The Price of Peace
Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An “outstanding new intellectual biography of John Maynard Keynes [that moves] swiftly along currents of lucidity and wit” (The New York Times), illuminating the world of the influential economist and his transformative ideas
“A timely, lucid and compelling portrait of a man whose enduring relevance is always heightened when crisis strikes.”—The Wall Street Journal
WINNER: The Arthur Ross Book Award Gold Medal • The Hillman Prize for Book Journalism
FINALIST: The National Book Critics Circle Award • The Sabew Best in Business Book Award
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY PUBLISHERS WEEKLY AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times • The Economist • Bloomberg • Mother Jones
At the dawn of World War I, a young academic named John Maynard Keynes hastily folded his long legs into the sidecar of his brother-in-law’s motorcycle for an odd, frantic journey that would change the course of history. Swept away from his placid home at Cambridge University by the currents of the conflict, Keynes found himself thrust into the halls of European treasuries to arrange emergency loans and packed off to America to negotiate the terms of economic combat. The terror and anxiety unleashed by the war would transform him from a comfortable obscurity into the most influential and controversial intellectual of his day—a man whose ideas still retain the power to shock in our own time.
Keynes was not only an economist but the preeminent anti-authoritarian thinker of the twentieth century, one who devoted his life to the belief that art and ideas could conquer war and deprivation. As a moral philosopher, political theorist, and statesman, Keynes led an extraordinary life that took him from intimate turn-of-the-century parties in London’s riotous Bloomsbury art scene to the fevered negotiations in Paris that shaped the Treaty of Versailles, from stock market crashes on two continents to diplomatic breakthroughs in the mountains of New Hampshire to wartime ballet openings at London’s extravagant Covent Garden.
Along the way, Keynes reinvented Enlightenment liberalism to meet the harrowing crises of the twentieth century. In the United States, his ideas became the foundation of a burgeoning economics profession, but they also became a flash point in the broader political struggle of the Cold War, as Keynesian acolytes faced off against conservatives in an intellectual battle for the future of the country—and the world. Though many Keynesian ideas survived the struggle, much of the project to which he devoted his life was lost.
In this riveting biography, veteran journalist Zachary D. Carter unearths the lost legacy of one of history’s most fascinating minds. The Price of Peace revives a forgotten set of ideas about democracy, money, and the good life with transformative implications for today’s debates over inequality and the power politics that shape the global order.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CUNDILL HISTORY PRIZE
Journalist Carter debuts with a compassionate and richly detailed exploration of the life and legacy of economic theorist John Maynard Keynes (1883 1946). Seeking to assemble Keynes's disparate views on politics, money, art, war, and culture into the "singular, definitive philosophical statement" he never produced in his lifetime, Carter delves into The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936) and other writings to explain Keynes's theories on public welfare, deficit spending, and financial markets. He also documents Keynes's public support of "deficit-financed expansion" during the New Deal, and credits Keynes with securing government funding for the restoration of the Royal Opera House at Covent Gardens after WWII. On a more personal note, Carter describes Keynes's involvement with the Bloomsbury group, and the shock of confidants Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey at his "wild, impossible love" with Russian ballerina Lydia Lopokova (Keynes's previous romantic relationships had been with men). Tracing the impact of Keynesian economics on modern U.S. politics, Carter sketches the policies of every president from Kennedy through Obama, and explores how Keynes's "spirit of radical optimism" animates contemporary efforts to arrest the "global slide into authoritarianism." Carter makes complex economic concepts accessible, and eloquently untangles Keynes's many personal and professional contradictions. This is an essential portrait of the economist and the man.
Not only is the life of Keynes fascinating but the application of his theories are too. I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of this book.
Fascinating life, informative story
This book gives an interesting view in to Keynes fascinating life - he lived among the greatest artists, intellectuals, financiers and politicians of his day, and somehow managed to be both glamorous and idealistic the whole time. At least as fascinating is the long-standing influence of Keynes’ ideas, which the book traces through the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. A great read- enjoyable and enlightening
A Find for a Non-Economist
I only dabble in trying to to understand economics - this book gave significant clarification to an economist whose influence I was always curious about, but whose work seemed for so long to be too elusive for me to internalize in my thoughts. It’s very well written, with painstaking application of theory to the real world. My only criticism is that the last sections become completely US-centric, barely mentioning the progress of Keynesianism even through his home, the UK, after WWII. I still would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the application of ecomomic theory to history and politics.