Comparison of Keynes and Versailles Treaty/Wilson’s Fourteen Points

As the founder of his eponymous economic school of thought, John Maynard Keynes contributed many influential theses on the economics of his day.  Nowhere is this more notable than in 1920’s The Economic Consequences of Peace, his controversial criticism of the Treaty of Versailles.  Keynes asserted that the Treaty would do little other than prolong and perhaps exacerbate the period of postwar unrest in Europe, noting that “the Treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation of Europe” (Keynes).  Instead, the major powers responsible for the Treaty (i.e. France, the United Kingdom, the United States) used it to advocate their own national interests.  With the exception of the U.S., who primarily viewed the Treaty as means of implementing President Wilson’s somewhat unrealistically idealistic Fourteen Points, Keynes argued that the aforementioned nations utilized the Versailles Treaty to reprimand Germany for the damage it caused during WWI , particularly by crippling its economy.  Keynes’ ultimate qualm about these tactics was that because Germany, a formerly thriving industrial nation, had become so firmly established as a staple of European industry and commerce, its virtual elimination from this economic community would cripple not only Germany, but all of Europe.  Although this excerpt did not offer any explicit alternatives to the Versailles Treaty, Keynes was noted several years later (1933) as an advocate of “economic nationalism…the autonomy which individual states had gained over policy as a result of the collapse of a unified international economy” (Mazower, 137).  It is then perhaps reasonable to infer that in the wake of this interwar economic crisis, Keynes felt that a Europe composed of economically independent states would be more stable than the tightly interdependent economic climate that dominated the decades prior.

4 thoughts on “Comparison of Keynes and Versailles Treaty/Wilson’s Fourteen Points

  1. I think this post was well-written, and reiterated exactly what Keynes was trying to emphasize. The only thing that made it difficult as the reader was the fact that there were no paragraph breaks, which would have made it easier to emphasize specific points that were connected, and I feel like it could have made your post even stronger. I thought it was great that you noted Keynes statement several years later with his view on economic nationalism. The last sentence was a well-constructed summary of the significance of Keynes beliefs.

  2. I thought you did a really great job of explaining the premise of this excerpt. I also loved how you used further works by Keynes to stretch his opinions out beyond the immediate end of the war. Though, I thought you have explained a bit more how he married these different perspectives together. Specifically, how would economic nationalism in the wake of the war have helped or impacted the economies (of Germany and of Europe) differently than the treaty? Would this have been for the better? Or was this only a solution for Europe in 1933 as opposed to the Europe of 1920?

  3. I thought this was an excellent post; very succinct and addressed all of Keynes’ main points. I think it is also important to point out how the newly industrialized German economy became incapable of self sustainment because it severely reduced its agricultural capacity and became heavily reliant on the import of raw materials and foodstuffs. I like how you also looked ahead to Keynes’ views on economic nationalism that he published in 1933 to try and further expand on his economic viewpoints, although they may have been influenced by his 13 years of observations between 1920 and 1933.

  4. Please note that Keynes’ support for economic nationalism was limited. As Mazower continues his discussion of Keynes in 1933, he shows that Keynes limited such nationalism primarily to finance and manufacturing. This is still quite a shift from his stand in 1920, but it is not full support for economic nationalism.

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