The Economic Consequences of the Peace eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 207 pages of information about The Economic Consequences of the Peace.
at any rate, that the capital value of these natural supplies is much greater than the total war debts of all the Allied States.  Why should not some portion of this wealth be diverted for a sufficient period from its present owners and assigned to the peoples whom Germany has assailed, deported, and injured?  The Allied Governments might justly require Germany to surrender to them the use of such of her mines, and mineral deposits as would yield, say, from $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 annually for the next 30, 40, or 50 years.  By this means we could obtain sufficient compensation from Germany without unduly stimulating her manufactures and export trade to our detriment.”  It is not clear why, if Germany has wealth exceeding $1,250,000,000,000.  Sir Sidney Low is content with the trifling sum of $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 annually.  But his letter is an admirable reductio ad absurdum of a certain line of thought.  While a mode of calculation, which estimates the value of coal miles deep in the bowels of the earth as high as in a coal scuttle, of an annual lease of $5000 for 999 years at $4,995,000 and of a field (presumably) at the value of all the crops it will grow to the end of recorded time, opens up great possibilities, it is also double-edged.  If Germany’s total resources are worth $1,250,000,000,000, those she will part with in the cession of Alsace-Lorraine and Upper Silesia should be more than sufficient to pay the entire costs of the war and reparation together.  In point of fact, the present market value of all the mines in Germany of every kind has been estimated at $1,500,000,000, or a little more than one-thousandth part of Sir Sidney Low’s expectations.

[132] The conversion at par of 5,000 million marks overstates, by reason of the existing depreciation of the mark, the present money burden of the actual pensions payments, but not, in all probability, the real loss of national productivity as a result of the casualties suffered in the war.

[133] It cannot be overlooked, in passing, that in its results on a country’s surplus productivity a lowering of the standard of life acts both ways.  Moreover, we are without experience of the psychology of a white race under conditions little short of servitude.  It is, however, generally supposed that if the whole of a man’s surplus production is taken from him, his efficiency and his industry are diminished, The entrepreneur and the inventor will not contrive, the trader and the shopkeeper will not save, the laborer will not toil, if the fruits of their industry are set aside, not for the benefit of their children, their old age, their pride, or their position, but for the enjoyment of a foreign conqueror.

[134] In the course of the compromises and delays of the Conference, there were many questions on which, in order to reach any conclusion at all, it was necessary to leave a margin of vagueness and uncertainty.  The whole method of the Conference tended towards this,—­the Council of Four wanted, not so much a settlement, as a treaty.  On political and territorial questions the tendency was to leave the final arbitrament to the League of Nations.  But on financial and economic questions, the final decision has generally be a left with the Reparation Commission,—­in spite of its being an executive body composed of interested parties.

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The Economic Consequences of the Peace from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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