John Maynard Keynes: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1920)

John Maynard Keynes, one of the most important British economists of the 20th century, wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1920) in response to the Treaty of Versailles. Keynes in his piece focuses on Germany and uses them as a representation as to what will happen, economically, if citizens of these countries follow this treaty.

Keynes argues that Germany, with a booming population and a rapidly increasing industry, can’t survive with the treaty’s proposed sanctions. He believes that the intellectual elite of the victorious countries fails to realize the stability of Europe, as a whole, and doesn’t promote economic solidarity in any way. The main danger here, Keynes believes, is that a rapid depression of the standard of life can leave to the starvation of many. He says, “Those who sign this treaty will sign the death sentence of many millions of German men, women and Children” (Keynes).

Although Keynes makes valid economic criticisms, his argument is more economic based and less political based. The political situation of 1919 has a lot of importance in what is happening throughout Europe and Keynes fails to address that and also fails to provide alternative solutions to the readers’ problems.

Mazzini and Nationalism

Author: Giuseppe Mazzini, 1805-1872. Founder of Young Italy (1831), Mazzini was an Italian activist and politician and one of the most significant figures in the push of nationalism and democracy.

Context: Published in 1852, in a time when revolutions such as the French (1848) and others were happening with comparable frequency, the ideas of nationalism and unification were picking up steam.

Language: Mazzini wrote in a very “matter of fact” tone. It read optimistically in the sense that if everything he stated was followed, Italy would be in a great position. This piece exuded a great deal of confidence and grabs the intended audience’s attention.

Audience: The European people.

Intent: Inspire Europeans to come together and unite as one, increasing pride in their respective countries.

Message: He states, “They speak the same language, they bear about them the impress of consanguinity, they kneel beside the same tombs, they glory in the same tradition.” Having said this, he questions why these people with so much in common do not unite as one and reap the benefits from such behavior. He alludes to the fact that not many European countries have such unity and how advantageous it would be.

Why: To respond to the uprisings and revolutions of the prior few years. He determined that one of the main issues in Europe was a lack of unity and explained how he felt they could improve their situation.

Comte De Saint-Simon


Author: Author’s name is Comte de Saint-Simon.  Saint-Simon is considered to be a French social theorist (Comte de Saint-Simon 1).  He was not in support of a Laissez-faire economy.  Instead, Saint-Simon wanted “an industrialized state directed by science,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 1).  Furthermore, Saint-Simon wanted industrialists to become enlightened and after their enlightenment, for he felt that they could help the poor.  He also fought in the American Revolution.

Context: The article does not say when exactly it was written, but on Encyclopedia Britannica they make mention of many of his works.  A few of his successful works were in 1803, 1814, and  1816-18.  It claims that his work in 1803 spoke to the importance of science, which this piece does. ((Encyclopedia Britannica, Henri de Saint-Simon)).

Language: Saint-Simon seemed to be challenging the way Europe currently stood economically when he wrote this piece.  The tone of his voice could be characterized as frustrated, for he was not happy with the way Europe continued to use this Laissez-faire attitude.

Audience: He claims that Europe relies on this Laissez-faire attitude and that it is considered to be “the inevitable solution,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2).  Saint-Simon disagreed with this point and wants Europe to change their ways.  Due to the fact that St. Simon disagreed with this Laissez-faire mentality and constantly mentioned “honest and hard-working men,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2) as “innumerable victims,” (Comte de Saint- Simon 2) it seems as though Saint-Simon was speaking to the masses, as he wanted them to change their line of thinking and stop going along with the Laissez-faire attitude.

Intent: As stated above, it seems that Saint-Simon’s intent was to encourage the masses to look around and see how they were being manipulated by the Laissez-faire economy and his piece showed a way in which they could improve the European economy.

Message: Laissez-faire is defined as, “policy of minimum governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society,” ((Encyclopedia Britannica, laissez-faire)).  However, while many Europeans found this to be “inevitable solution,” Saint-Simon disagreed and stated that a Laissez-fair economy created a “struggle to the death,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2) mentality amongst Europeans.  Furthermore, by creating this mentality, Saint-Simon claimed that while some individuals may be successful, “the price is the complete ruin of innumerable victims.”  In fact, because many working men become “innumerable victims,” Saint-Simon claimed that this caused people to go to the endth measure, for “more than honesty and hard work are needed,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2).  Saint-Simon concludes that when working men see that hard work does not get enough done, they resort to deceitful tactics and become “lost to humanity,” (Comte de Saint- Simon 2).  Therefore, because working men, seeing that there hard-work was useless, turn to drastic measures and lose their humanity.  This, Saint-Simon argued, is a major problem occurring in Europe and will only be fixed if the Laissez-faire economy is done away with.

His solution to this, was, as the introduction stated, “an industrialized state directed by science, and an enlightened class of industrialists to address the needs of the poor,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 1).  While this solution had flaws, for Saint-Simon acknowledges these very flaws in his introduction, he believed that a state which was directed by science could not be any more flawed than a Laissez-faire economy, which continuously hurt the humanity of Europe and brought chaos to Europe.


*Once again, I had trouble with footnoting.  Below are the sources I used for the Context section and Message section.*

“Henri de Saint-Simon”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.       Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2015 (context section)

“laissez-faire”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2015. (message section)

Hoffman on Europe, The Soviets, and Socialism

Hoffman presents the Soviet Union much like any other state in Europe during the post enlightenment era of the 19th and 20th centuries: development oriented, with a focus on medical and industrial innovation, especially among the peasant class. Hoffman points out, however, that Russia (first Imperial, then Soviet) arrived “late to the party” so to speak when compared to their European counterparts. The peasants in France took it upon themselves to cast off the shackles of the monarchy at the end of the 18th century, while Great Britain systemically phased out the power of the monarchy through a series of elections, rendering the King all but a figurehead by the beginning of the First World War. Russia, however, despite attempts in the middle of the 18th century to make systematic changes, did not, as a whole, begin to develop as their European counterparts until the overthrow of the Tsar in 1917. Despite Soviet Russia’s late arrival to the development game played by their western counterparts, and their constricted form of government that ostensibly disqualified the USSR from consideration as a state that achieved modernity, Hoffman cites many parallels of development in Soviet Russia that mirror developments elsewhere in Europe. The most important of these parallels in development is the concept of scientism (the organization of all social, political, and economic endeavors under a scientific norm) which Hoffman discusses early on in his article. The Soviet Union, despite its communist organization and totalitarian regime, enacted many of the same governmental practices as their counterparts, including their “social welfare policies, economic consolidation and planning, and machine age utopiasim.” Hoffman therefore shows the reader a striking, and oft ignored series of similarities among the countries of Europe and the way in which they developed alongside one another. He also highlights the horrors of such development when he mentions the raw strength of science and the level headed critical thinking the practice is akin to provided both logical justification for the Holocaust, and the chemical component (Zyklon B) for its gas chambers, hinting at the horror of humanity in his conclusion, particularly how society, being machine-like in nature, tends to set itself on a path to destruction when it intended the achievement of an ideal society, much like the Soviet Union derailing on its quest for perfection (unattainable ideals as Hoffman puts it) in the postmodern era.

Post World War II European Economic Relations

The European Free Market Trade Area published in 1957 served as a post war petition to bring economic unity to various European states previously in political opposition. Trade barriers prevent potentially valuable communications for solidifying positive social relations; historically, one country preventing the means of trade of another either served as a product of, or enabled political tension. Economic homogenization assisting as a method of political unification remained a common strategic political policy throughout the remainder of the century. The Maastricht treaty, the treaty on the European Union (1992), sought to aid in unifying Europe “through the strengthening of economic and social cohesion and through the establishment of economic and monetary union.” It also encouraged human rights reinforcements in the international sphere. European nations were not alone in promoting economic cohesion in the early 1990s, however. The Clinton Administration implemented the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, which eliminated trade barriers between Canada, The United States, and Mexico, further stimulating trade between powerful North American nations, increasing solidarity. Nations seem to understand that economic inclusion is a powerful means to stimulate economies and maintain stability.

Count Cavour and Nationality

In “The Program of Count Cavour” from 1846, around the beginnings of the Italian Unification, Count Cavour expresses that “no people can attain a high degree of intelligence and morality unless its feeling of nationality is strongly developed. This noteworthy fact is an inevitable consequence of the laws that rule human nature”. As a powerful figure in the unification of Italy, Cavour makes purposefully strong statements such as these to fuel a sense of determination and obligation in the peoples of Italy. In order to prompt in his people a feeling of duty, Cavour subtly suggests that those who have not cultivated a sense of nationality will not achieve intelligence or morality. He insinuates that a sense of nationality and belonging has always been present in human nature, and that awareness of this sense of nationality has always been the key to reaching “a high degree of intelligence and morality”, or in other words, enlightenment. In this manner, Cavour cleverly encourages nationalism in Italians. In a way, he makes those lacking in nationalistic values out to be ignorant and unconscionable. Cavour chooses to tie morality to nationalism because one who is patriotic has a sense of loyalty to a greater population, rather than just himself. Therefore when someone thinks only of himself, and not of his country too, he has a lower standard of morality.

I definitely understand Cavour’s sentiments in relating intelligence and morality to nationalism, but it definitely is not true in many situations. Nations which employ immoral practices should not feel entitled to feelings of nationalism from its people, particularly if there are laws or policies that do not protect the welfare of its people. Sometimes the most intelligent and moral people are those who speak out against a nation, questioning certain practices and systems in place. A sense of nationalism can also be a detrimental thing for a nation’s people. Governments can convince and/or force its people to perform immoral, inhumane acts in the interests of the country. Nationalism may be the best thing for an individual country, but may hurt its people and affect other countries in a negative manner. Is Cavour right in saying that nationalism is tied to high levels of intelligence and morality? Is this relevant in any nations today? Was it only relevant at the time for Italy?

Political Languages

Both Viktorovich and Natalia touch on the impact of learning English in grade school and, to an extent, elaborate on how they expanded that knowledge as they got older. This language was designated as a critical foreign language in the Soviet Union. How should we interpret this given the geographical distance between the USSR and the next English speaking country? In the United States, the common elementary language is Spanish. Is this because of the strong political and cultural influences coming from the other American countries and Spain? Doubtful.


The interviews from Saratov touch on the global political importance of knowing English during the late Soviet Union. Many resources abroad (radio programs, “European News”) were English influenced. The Soviet understanding of this allowed it to be a competitive power in the technological, cultural, and arms races.  This allowed many citizens of the USSR to embrace and understand global news and influences. Viktorovich displayed an understanding of the varying cultures he encountered in the army. Could this empathy been nurtured by his exposure to the global community? If so, language was his entrance to the discussion.

The United States’ pre-occupation with Spanish (not a State-recognized critical language) is not geared toward embracing a global political community. In fact, the cutting of Russian research funding seems to insinuate movement in the opposite direction — isolationism. Either that or the United States does not recognize the global influence Russia holds and this unprecedented cut was made out of arrogance, ignorance, or a mix of both.2008-469--America-and-Russia-agree

Spread of Nazism Throughout Europe

In Dark Continent, Mazower briefly discusses Germany’s view of Europe as a racial entity.  The movement to eradicate Jews from the population did not exist only in Germany—it was a genocide that aimed to span the entire continent. Mazower argues that racism was the driving force behind World War II, and the desire to improve and cleanse the population occurred throughout Europe. As the power of the Nazi party strengthened, it expanded outside of Germany and ultimately led to one of the greatest genocides in history.

When comparing these concepts to the 25 Points, there is an interesting contradiction when defining national identity.  The 25 Points was written in 1920, before Germany began to expand into other European countries.  Because the Nazis invaded other countries in the following years, the definition of nationality became somewhat confused.  In order to promote a united front, the Nazis accused Jews of being scapegoats for the hardships that Germany faced during the interwar period.  What ultimately led to Germany’s continental dominance, and the mass extermination of Jews, was the need for a blame for Europe’s dark interwar period. Overall, racism was the catalyst behind German power during the Nazi regime.

How did the increase in German power affect the 25 Points? Did it strengthen or weaken the document?

Solzhenitsyn — It was a Good Day

Does anything really  go wrong for Shukhov in “One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich”?Nah — to use the words of rapper Ice Cube — “it was a good day.”

So, how does Solhenitsyn convey the trials of camp life? Despite Shukhov’s experience at maneuvering camp politics and his relatively optimistic outlook, the audience can still see the hardships through how Shukhov notes his surroundings. The way he comments on the other ” zeks’ ” behavior, on how it will affect their lives in the camp, depict many of the lessons he has had to learn in the camps. Many instances of punishment or distress we read in this novel are portrayed through Shukhov’s experienced view. Ultimately, he does serve his sentence. But, Shukhov does this after being worn down by camp life and having to rebuild himself on experience. He knows who to avoid, and why; who to trust, and why; the politics of the camp, and how to maneuver; and the consequences the newer zeks face in the 104th due to their inexperience.

I’ve included a censored version of Ice Cube’s song below to illustrate the similar methods employed to depict hardship.

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Penal Systems of World Powers

Abladen grosser Steinbrocken am Weissmeer-Ostsee-Kanal, 1932

The organization of Soviet labor camps hoped to accomplish a number of purposes. These projects were improvements on the infrastructure of the Soviet Union and, ultimately, the economy. Considering how swiftly the Belomor was completed (“Twenty months and it must be built cheaply” –Stalin) and the lack of material resources, this success was based primarily on the re-purposing of an otherwise idle prison population. Granted, the ‘labor camp’ style of  punishment in the Russian penal system was established long before Soviet rule but the Soviets were the first to implement it on such a large and effective scale. Removal of ‘undesirables’ was, as we can see from Stalin’s policies, a high priority. These “enemies of the State” would then (hopefully) be re-educated by exposure to a good Soviet work ethic. This pool of shiftless ‘kulaks’ isolated to the wilderness would provide the Soviet Union with a valuable resource key to large projects, such as the Belomor Canal, developing in the Union –cheap labor.

At the same time, the United States was facing some of the earliest waves of incarceration increases while also not greatly revising her penal system.Moving into the 1930s, labor derived from the then locally-managed institutions was made illegal and a national “Bureau of Prisons” was formed. Now in charge of more than 160 institutions, and with very little experience, the Bureau prescribed a “penopticon” model to their prisons –a style which allowed for maximum surveillance of a maximum number of inmates. The prison population would not stop increasing until the onset of America’s involvement in World War II. Many Capturehistorians argue that American productivity and mass of troops helped turn the European front. But, how different is this from the labor in the Soviet camps? We can say that the quality of life was far better and the pay, of course. But, the camps were focused on a mass of cheap labor. When the prisons were releasing such numbers of inmates, a mass  of labor was definitely produced and the larger general supply of labor provided lower wages to employers — though not the free prison labor of Stalin’s camps.

If we examine both countries now, when the U.S. and Russia are both among the world’s top ten largest incarceration rates (716/100,000 citizens and 490/100,000 respectively), should we expect any change in penal policy?