The real sufferers in America will be those who hold stock in the enterprises which fail or cease to operate, and that far larger class who are dependent on a fixed salary. Professors and teachers of all sorts and grades; people living on annuities or small incomes derived from bonds or real estate; those dependent on the rent derived from leases for a term of years of dwelling houses, office buildings and the like, these will lose a material amount, exactly in proportion to the rise in prices. To that extent, the purchasing power of the stated number of dollars they receive will depreciate and that much they will lose beyond a peradventure. In time, some relief will be afforded by a tardy rise in salaries, by the expiration of leases and the payment of bonds, but the actual losses of the intervening years have never been in any way refunded in like cases in the past.
For some individuals, then, the European war will spell strict economy; for a comparatively few, let us hope, ruin. For the country as a whole, considered as a social and economic unit, a long war will introduce an era of astounding prosperity. Never before has the country had, and certainly it will never again have, almost a monopoly of the world’s trade thrust into its hands. The United States will have only one real competitor, England, and, should the English Navy prove itself less capable than is expected, or should England and her colonies be forced to order a general mobilization of their armies, the United States might conceivably remain the only great mercantile community to which the world could look for supplies. No such eventuality need be predicated to prove that the continuation of this war or a series of wars will create a demand for manufactured goods such as our merchants have never dreamed of. And they will command war prices. It means employment with rich reward for capital and labor alike—a vastly increased foreign market, a much greater domestic market, high prices, and a steadily voracious demand for the entire output. The result will be the rapid diversification of industry in the United States, the creation of industries never before possible because of European competition, the invention of machines to meet new needs. The normal economic development will be accelerated decades.
After the close of the European war, when manufacturing and production are resumed, America will find herself overproducing and face to face with another economic readjustment necessary to meet the new situation. Then will ensue a commercial crisis with all its attendant suffering and trouble such as the United States has probably never seen and which will be violent and serious in proportion to the length of the war.
AN INTERVIEW WITH M. DE LAPREDELLE.
Exchange Professor from the University of Paris at Columbia University.
By Edward Marshall.