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.

(2) The provisions relating to iron-ore require less detailed attention, though their effects are destructive.  They require less attention, because they are in large measure inevitable.  Almost exactly 75 per cent of the iron-ore raised in Germany in 1913 came from Alsace-Lorraine.[53] In this the chief importance of the stolen provinces lay.

There is no question but that Germany must lose these ore-fields.  The only question is how far she is to be allowed facilities for purchasing their produce.  The German Delegation made strong efforts to secure the inclusion of a provision by which coal and coke to be furnished by them to France should be given in exchange for minette from Lorraine.  But they secured no such stipulation, and the matter remains at France’s option.

The motives which will govern France’s eventual policy are not entirely concordant.  While Lorraine comprised 75 per cent of Germany’s iron-ore, only 25 per cent of the blast furnaces lay within Lorraine and the Saar basin together, a large proportion of the ore being carried into Germany proper.  Approximately the same proportion of Germany’s iron and steel foundries, namely 25 per cent, were situated in Alsace-Lorraine.  For the moment, therefore, the most economical and profitable course would certainly be to export to Germany, as hitherto, a considerable part of the output of the mines.

On the other hand, France, having recovered the deposits of Lorraine, may be expected to aim at replacing as far as possible the industries, which Germany had based on them, by industries situated within her own frontiers.  Much time must elapse before the plant and the skilled labor could be developed within France, and even so she could hardly deal with the ore unless she could rely on receiving the coal from Germany.  The uncertainty, too, as to the ultimate fate of the Saar will be disturbing to the calculations of capitalists who contemplate the establishment of new industries in France.

In fact, here, as elsewhere, political considerations cut disastrously across economic.  In a regime of Free Trade and free economic intercourse it would be of little consequence that iron lay on one side of a political frontier, and labor, coal, and blast furnaces on the other.  But as it is, men have devised ways to impoverish themselves and one another; and prefer collective animosities to individual happiness.  It seems certain, calculating on the present passions and impulses of European capitalistic society, that the effective iron output of Europe will be diminished by a new political frontier (which sentiment and historic justice require), because nationalism and private interest are thus allowed to impose a new economic frontier along the same lines.  These latter considerations are allowed, in the present governance of Europe, to prevail over the intense need of the Continent for the most sustained and efficient production to repair the destructions of war, and to satisfy the insistence of labor for a larger reward.[54]

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