Interdependence is a Bitch: The WWI Lesson of Precarity Not Learned (Keynes 3)

The first part of John Maynard Keynes’ 1919 book “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” attempts to remind the victors of WWI that the economies of Europe were deeply intertwined and especially driven by the economic powerhouse that was pre-War Germany. In doing so, he makes it clear that a “Carthaginian Peace” is unwise. He also expresses remarkably well how “unstable” or precarious countries are that rely on imports to feed their expanding populations. Such people tend to believe that there will never be an end to economic growth promising ever more prosperity. In the case of WWI, it was only this huge shock to the system that could remind people of that reality, and even with that, the victors were acting as if draining Germany of every resource needed for her recovery would not hurt the rest of the European economy and slow down recovery for all. The Versailles Treaty demonstrates how difficult it is for people to wake up from their “psychic dependence” on visions of inevitable and perpetual growth. We still suffer from this psychic dependence in our own way.

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