46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Account of the Versailles Peace Treaty
This book gave economist John Maynard Keynes a huge influence on perceptions of the peace treaty signed after World War I -- an influence that has been controversial ever since. Critics still argue over whether Keynes exaggerated the deleterious effects of the treaty on Germany's economy. Some also contend that the account, which was widely read during the 1920s,...
Published on July 18, 2003 by Jeffery Steele
61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not this edition!
Maynard Keynes' Economic Consequences of the Peace has long been recognized as a classic, and it takes on new significance in light of the recent meltdown on Wall Street. But if you want to buy a copy, you should forget this edition. It appears to have been scanned from an earlier copy, but no effort was made to clean up the text after scanning it. As a result, there...
Published on January 14, 2010 by Gary W. Shanafelt
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61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not this edition!,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)Maynard Keynes' Economic Consequences of the Peace has long been recognized as a classic, and it takes on new significance in light of the recent meltdown on Wall Street. But if you want to buy a copy, you should forget this edition. It appears to have been scanned from an earlier copy, but no effort was made to clean up the text after scanning it. As a result, there are whole sections of gibberish, a mix of characters and symbols that makes no sense whatsoever. Much of the book is literally unreadable.
46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Account of the Versailles Peace Treaty,
Keynes' book remains highly readable in many sections. He was not only a brilliant economist, but a superb writer with a keen eye for the foibles of the great men of his time. However, some sections of the text, such as the one dealing with reparations, are abstruse and less suitable to the modern audience. These are still brilliantly told, but unless you are a grad student or a scholar with a particular interest in the many details of Germany's economy in the early part of the century as well as the demands put on it by the treaty, you are not likely to find these sections as gripping as the others.
The book must be read by those interested in the Versailles Peace Treaty and the aftermath of its signing. Even today, the power of Keynes' argument is evident. I've just recently finished reading Margaret MacMillan's "Paris, 1919," and while I enjoyed the book, I found her arguments against Keynes to be unconvincing. MacMillan says the actual collection of economic claims against Germany was rather modest, less, for example, than Germany collected from France in the aftermath of the 1870 war. But Keynes admitted the allies might not hold Germany to all the economic terms of the treaty. He still felt strongly that many of those terms - whether enforced or not - discouraged sound planning by German investors, companies, and its government, and unnecessarily impoverished the German people. This he felt was bad for not just Germany, but all of Europe.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Consequences of injustice,
This review is from: The Economic Consequences of Peace (Hardcover)Keynes took the opportunity proffered to him in 1919 to voice the fears of many of his fellow countrymen that the treaty recently signed at Versailles stripping Germany of it's colonies, a substantial portion of it's population, all it's overseas concessions, its air force, any place at the League of Nations and an enormous amount in reparations payments to be made over the coming years, was an act of consummate folly that would only lead to future war. He took great pains to point out the folly of the French position at the conference, namely to be as extreme as possible, cognisant of the fact that their claims would be moderated and noted that in several cases where the British and US delegations had no specific interest, provisions were passed 'on the nod' which even the French would not have subscribed to. Keynes was damning about both Clemenceau and Wilson and pointed out that almost everything had been done which 'might impoverish Germany now or obstruct her development in future' and that to demand such colossal reparations without any real notion of whether Germany had the means to pay was foolhardy in the extreme.
Keynes book provided a fulcrum for British doubt about the treaty and an avenue for British sympathy with the fledgling German Republic. Keynes made treaty revision a thing of morality and enlightened self interest to avoid 'sowing the decay of the whole of civilised life of Europe'.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nought remains but vindictiveness among the strong,
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.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peace which sowed the seeds of its own destruction,
Keynes starts with providing a dazzling psychological analysis on how the treaty came to be.
"When President Wilson left Washinghton he enjoyed a prestige and a moral influence throughout the world unequalled in history ... Never had a philosopher help such weapons wherewith to bind the princes of this world. How the crowds of the European capitals presses about the carriage of the President! With what curiosity, anxiety, and hope we sought a glimpse of the features and bearing of the man of destiny who, coming from the West, was to bring healing to the wounds of the ancient parent of this civilization and lay for us the foundations and the future"
Alas, this was not to be. American idealism, French quest for security and British distaste for alliances and hypocrisy created an unworkable solution. Soul of the treaty was sacrificed to placate domestic political process, and as the result put Germany in the position of defiance and economic insolvency; the position which at the bottom drew sympathy from the former Allies and as the result contributed to brutality of the second conflict.
Keynes draws a picture of pan-European economy which was destroyed by the treaty and rightfully predicted that not only Germany will not be able to pay, but will be obligated to pursue the expansionist policy at the expense of her weak Eastern neighbors. Treaty did not contain any positive economic programme for rehabilitation of the economic life of Central powers and Russia. One just could not disrupt the economic position of the greatest European land power, at the same time strengthening it geo-politically and suffer no horrible retribution. ""The Peace Treaty of Versailles: This is not Peace. It is an Armistice
for twenty years." - said Foch about such a agreement.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable edition,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)This "General Books" edition was apparently made by using optical character recognition to typeset from an existing copy of the original book. The result is unreadable because the technique produced gibberish where there were smudges, underlining, etc. in the original copy. I have re-ordered (but not yet received) a more expensive copy of the book which appears to have been digitized and reset--and free of errors. Google also has a downloadable (pdf) version made by digitizing a copy of the book from a university library. Despite the errors, I've slogged through about three chapters and am blown away by the sense of being in the presence of genius--that's why I re-ordered the book in a more expensive edition. Because this is an important work, I think Amazon should delete the shoddy "General Books" edition from its offerings.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic on its subject. And well written too.,
This review is from: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Paperback)One of the most influential books of the early 20th century. Keynes' insightful criticism of the Paris Peace settlement are a must read for anyone interested in the Versailles settlement or interwar Europe. While the opinions and conclusions Keynes has are open to debate, it was this work which has set the standard for agreement or disagreement about the effects of the conference. As much as to its arguments about trade, Keynes book owes its success to its suburb writing and lively style.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vindictive peace is no peace at all,
This review is from: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) (Paperback)There was a pronounced sense amongst many British, let alone Germans that the Versailles treaty was overly vindictive and would only serve to sow the seeds of the next great conflict. At the end of 1919 J M Keynes published `The economic consequences of the peace' . He took great pains to point out the folly of the French position at the conference, namely to be as extreme as possible, cognisant of the fact that their claims would be moderated and noted that in several cases where the British and US delegations had no specific interest, provisions were passed 'on the nod' which even the French would not have subscribed to. Keynes was damning about both Clemenceau and Wilson and pointed out that almost everything had been done which 'might impoverish Germany now or obstruct her development in future' and that to demand such colossal reparations without any real notion of whether Germany had the means to pay was foolhardy in the extreme. Keynes book provided a fulcrum for British doubt about the treaty and an avenue for British sympathy with the fledgling German Republic. Keynes made treaty revision a thing of morality and enlightened self interest to avoid 'sowing the decay of the whole of civilised life of Europe'.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A prophetic book on the Second World War.,
The portrait he gives of the different negotiating abilities of French's Clemenceau, United States' president Wilson and British Prime Minister Lloyd George is a devastating picture of the different motives each one of them had at the time: the aim of Clemenceau was to exact revenge to French's traditional enemy and to debilitate Germany as much as possible, thus postponing her return to prosperity and to menace again France. WIlson's, portrayed as a good man but lacking any negotiating feature a man of his stature should have, was a frail man only to save his face in the moral stances he took in his preliminary 14 points Armistice proposal, which led to the initial surrender of the Germans to the Allied forces. The British Lloyd George was only worried about upcoming elections in his country and was playing all the cards (good or bad) he had to save himself from an humiliating defeat to the Liberals.
The outcome of it all was a Peace Treaty who despised each and every point of reality, representing a burden Germany would not be able to pay, thus leading to the dismantling of an economic European system that led famine, social disturbance and finally to the World War II.
The book is a best-seller ever since and very easy to read and should be also recommended to every one interested in the power broker skills one has to have to succeed (Clemenceau) or fail (Wilson) in negotiation as hard as this one.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keynes was right on the key issues,
This review is from: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Kindle Edition)Having read the "General Theory" many years ago as a student, I decided it was time to read "Economic Consequences of the Peace". I purchased the Kindle edition, and immediately discovered that there is no introduction by Volcker, as claimed on the Amazon product page. In addition it is more difficult to access the footnotes, which are at the end of each chapter, than in paper versions. Otherwise I was very happy with the Kindle edition.
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.
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. The combination of points 4 and 5 (plus the obnoxious and inaccurate "war guilt" clause) meant that Germany would feel victimized and betrayed, whereas the Treaty should have sought the reconciliation of nations. Keynes predicted a future war.
The only point on which one might conceivably say that Keynes was not fully vindicated was the first: much (but not all) of Europe boomed in the 1920s. However, it can be argued that Keynes was not fundamentally wrong even on this issue. Those who believe there were structural weaknesses in the major economies, or who follow the line of the Austrian School in arguing that the Great Depression arose from an expansion of the money supply in the 1920s that artificially inflated the economy with an inevitable slump to follow the boom, will argue Keynes was right about the fragility of European economies.
Among the dissenting voices to the view that Keynes was largely correct on almost all issues was Étienne Mantoux, who in 1945 wrote "The Carthaginian Peace, or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes". Mantoux ignored almost all the six points listed above and concentrated instead on showing that German coal and iron production were higher than Keynes predicted, and that Germany was better off than he supposed. However, Mantoux's figures are all based on the actual inter-war situation, where Germany paid only one-eighth of the reparations and developed with the aid of American loans, whereas Keynes' predictions depended on the Allies squeezing Germany until the pips squeaked. In addition Keynes had stressed that predictions cannot be perfect, and changing circumstances change outcomes.
Keynes was correct in his assessment of the effect of reparations and the weakness of Germany in 1919, for when the Allies attempted to extract maximum payments in the years 1919-23 Germany suffered from economic disasters without parallel in a democracy. With a desperate economic situation and unable to pay reparations, Germany suffered the occupation of the Ruhr by the French in January 1923. It meant that Germany had no goods to trade. The result was that Germany resorted to printing (even more) money to repay reparations and loans. This led to hyperinflation. Keynes was also vindicated in his prophecy of inflation elsewhere in Europe by the inflations in Danzig, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Russia. Mantoux's specific points about iron and steel not only ignored the fact that the production was with the aid of US loans and the non-payment of reparations, but also ignored myriad other contrary economic indicators, including not only the 1923 hyperinflation but also the fact that Germany had 30% of its workforce unemployed in 1932.
Keynes was correct in saying that the Treaty would not bring peace. A hatred of the Treaty and the oppressive French occupation of the Ruhr helped to undermine the Weimar Republic, bringing Hitler to power and precipitating the Second World War. Keynes played a role in the settlement after the Second World War. His words of wisdom about the failures of the Versailles Treaty were heeded, and principles of cooperation and rebuilding meant a prolonged period of peace and prosperity in Europe after 1945 - a striking contrast to the failure of Versailles to achieve this.
Finally, it has been claimed that the book created (or at least encouraged) appeasement in the 1930s by convincing Britain and the US that the Treaty was unfair to Germany. This is impossible to prove. More important in creating sympathy for Germany was the French occupation of the Ruhr 1923-25, and the main causes of appeasement were anyway miscalculation and the desire for a quiet life among people who had lived through the horrors of the 1914-18 war. It should be noted that Keynes was one of the earliest and most passionate opponents of appeasement. On this too Keynes was proved right.
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The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes (Paperback - March 8, 2004)
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