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Mantoux and his criticisms of Keynes

April 17, 2016

The issue of Keynes’s complicity on the road leading to World War II has been raised in another post. So I have now added my own contribution.

At this stage, there is no point discussing the rights and wrongs of the Treaty of Versailles. But there is no doubt that Keynes’s The Economic Consequences of the Peace was one of those Al Gore-type treatises of incontrovertible truth that brought out into the open a particular variety of criticism. The book was, as you would expect, a non-starter in France but a runaway best seller in Germany. It helped solidify grievances inside Germany that did help foster World War II but how far you can go is impossible to say, although I would say it was close to none at all. On how much Keynes mattered, the book that has had lasting significance was an attack on Keynes by the French economist, Etienne Mantoux, in his Carthaginian Peace: the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes, which you can download here. Mantoux had also published a trenchant attack on The General Theory right after its publication, whose English translation can be found in Henry Hazlitt’s The Critics of Keynesian Economics.

What is indisputable is that The Carthaginian Peace made Keynes an international superstar so that by the time he published The General Theory in 1936 he was far and away the most famous economist in the world. Without the first book, the second book would likely have been a nine-day wonder, about as influential as any of the other Depression-era texts written at the time.”>a post that has brought my name into the issue.

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