cover image The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes

The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes

Zachary D. Carter. Random House, $35 (656p) ISBN 978-0-525-50903-5

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. (May)