John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) was born in Cambridge, England, and attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. While working in the British civil service he wrote his first book on economics, Indian Currency and Finance, an exploration of the Indian monetary system. After briefly lecturing at Cambridge, he returned to government service and worked his way up the bureaucracy at the Treasury. He was the British Treasury’s principal representative at the Versailles negotiations, but he resigned his position because he felt the treaty imposed such a financial burden on Germany as to make her politically unstable in the future. The Economic Consequences of the Peace laid out this case, and its publication in 1919 made Keynes a celebrity. In addition to his cogent and prophetic economic analysis, the book also provided a perceptive account of the motivations of the main negotiators, Britain’s David Lloyd George, France’s Clemenceau, and President Woodrow Wilson, all three of which had their own specific agendas at Versailles.
John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920, pp. 226, 234–5, 237–8, 250–1.
Friedrich Hayek (1899–1992) was born in Vienna, when it was still the vibrant capital of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. After the war, he studied economics and law at the University of Vienna. He published his first book, on monetary theory, in 1929, on the strength of which he was appointed to the post of Professor at the London School of Economics. Here he stayed until 1950. He also taught at the universities of Chicago and Freiburg. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he challenged the other prominent British economist, John Maynard Keynes, book for book and article for article. Hayek endorsed the pre-1848 vision of classical economic liberalism, emphasizing the importance of private property, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and the free market. In the Road to Serfdom (1944) he argues that government intrusion into a free economy is the first step toward totalitarianism.
From Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, pp. 93–4, 96–8, 100.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s four terms as President marked a turning point in American history, establishing the principle of the federal government’s responsibility for public welfare and creating the federal governmental system that continues to the present day. It also established Keynesian economics (named after the British economist John Maynard Keynes), which calls for greater governmental expenditures in times of economic recession to compensate for lower spending by the private sector. FDR would go on to be reelected three times. He led America through most of World War II but died in office in April 1945, just three months before the end of the war. In the selection that follows, FDR lays out the general lines of his vision for America.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vol. 2 (New York: Random House, 1938), 11–16.
Karl Marx (1818–1883), the German socialist philosopher, worked alongside Engels to shape the Communist Party, which Marx outlined in his seminal text The Communist Manifesto (1848). The German Ideology, also coauthored by Engels, explains Marx’s theory of history as defined by relationships based on material conditions. This work responds to contemporary philosophers—such as Hegel and Feuerbach—while leading the reader step by step through Marx’s materialist ideology.
From Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968, Vol I. ch. 1, section A.
Josef V. Stalin
As leader of the Soviet Union for over two decades, Josef Vissarionovich Stalin (1879–1953) was one of the most important figures of the twentieth century. A professional revolutionary from 1900 on, Stalin joined V. I. Lenin (1870–1924) and the Bolshevik (Communist) Party and became one of Lenin’s closest collaborators, especially during the desperate and bloody days of the Civil War (1918–1920). Having cautiously consolidated his political position by 1929, Stalin oversaw a series of radical economic, social, and political initiatives that laid the industrial foundation of the USSR, broke the political resistance of the peasantry, and created a terror apparatus that made Stalin the uncontested dictator of the country. In August 1939, Stalin entered into a nonaggression pact with Hitler that kept the USSR out of World War II until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. Ultimately, at the cost of 25 million deaths and untold destruction, the Soviets drove the Nazi forces out of their country, contributing the lion’s share to the Allied victory over Hitler. The experiences of World War II did nothing to soften Stalin’s ways, and he was a tough negotiator during the wartime conferences. After the war, Stalin established a zone of Soviet occupation and domination in Eastern Europe that lasted until 1989.
In 1931, Stalin gave a speech titled “On the Tasks of Workers in the Economy” to a nationwide workers’ conference in the Soviet Union. In this speech, Stalin explained and justified the quick pace of Russian industrialization and the extraordinary demands that it imposed on the Russian people. The address is noteworthy, for it provides a concise yet compelling view into Stalin’s political philosophy, particularly regarding Russia’s relations with its neighbors.
Josef V. Stalin, “On the Tasks of Workers in the Economy,” in Works, Vol. XIII (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1955), 40–41.