Debt Ridden Europe 1920

In 1920 John Maynard Keynes wrote 'The Economic Consequences of the Peace' as a critique of the Paris Treaty which outlined the repayment plan for the damages done by the Axis during the First World War. Keynes pointed out that the damage claims were largely excessive and would bankrupt Germany within short order. Nevertheless debt ridden Europe looked to Germany for capital to rebuild their economies. The consequence was the inevitable collapse of the Reichsmark which drew the Weimar Republic in to the abyss with it. Some even argue that the economic collapse, and the consequent large scale poverty, put Germany with its back against the wall giving the Nazi party room to seize Power.

Today Europe is again in dire need of capital to fund its trading imbalances. Most of Europe looks to Germany for funding once again. This time there is no Reichsmark, but only the common currency Euro. It is worth considering this quote from Keynes' original paper in the economic turmoil to come:

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. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become "profiteers,", who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. 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 Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes

Originally posted on

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