The Economic Consequences of the Peace eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 239 pages of information about The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

In the chapters of this book I have not generally had in mind the situation or the problems of England.  “Europe” in my narration must generally be interpreted to exclude the British Isles.  England is in a state of transition, and her economic problems are serious.  We may be on the eve of great changes in her social and industrial structure.  Some of us may welcome such prospects and some of us deplore them.  But they are of a different kind altogether from those impending on Europe.  I do not perceive in England the slightest possibility of catastrophe or any serious likelihood of a general upheaval of society.  The war has impoverished us, but not seriously;—­I should judge that the real wealth of the country in 1919 is at least equal to what it was in 1900.  Our balance of trade is adverse, but not so much so that the readjustment of it need disorder our economic life.[157] The deficit in our Budget is large, but not beyond what firm and prudent statesmanship could bridge.  The shortening of the hours of labor may have somewhat diminished our productivity.  But it should not be too much to hope that this is a feature of transition, and no due who is acquainted with the British workingman can doubt that, if it suits him, and if he is in sympathy and reasonable contentment with the conditions of his life, he can produce at least as much in a shorter working day as he did in the longer hours which prevailed formerly.  The most serious problems for England have been brought to a head by the war, but are in their origins more fundamental.  The forces of the nineteenth century have run their course and are exhausted.  The economic motives and ideals of that generation no longer satisfy us:  we must find a new way and must suffer again the malaise, and finally the pangs, of a new industrial birth.  This is one element.  The other is that on which I have enlarged in Chapter II.;—­the increase in the real cost of food and the diminishing response of nature to any further increase in the population of the world, a tendency which must be especially injurious to the greatest of all industrial countries and the most dependent on imported supplies of food.

But these secular problems are such as no age is free from.  They are of an altogether different order from those which may afflict the peoples of Central Europe.  Those readers who, chiefly mindful of the British conditions with which they are familiar, are apt to indulge their optimism, and still more those whose immediate environment is American, must cast their minds to Russia, Turkey, Hungary, or Austria, where the most dreadful material evils which men can suffer—­famine, cold, disease, war, murder, and anarchy—­are an actual present experience, if they are to apprehend the character of the misfortunes against the further extension of which it must surely be our duty to seek the remedy, if there is one.

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