Synopses & Reviews
This treatise, written in 1923 by the renowned proponent of deficit spending, is devoted to the need for stable currency as the indispensable foundation to a healthy world economy. Keynes begins by laying out data showing the serious fluctuations in the value of money that began in 1914 and subjected North America, Europe, and India to injurious cycles of inflation and deflation. He describes the various effects on investors, business people, and wage earners of this erratic underlying influence and makes it clear that policies limiting such fluctuations must be implemented to ensure greater economic and social stability. He finds the gold standard, which was used as the basis of value for many currencies, including the U.S. dollar at that time, to be ultimately unreliable since gold itself is also prey to unstable valuations. In the final analysis he recommends the implementation of policies by Great Britain and the United States that aim at achieving stability of the commodity value of the dollar rather than the gold value. "[T]he ideal state of affairs," he argues, "is an intimate co-operation between the Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of England, as a result of which stability of prices and of exchange would be achieved at the same time."
As always, Keynes proved to be amazingly prescient: The United States did eventually abandon the gold standard and the U.S. dollar is indeed the basis of currency values today. Keynes's brilliant, clear analysis of the world monetary situation at the beginning of the twentieth century, with his many suggestions and his masterful elucidation of economic principles, is still well worth reading today at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
About the Author
John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) was the most influential economist of the first half of the twentieth century. During both world wars he was an adviser to the British treasury, and his theory of government stimulation of the economy through deficit spending influenced Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" administration. The mass unemployment caused by the Great Depression inspired his two most famous works, A Treatise on Money and General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.