent.  With the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany, Keynes`prediction came true.  The Allies, having learned their lesson the hard way, did not treat Germany so harshly after World War II.

It was during the Great Depression of the 1930s that Keynes made his most significant impact as an economic theorist.  In 1936, he published what is generally regarded as his greatest work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.  While other economists were struggling to figure out what had gone wrong, Keynes challenged the prevailing economic orthodoxy and the classical liberal view that the markets would eventually settle into an equilibrium.  He argued that economic intervention should be used as a means to bring about economic recovery. Governments, he said, must come forward and pump money into the economy during slowdowns. Businesses won't do it, because they cut back on their investments during economic slumps. This, Keynes deduced, leads to a vicious circle of fewer jobs, less consumer spending and greater economic misery.

Keynes' theories were considered quite radical during the Depression era.  As Time magazine points out in its book 100 Hundred Ideas That Changed the World: History's Grestest Breakthroughs, Inventions and Theories, " . . . the idea that governments should use deficit spending as a means to correct economic decline"  was at one time "an affront to the belief that free markets functioned best when left entirely alone."

Keynes' economic theories on the causes of long term unemployment have come to be known as "Keynesian economics."  In The General Theory, Keynes contends that it is a fallacy to assume that competitive markets will produce full employment.  He argues that high unemployment and lack of investment is likely to be the natural state unless government action is taken.  Thus, the reduction of  wages and benefits not only creates financial hardship but ultimately fails to reduce unemployment.

In the 1950s and 1960s, most capitalist countries adopted Keynesian principles.  With the advent of  Thatcherism in the United Kingdom and the election of Ronald Reagan in the United States, Keynesian economics fell out favour in the 1980s.  The global recession of the early 21st century, however, has clearly demonstrated what happens when capitalism is left unrestricted and financial institutions do not have sufficient regulations.  The result is mortgage foreclosures, severe unemployment and economic recession.

I have consistently argued in this space that jobs are more important than the deficit or the debt. In fact, increased employment is the best solution for high deficits.  Job stimulus is the key to escaping the economic doldrums.  Yet, this not mean that profligate government spending is acceptable. The hard-earned money of taxpayers should and must be used responsibly. Nevertheless, as Keynes asserted, government must act at certain times or no one else will do what needs to be done.

In my hometown of Toronto, our scandal-laden, neo-conservative mayor, Rob Ford, refuses to spend tax money on improving transit.  He speaks out in favour of building new subways to ease traffic congestion but can't explain how it will be paid for without raising taxes.  Meanwhile, traffic bottleneck is costing the city a great deal of money in lost production time and hurting citizens much more than any tax increase.  Private enterprise will no produce enough money to finance the city's transportation needs.

During the 2012 American election campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly criticized what he described as President Barack Obama's "failed" economic policies.  He referred to the president's $787 billion package of temporary tax cuts and spending hikes as "the largest one-time careless expenditure of government money in American history."

Really, Mr. Romney?  Well, the non-partisan and highly-respected U.S. Congressional Office does not concur with your assessment.  According to its 2012 analysis, the stimulus package added up to 3.3 million jobs to the American economy during the second quarter of 2010.  It may have prevented the economy from falling back into recession.

Keynesians are not calling for the end of capitalism.  They are merely opposed to unbridled or unfettered capitalism.  It is the  libertarian ideals of Republicans that have truly failed.  The disastrous policies of former President George W. Bush set the stage for the terrible economic collapse of 2008 and ushered in the Great Recession.  Obama inherited the mess and the G.O.P. has been relentless in its efforts to prevent him from cleaning it up.

The neo-conservative formula is simple.  Government is bad and must be eliminated from our lives.  The free market can solve all our economic problems if we just believe in the magic of Adam Smith's "invisible hand."  Neo-conservatives like to point to Greece and its deficit woes.  They don't mention that Western European countries such as Britain, Italy and Spain, have been economically suffocated by their governments' stubborn adherence to severe austerity measures. Austerity has not cured their financial woes.  Yet these countries continue to cut back as unemployment increases and the gap between the very rich and the very poor deepens.  The sad  truth is that the situation will not improve as long as these nations remain in an economic straitjacket.

Here in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government employed Keynesian economic measures in its 2009 budget, acting in a manner contrary to its conservative principles.  In response to the harsh global economic downturn, the Harper government introduced an estimated $40 billion in economic stimulus, including $12 billion for a variety of infrastructure projects involving roads, Internet broadband access and renovations for aging infrastructures.  Further funding  was allocated for social housing renovation projects, job training and green initiatives.  The government estimated that the $40 billion in economic stimulus would create close to 200,000 jobs.

The Harper government, in order to appease its hard-core supporters has cut back again and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has expressed frustration at the over $500 million that corporations have just sat on and refuse to invest in the economy.  Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada (who will assume the position of Governor of the Bank of England in July), called it "dead money."  An exasperated Flaherty declared,  “At a certain point, it’s not up to the government to stimulate the economy, it’s up to the private sector, and they have lots of capital.”  Well, yes, but the reality is that big business has not been investing in the economy and it has not been creating jobs.  Corporations lack confidence in it and are afraid to risk their profits.  Thankfully, Canadian banks are well-regulated or this country would have suffered more economic pain when the U.S. economy crashed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, an economist and the leader of the world's most populous democracy, spoke in support of Keynesian fiscal stimuli during the 2008 G-20 Summit in Washington D.C.  At the India-Africa Summit last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Singh announced that his country will lend African nations $5 billion for the next three years "to help achieve the development goals of Africa with an additional $700 million U.S. dollars to establish new institutions and training programs."  The money will be used primarily to fund infrastructure, including railways, IT, telecommunications, micro enterprises and agricultural improvements such as crop diversification.  Prime Minister Singh was asked how he can feel comfortable investing in African countries when so many of them lack political stability.  Quoting John Maynard Keynes, he replied that "an act of investment is an act of faith".

The evidence has proven that John Maynard Keynes was right,  It is truly unfortunate that neo-conservatives can't or won't recognize the facts.  Their attitude is akin to that of the Flat Earth Society or those who refuse to believe that climate change is real and that human beings have contributed greatly to it.

John Maynard Keynes passed away on April 21, 1945.  He died of a heart attack at Tilton, his farmhouse reisidence near Fife, East Sussex, England.  He was 62 years old at the time of his death and was outlived by both his parents.  His father died in 1949 and his mother in 1958.  If he were alive today, I'm sure he would provide us with an incisive analysis of the 2008 economic downturn.

- Joanne