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The Economic Consequences of the Peace Paperback – October 1, 2001
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Keynes' Dickensian sketches of the key Allied players, the UK's Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, France's Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and the U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson are vivid and devastating. Keynes' "Economic Consequences" is worth reading for these alone. How different a picture of President Wilson we get from Keynes versus what we read in middle school history. To the Cambridge-educated Keynes, Wilson is "slow and unadaptable", elsewhere "ill-informed", "incompetent", a naïve idealist ill-equipped to negotiate a just and lasting peace with more skilled counterparts.
How could the economic engine of Europe of 1914 possibly pay reparations that were far more punitive than realistic, and, in his view, would never be repaid when her ships were sunk or given away to th the allies, their railway capacity was going to be so degraded that it was not much better than nothing?
But let me conclude with some words from his very first paragraph:"Very few of us realise with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organization by which Western Europe has lived for the last century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly.On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions, and feel ourselves with enough margin... to foster, not assuage, civil conflict in the European family. Moved by insane delusions and reckless self regard the German people overturned (these) foundations........... But the spokesman for the French and British peoples have run the risk of completing the ruin which Germany began...."
He concludes his fairly short 116 page book with this dedication: we have been moved already beyond endurance, and need rest. Never in the lifetime of men now living has the universal element in the soul of man burnt so dimly... To the formation of the general opinion of the future I dedicate this book."