Search all titles. Search all titles Search all collections. Your Account Logout. By Wattel, Harold L. Edition 1st Edition. Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril Every territorial settlement involved in this war must be made in the interest and for the benefit of the populations concerned, and not as a part of any mere adjustment or compromise of claims amongst rival States.
New York, 27 September — 1 'The impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination between those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be just. Keynes points to the material violation of the terms regarding reparations, territorial adjustments, and an equitable economic settlement as a blot on the honour of the western allies and a primary cause of a future war. Given that he was writing in , his prediction that the next war would begin twenty years hence had an uncanny accuracy.
One of the most serious charges Keynes leveled against the Treaty and the men who created it is that it paid almost no attention whatever to the economic future of Europe:. The Treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe,— nothing to make the defeated Central Powers into good neighbors, nothing to stabilize the new states of Europe, nothing to reclaim Russia; nor does it promote in any way a compact of solidarity amongst the Allies themselves; no arrangement was reached at Paris for restoring the disordered finances of France and Italy, or to adjust the systems of the Old World and the New.
The Council of Four paid no attention to these issues, being preoccupied with others,— Clemenceau to crush the economic life of his enemy, Lloyd George to do a deal and bring home something that would pass muster for a week, the President to do nothing that was not just and right. It is an extraordinary fact that the fundamental economic problems of a Europe starving and disintegrating before their eyes, was the one question in which it was impossible to arouse the interest of the Four.
Reparation was their main excursion into the economic field, and they settled it as a problem of theology, of politics, of electoral chicane, from every point of view except that of the economic future of the States whose destiny they were handling. Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency.
By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.
Lenin was certainly right.
John Maynard Keynes: The Man Who Transformed the Economic World
There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose. The inflationism of the currency systems of Europe has proceeded to extraordinary lengths. The various belligerent Governments, unable, or too timid or too short-sighted to secure from loans or taxes the resources they required, have printed notes for the balance. The presumption of a spurious value for the currency, by the force of law expressed in the regulation of prices, contains in itself, however, the seeds of final economic decay, and soon dries up the sources of ultimate supply.
If a man is compelled to exchange the fruits of his labors for paper which, as experience soon teaches him, he cannot use to purchase what he requires at a price comparable to that which he has received for his own products, he will keep his produce for himself, dispose of it to his friends and neighbors as a favor, or relax his efforts in producing it. A system of compelling the exchange of commodities at what is not their real relative value not only relaxes production, but leads finally to the waste and inefficiency of barter.
The Economic Consequences of the Peace detailed the relationship between German government deficits and inflation:. This is without allowing anything for the payment of the indemnity. In Russia, Poland, Hungary, or Austria such a thing as a budget cannot be seriously considered to exist at all. Thus the menace of inflationism described above is not merely a product of the war, of which peace begins the cure. It is a continuing phenomenon of which the end is not yet in sight.
Economic privation proceeds by easy stages, and so long as men suffer it patiently the outside world cares very little. Physical efficiency and resistance to disease slowly diminish, but life proceeds somehow, until the limit of human endurance is reached at last and counsels of despair and madness stir the sufferers from the lethargy which precedes the crisis.
The man shakes himself, and the bonds of custom are loosed.
The power of ideas is sovereign, and he listens to whatever instruction of hope, illusion, or revenge is carried to them in the air. But who can say how much is endurable, or in what direction men will seek at last to escape from their misfortunes? Not too many years later. Adolf Hitler was to write in Mein Kampf :.
What a use could be made of the Treaty of Versailles. How each one of the points of that treaty could be branded in the minds and hearts of the German people until sixty million men and women find their souls aflame with a feeling of rage and shame; and a torrent of fire bursts forth as from a furnace, and a will of steel is forged from it, with the common cry: "We will have arms again!
Niccolo Machiavelli advised the prince to never inflict small hurts. This is exactly what the Allies did with the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles. The German people were humiliated, and their faith in democracy — which was fragile to begin with — was almost totally destroyed. However, they were not annihilated. The Allies should have either totally destroyed and dismembered Germany or else have made a sincere effort to make a fair and just peace with her and bring her into the family of nations as a full partner. In my view, it is not going too far to state that the Nazi dictator should have worn a stamp on the seat of his pants with three words on it: "Made at Versailles.
Melchior was a lawyer and one of the German representatives at the peace conference. Through Melchior, Keynes received a dire picture of the social and economic state of Germany at the time, which he portrayed as being ripe for a Communist revolution. Keynes accepted this representation, and parts of the text of The Economic Consequences roughly parallel the language of the German counter-proposals to the draft Allied proposal of terms.
To say that Keynes's argument in the book was the same as that put forward by German financial experts at the conference would be to exaggerate. But the resemblances are very close; nor did Keynes deny their influence on him. Like them, he blamed the French for the 'Carthaginian' economic provisions of the Treaty and denounced the Reparations Commission as 'an instrument of oppression and rapine'.
A signature sentence
And like them, he stressed that the loss of Germany's merchant marine, her overseas assets, her coal-rich territories and her sovereignty in matters of trade policy severely limited her capacity to pay reparations. Nor did Keynes omit the apocalyptic warnings he had heard from Melchior at Versailles, predicting a Malthusian crisis in Germany, and the destruction of capitalism in Central Europe Keynes himself characterized the German counter-proposals as "somewhat obscure, and also rather disingenuous.
As matters actually were, this subtlety did not benefit them, and they would have done much better with a straightforward and candid estimate of what they believed to be the amount of their liabilities on the one hand, and their capacity to pay on the other. In addition to his meetings in Versailles, at the invitation of Max Warburg's brother Paul Warburg , Keynes attended an Amsterdam conference of bankers and economists in October , and he drafted there with Paul Warburg a memorandum of appeal to the League of Nations calling for a reduction in German reparations.
Keynes' book was released in late and was an immediate success:  it became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic: it was released in the United States in The scathing sketches of Wilson, Lloyd George and Clemenceau proved to be very popular and the work established Keynes' reputation with the public as a leading economist.
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