John Maynard Keynes – The Economic Consequences of the Peace
Keynes was part of the British delegation in the post-World War I Versailles negotiations. He resigned in protest, and this 1919 book is his public statement of why. He correctly foresaw that the treaty’s harsh terms would lead to a second World War by inflaming German resentment and slowing civilian rebuilding.
Keynes had malleable views, and changed personae many times through the years; this Keynes of 1919 was different from the Keynes of 1930’s Treatise on Money or 1936’s General Theory. But in this book Keynes shows a sharp moral clarity, mirrored by a clarity in thought and, relatedly, prose that differentiates Economic Consequences of the Peace from many of his other works.
This book would also pair well with Ludwig von Mises’ 1927 book Liberalism, which similarly foresaw a second war that would be worse than the first. Mises argued that interventionist policies, besides fostering social tensions and instability, would economically weaken the Allied countries, making it more difficult for them to counter nationalist or communist threats. For all their differences, Keynes and Mises stood on common ground in wanting peace, and even a little bit on how to maintain it.