Making the world a better place

You know, there are some ideas so beyond my wildest thoughts that when I hear them I can only marvel that others think the way they do. It was not me, of course, who brought up pyramid building as a wasteful form of expenditure but Keynes. He’s the one who brought it up, mentioning pyramid building in the company of earthquakes and war as a means of generating wealth and prosperity in what he assumed everyone would agree would be the most unlikely places. Here, however, is the letter from someone who apparently thinks the Pharaohs were thinking ahead to the days when the tombs they built would become major tourist attractions and wished to make the world a better place:

Steve Kates,

Can you explain why you think that the pyramids are examples of ‘useless public works’? Strictly speaking they were useful, as best I understand, because they were tombs for kings. Perhaps there are better expenditures of labor power, but I suppose that many people think that they enriched the world of antiquity and continue to enrich our world even today. Of course there are issues about forced labor, but it seems to me that you prove some point Keynes made when he criticized those committed to a simplistic profit-loss formula. Have you seen them? (I have not, yet, much to my regret.) Are you saying that you think that the earth would be a better place in their absence?

David Andrews

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