The Economic Consequences of the Peace (Anglais) Broché – 22 mai 2009
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Il fut donc un instrument politique dont sut habilement jouer l'Allemagne dans sa lutte nationaliste, contre la France comme le démontrent brillamment Léon Daudet ("Connaissance de l'Allemagne", écrit avant la seconde guerre mondiale) et les auteurs de la remarquable "Histoire de la diplomatie française").
Le Keynes inspirateur de Bretton Woods avait heureusement mûri depuis cet écrit.
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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.
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'.
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.
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.