Animal Spirits

by on January 28, 2008 at 7:44 pm in History | Permalink

Keynes kept two sex diaries.  The first documents people…

The other sex diary is more puzzling and, in a way, more informative. An economist to the core, Keynes organized the second sex diary also year-by-year, but this time in quarterly increments.

Unfortunately for us, however, this second sex diary is in code. And as far as I know, no one yet has been prurient enough to crack it.

Here’s what Keynes’ tabulation looks like. For every quarter-year from 1906 to 1915, he tallies up his sexual activities and totals them under three categories: C, A, and W.

…according to Keynes’ tabulation, what he did most frequently and consistently was C. It happened seventeen times from May to August of 1908, twenty-eight times (!) from August to November that year, twenty times from February to May of 1909, and so on. That’s a lot of C. The high numbers for C loosely (but not consistently) correlate to university holidays, the break at Easter and the longer summer holiday, when Keynes would have had more leisure to pursue and enjoy his bouts of C.

More here.  I debated whether to close comments on this post but I trust Marginal Revolution readers to keep to their high standards.

Hat tip to

1 Stephen Downes January 28, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Oh, if only it were Friedman… would we even be reading this post?

2 Franklin Harris January 28, 2008 at 8:02 pm

meant, that is

3 srp January 28, 2008 at 9:02 pm

C=catamite; A=adult male; W=woman?

4 Chandan January 28, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Interesting! the other side of Keynes revealed!

5 Hehe January 28, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Vaginal Revolution, anyone?

6 alexa-blue January 28, 2008 at 10:37 pm

I wonder if “w” might be short for “double” rather than the letter itself.

7 Robert S. Porter January 28, 2008 at 11:40 pm

I think it’s none of our business. Merely because the man is famous we feel the need to delve in to his private life? Keep to is public life, people. The mere fact that he wrote it in code means he didn’t want people to know.

8 The other Eric January 29, 2008 at 12:20 am

This only goes farther as evidence that EVERYTHING the man wrote was incoherent rubbish.

9 Selfreferencing January 29, 2008 at 1:36 am

Ok, we know that Keynes was probably mostly gay and that he was a member of the Bloomsbury group. My guesses for names:

W = Virginia Woolf (Wittgenstein? Probably too early.)
A = Adrian Woolf (Woolf’s younger brother)
C = Clive Bell (Vanessa Bell’s (Virginia Woolf’s sister) husband).

If it’s sex acts, I’ll go with the article.

10 anonymous January 29, 2008 at 2:12 am

“Merely because the man is famous we feel the need to delve in to his private life? Keep to is public life, people”

The stuff he did would land him in jail nowadays, so these aspects of his life are perfectly relevant.

11 Student January 29, 2008 at 6:15 am


The article does not mention Keynes having sex with 12 or 13 year old boys. It mentions him having sex with a 16 year old “boy”. Today that would be considered statutory rape, not pedophilia. Indeed, lusting after teenagers is still a legit passtime. Ever hear the term jail bait?

And I should also mention that our age of consent is much higher than it was in those days. Folks were MARRIED by the age of 16. So Keynes may have still went to jail, but he was apparently not a deviant.

12 Daniel Klein January 29, 2008 at 8:21 am

“Oh, if only it were Friedman… would we even be reading this post?”


13 Stan January 29, 2008 at 9:00 am

Since the man was a student of economics, lets not overlook the possibility that the numbers next to the letters are dollar amounts. Perhaps he was curious about sex transactions and paid for/was paid for sex acts.

14 Yan Li January 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

Regardless C, W and A, he had a moderate animal spirit, in sum of activities, for his age.

15 happyjuggler0 January 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

I’ll avoid being explicit, but C and A could easily stand for words that are banned on free tv in the US. Thinking in these terms, W puzzled me for a while, but perhaps it rhymes with banker?

16 Paul N January 29, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Why does my wife always peer over my shoulder when I’m reading a post like this one? Thanks a lot Alex.

17 baom February 9, 2008 at 12:06 am


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The classic and trivial example is the difference between iterated and non-iterated prisoner’s dilemma. But the general principle — that behavior which is non-maximizing for a single agent in a finite game can be hugely advantageous for a population of agents in a non-finite game — turns out to be very broadly applicable.

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