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Lord Robert Skidelsky, A.D. White Professor-at-Large, Speaks at Law School

Ithaca, NEW YORK, May 10
“Every now and then a translation of some great work of literature becomes a great work of literature in its own right, or a biography of some great or important personage makes a great or important personage of the biographer him or herself,” began Robert C. Hockett, Professor of Law. “So it is, I think, with Lord Skidelsky's monumental three-volume biography of John Maynard Keynes, a work that… not only has revolutionized and deepened our understanding of Keynes and his economics, but also has profoundly changed economics and politics themselves.”

After Hockett’s introductory remarks, Lord Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, addressed the professors and students gathered over breakfast in the Weiss Faculty Lounge on April 19. His topic was the relevance of Keynesian thought to current economic woes in the U.S. and Europe, and his principal theme was Keynes’ aphorism that, “the uninterrupted powers of usury are too great.”

Skidelsky reflected on the U.S. debate over mortgage debt forgiveness and its interplay with the concept of moral hazard before opening up the discussion to a lively and wide-ranging Q&A. One question regarded what Keynes would say about the current crisis in the euro zone. Skidelsky responded, “I think he’d be a debt forgiveness person… I think he would have said exactly what he said on the Treaty of Versailles: ‘We shall never be able to move again, unless we can free our limbs from these paper shackles.’”

Skidelsky was visiting the Law School as an A.D. White Professor, a title held, at any one time, by twenty outstanding intellectuals from across the globe. The program has been called one of the truly imaginative projects in American universities, bringing to Cornell a steady stream of the world's foremost scholars, thinkers, and artists.

-- Owen Lubozynski