The budgetary position of Italy is perhaps a little superior to that of France. Italian finance throughout the war was more enterprising than the French, and far greater efforts were made to impose taxation and pay for the war. Nevertheless Signor Nitti, the Prime Minister, in a letter addressed to the electorate on the eve of the General Election (Oct., 1919), thought it necessary to make public the following desperate analysis of the situation:—(1) The State expenditure amounts to about three times the revenue. (2) All the industrial undertakings of the State, including the railways, telegraphs, and telephones, are being run at a loss. Although the public is buying bread at a high price, that price represents a loss to the Government of about a milliard a year. (3) Exports now leaving the country are valued at only one-quarter or one-fifth of the imports from abroad. (4) The National Debt is increasing by about a milliard lire per month. (5) The military expenditure for one month is still larger than that for the first year of the war.
But if this is the budgetary position of France and Italy, that of the rest of belligerent Europe is yet more desperate. In Germany the total expenditure of the Empire, the Federal States, and the Communes in 1919-20 is estimated at 25 milliards of marks, of which not above 10 milliards are covered by previously existing taxation. This is without allowing anything for the payment of the indemnity. In Russia, Poland, Hungary, or Austria such a thing as a budget cannot be seriously considered to exist at all.
Thus the menace of inflationism described above is not merely a product of the war, of which peace begins the cure. It is a continuing phenomenon of which the end is not yet in sight.
All these influences combine not merely to prevent Europe from supplying immediately a sufficient stream of exports to pay for the goods she needs to import, but they impair her credit for securing the working capital required to re-start the circle of exchange and also, by swinging the forces of economic law yet further from equilibrium rather than towards it, they favor a continuance of the present conditions instead of a recovery from them. An inefficient, unemployed, disorganized Europe faces us, torn by internal strife and international hate, fighting, starving, pillaging, and lying. What warrant is there for a picture of less somber colors?
I have paid little heed in this book to Russia, Hungary, or Austria. There the miseries of life and the disintegration of society are too notorious to require analysis; and these countries are already experiencing the actuality of what for the rest of Europe is still in the realm of prediction. Yet they comprehend a vast territory and a great population, and are an extant example of how much man can suffer and how far society can decay. Above all, they are the signal to us of how in the final catastrophe the malady