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The Economic Consequences of the Peace Paperback – 1 Oct 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Publications (1 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931541132
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931541138
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,099,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

The Economic Consequences of Peace marked the entrance into the world scene of the twentieth century s most influential economist. It should be in the library of every serious student of world affairs. Paul A. Volcker, from his introduction --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Maynard Keynes --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Keynes was absolutely right in his analysis of the consequences of the peace. He got it right for the right reasons and not many forecasters do that!
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A good book.
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Having read the "General Theory" many years ago as an undergraduate, I decided it was time to read "Economic Consequences of the Peace". Keynes attended much of the conference and wrote fascinating pen-portraits of the main players - Clemenceau believing in the inevitability of eternal conflict and wanting a Carthaginian Peace; Wilson having high moral principles but insufficient intellect to stand up to Clemenceau; and Lloyd George converted to an ever more oppressive treaty by the need to win an early general election in Britain. These pen-portraits alone make the book worth reading, but of much greater interest is the analysis of the terms of the Peace.

In my judgement the key observations Keynes made in this book about the state of Europe in 1919 and about the Versailles Treaty were:
1. Not only Germany but also much of Europe (excluding Britain) was in a poor economic condition and would find recovery difficult.
2. One particular factor he noted was the existence of inflation and the danger of it continuing, worsening and damaging economies. He said the problem was serious throughout Europe and particularly Germany, which already had a large budget deficit.
3. The Treaty contributed nothing towards creating a fair, functioning and integrated economic system in Europe.
4. The Treaty breached the terms of the Armistice Agreement in the level of reparations and territorial adjustment, which was morally reprehensible. Germany had not surrendered unconditionally but was treated as though she had.
5. Germany could not possibly pay the full amount of reparations on given knowledge and all reasonable assumptions about the immediate economic future. In addition reparations were unfair in that unlike an indemnity the amount was unknown and unknowable.
6.
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Keynes's Consequences of the Peace remains a classic and is probably the best book to read on the subject of German WWI reparations. Published at the end of 1919 and after Keynes had resigned from the British peace delegation, the book was a call to limit the damage, reduce reparations, and put in place a European trade and economic structure, including free trade and the cancellation of inter-allied war debts, to allow the continent to recover. An important reason, meanwhile, for Keynes's call was that the Versailles treaty did not set the amount for German reparations: rather these were left to a Reparations Commission, which would spend another eighteen months before fixing a number. Thus Keynes's book was not just back sniping, it was programmatic.

The Versailles treaty has a bad reputation in popular memory, especially British. While historians originally also tended to be critical, the last decades have seen a reassessment, and a recognition that the peacemakers faced an imperfect job no matter what, and could not magically solve the destruction and disorders wrecked by WWI. Some historians now even argue that the reparations were not punitive, and that Germany could afford to pay them. In my view this goes too far, and Keynes's book is quite convincing in this respect. The reparations total discussed in Keynes's book, $40 billion, was of the order of the total size of pre-war German GDP, perhaps more, and more than ten times total German exports. The amount eventually proposed by the Commission, while smaller at a nominal $31 billion, remained huge in proportion to the German economy. Entirely accessible to the layman, written with complete clarity, and short, this is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in history and the peace of 1919.
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For Keynes, the Peace Treaty of Paris after World War I was a matter of life and death, of starvation and existence, and the fearful convulsions of a dying civilization.

But the negotiating politicians had absolutely no vision. Clemenceau wanted a Carthaginian peace, President Wilson was essentially a theologian and Lloyd George yielded to national electoral chicane.

The victors had no magnanimity. `The future life of Europe was not their concern; its means of livelihood was not their anxiety. Their preoccupations related to frontiers and nationalities, to imperial aggrandizements, to the future enfeeblement of a strong and dangerous enemy, to revenge and to the shifting of their unbearable financial burden on to the shoulders of the defeated.

But for Keynes, the policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation was abhorrent and detestable: `Nations are not authorized, by religion or natural morals, to visit on the children of their enemies the misdoings of parents or of rulers.'

Keynes had the decency to leave the negotiations from the moment he saw the looming disastrous results.

Keynes brilliantly calculated that Germany could not pay the imposed debt. He foresaw the coming German hyperinflation. He clearly recognized the danger of `a victory of reaction' (the right) in Germany, because it would endanger the security of Europe and the basis of peace.

Eventually that's what happened with all its disastrous consequences for Europe.

His prediction of millions of dead from starvation in Germany didn't occur.

This sometimes rather technical book is still a very worth-while read. His author was a visionary.
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