If we take the word in this sense it becomes at once apparent that the theory is exaggerated which maintains that war is destroying capital, so that capital will long be at a famine price. The extent to which war is actually destroying the tools and equipment of industry is quite limited. On the actual battlefield that sort of destruction proceeds apace when factories are shelled into shapeless lumps of bricks, and when the surface of the earth, that man’s skill had developed into great productive fertility, is torn into craters and covered with rubbish. There is also rapid destruction of a very important part of the equipment of industry owing to the submarine campaign, which is sinking so many fine ships that were meant to carry goods from one country to another. But, apart from this actual destruction on the battlefield and on the sea, the tools and equipment of industry over the greater part of the earth remain untouched. It is true that, owing to the preoccupations of the war, not so much work as usual is being put into the upkeep and repair of our railways, factories and other industrial tools. But at the same time an enormous amount of new machinery is being created for the manufacture of munitions and other stuff needed for the war, and a large part of this new machinery ought to be available as industrial capital when the war is over. Those people who talk so glibly of the enormous destruction of capital by the war are surely making a mistake common to minds which look at economic questions through a financial telescope, mistaking money for capital. They see that an enormous amount of money is being spent on the war, and they jump to the conclusion that this money, if not spent upon the war, would have been put into capital investments and so have increased the tools and equipment of industry. In fact, a great deal of the money now spent upon the war would have been spent, if there had been no war, not upon increasing the equipment of production, but upon purely frivolous and extravagant consumption. There is no need to dwell on the effect of war in reducing many kinds of expenditure on which hundreds of millions must have gone in peace time, and this restriction of extravagant consumption has to be deducted before we even admit, not that all money spent upon the war is destroyed capital, but even that all the money spent upon the war is destroying what might otherwise have become capital.
If, then, it is true that the war is not making a very terribly substantial inroad upon the mass of existing capital, how is it going to affect the supply of capital in the future? To answer this question we have to see how capital is created. The answer to this question is very simple, very obvious, and very dull. Capital can only be created by saving.