Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

5 January 2014

South Africa: Looking Forward to 2014, Remembering 1914

analysis

As we enter 2014, J. BROOKS SPECTOR takes a leaf out of history to see if it can provide useful clues for contemplating what is coming up in this new year for America - and the world.

A full century ago, Europe had rejoiced in a century of peace - without a general war such as the one Napoleon's ambitions had brought down upon the continent. Then, looking back after four horrific years of brutal warfare, a punitive peace settlement and the sweeping revolutionary disruptions that had engulfed Europe (and that would, a generation later, lead to yet another global conflict), British economist John Maynard Keynes could write, nostalgically, in 1920, "What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914!"

Keynes went on to write, famously, "The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter...

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