Kaldor and Keynes converse at war’s end.

March 14, 2012, 4:05 pm

In June of 1945, Nicholas Kaldor had a talk with John Maynard Keynes about the war. Assigned to the US Strategic Bombing Survey, Kaldor briefed Keynes on their findings.

He said that at no time had our bombing seriously interfered with German manufacture…. There was in fact a gigantic increase in output between 1942 and 1944. The really serious effects of bombing were confined, first of all to oil, where our previous optimistic conclusions were confirmed, but, above all, in the destruction of the German railway system from the time when we tackled that seriously. That had been devastating in its military consequences.

On the bright side, Kaldor said, this meant that reconstruction might be relatively simple: “the great bulk of German industry, if labour and raw materials and power were available, could be started up at full capacity again within a very short time.”

As for direct benefits to Britain, he told Keynes, “the most serviceable form of reparations we could get, he thought, would be to take over Speer and his staff and ask them to rationalise British industry.” Turning to more serious matters, Kaldor said Speer’s staffers believed Germany had lost because they had not fully mobilized for war. Women had not gone wholesale to work, “no doubt as a result of their ideology about the place of women in the home.”

Keynes reflected, “It is because we feared we might be beaten that we won, and it is because they were sure that they had won that they were beaten.”

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