Now anti-Keynesians misinterpret and selectively quote Keynes’s comments on pyramid building and ditch digging, something which Keynes never seriously proposed, and also distort the meaning of those remarks, as I have shown here.
But here is a proposal from Keynes that you don’t see quoted much:
“I read a few days ago of a proposal to drive a great new road, a broad boulevard, parallel to the Strand, on the south side of the Thames, as a new thoroughfare joining Westminster to the City. That is the right sort of notion. But I should like to see something bigger still. For example, why not pull down the whole of South London from Westminster to Greenwich, and make a good job of it — housing on that convenient area near to their work a much greater population than at present, in far better buildings with all the conveniences of modern life, yet at the same time providing hundreds of acres of squares and avenues, parks and public spaces, having, when it was finished, something magnificent to the eye, yet useful and convenient to human life as a monument to our age. Would that employ men? Why, of course it would! Is it better that men should stand idle and miserable, drawing the dole? Of course, it is not.” (Keynes 1951: 153).This was the type of real spending program that Keynes, with his humane and progressive liberal spirit, actually advocated: tearing down the dirty, badly heated, rat-infested slums of London* and replacing them with modern housing with “all the conveniences of modern life” for its working population, with “parks and public spaces.”
You won’t see that passage quoted by the haters of Keynes. The next time you hear some straw man nonsense from such people, my advice is to reply to them that Keynes was for clearing slums, not building pyramids!
* For some reading on the horrors of life in those slums, at least in the Victorian period, see Dyos 1967.
Dyos, H. J. 1967. “The Slums of Victorian London,” Victorian Studies 11.1: 5–40.
Keynes, J. M. 1951. Essays in Persuasion, Rupert Hart Davis, London.