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3 - Keynes’s Economic Consequences (1919)

The Book and Its Critics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 December 2023

Patricia Clavin
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Giancarlo Corsetti
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Maurice Obstfeld
Affiliation:
Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington DC
Adam Tooze
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

The continued relevance of Keynes’s famous polemic, after more than a century, is itself remarkable. It has always been controversial: first as polemic, then as economic analysis, and finally as historiography. In which genre should we place it? The literary force of its vignettes of the key participants must be acknowledged. Likewise the concentration on reparations in linking the Armistice to a burden of post-war debt highlights the notion of guilt. And the distinction between historic ‘indemnities’ and the wholly new coinage of ‘reparations’ still needs to be better understood. Hence the inescapable centrality of Article 231 of the Treaty, the famous War Guilt Clause. Subsequent controversy has focused largely on assessments of the actual burden that reparations posed – or would have done if actually paid. Here the salience of Etienne Mantoux’s contribution in 1945 is still worthy of acknowledgment (though, ironically, not in castigating Keynes as ‘anti-French’). Instead, the ongoing significance of the analysis presented in the Economic Consequences points to the centrality of Keynes’s vision of the welfare of Europe as an integrated organic whole – rather than seeing the Treaty as a zero-sum game in which Germany had to punished, for moral as much as economic reasons.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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