REVIEW OF REVIEWS

Europe, Dying or Recovering?

Harper’s Writer Is Not So Gloomy as Many of His Confreres— He Scores “Parlor Car Tourists.”

FREDERICK PALMER January 15 1924
REVIEW OF REVIEWS

Europe, Dying or Recovering?

Harper’s Writer Is Not So Gloomy as Many of His Confreres— He Scores “Parlor Car Tourists.”

FREDERICK PALMER January 15 1924

Europe, Dying or Recovering?

REVIEW OF REVIEWS

Harper’s Writer Is Not So Gloomy as Many of His Confreres— He Scores “Parlor Car Tourists.”

FREDERICK PALMER

BRITAIN is still Britain, long-headed, patient. Europe is still Europe, especially west of Russia. She is not decaying, but recovering. So declares Frederick Palmer in Harper’s Monthly, in an article that appears to have been intended to offset the gloomy views of those writers and speakers who have been telling us that Europe “is going to the dogs.”

There is no war on European territory now, Mr. Palmer reminds his readers, and there is no war in sight. Even Turkey has “signed up.” United States, he says, faces “a lean, determined competition both in trade and intellectual progress,” which should enliven the States “with fresh incentive.” He thinks Europe, with the exception of Russia, will pay up her bad debts to United States within twentyfive years. At the end of that period, he predicts, the gold reserve of France may exceed that of United States. French peasants are “digging into their stockings,” as they did before the war, for subscriptions to the bond flotations for American industrial enterprises. While France has been squandering her money on military preparations of great magnitude, the French peasant, individually, has been saving and stinting. He is making his land give him every return that is coming from it annually, and instead of buying an automobile and burning up his profits in gasoline and repairs, he is putting his spare cash into loans to la belle Francais.

Mr. Palmer has a quarrel with the people who run over to Europe on a sight-seeing trip and come back with convictions that the older countries are headed for disaster and ruin. These “parlor car observers,” he says, do not note anything but surface conditions, or are merely repeating what somebody else has said before them. “We seem to dislike to read anything but bad news about Europe,” he complains. “To my mind, the war itself, and a first-hand experience of the war, form an essential background for understanding presentday Europe.

the future of Europe is dominated by the future of France, declares Mr. Palmer, and the policy of France is the policy of Foch. Continuing in this strain somewhat further on in his article, he makes this statement:

The little nations lying between Russia and Germany now see that they have a mighty ally in France. They look up to the French army as the premier army of thé world, as it indisputably is, the master of the once overpowering Prussian who had held them in a fear that was a habit until it was broken by the Ruhr occupation. The officers of the armies of the little nations turn as pupils to their French master; and from South America and the rest of the world military students come to sit in awe in the school of Foch, where their enthusiasm persuades them that the French all but won the war single-handed. A great thing, prestige. As for the spirit and enterprise of the

French people, these are a few of the observations which Mr. Palmer makes after returning from the regions of France devastated during the war:

The solidity of the reconstruction suggests that those who have the most to lose hardly share the apprehensions of the prophets of gloom that a destroying army will soon again pass that way. Ab,out ninety-nine per cent, of the refugees have returned to their homes. The actual renewal of all damaged or demolished structures is eighty per cent, complete. For practical working purposes, the devastated regions have their plant back, a new and better plant than before the war, which will require a minimum of expense in upkeep.

Mr. Palmer gives us these further personal impressions of the state of the French mind, the state of the French purse and, finally, what he believes to be the secret and altruistic ambition of Foch, idol of the French people and the man who is really behind every political move on the part of France:

At the St. Quentin station, in sight of patches of ruins, I noted, as an indication that the plant was working, packingcases labeled “Made in France” and to go to the "U.S.A.” The masons and carpenters who built the new factories received hardly more than one-third the wages our employers pay, and the hands which made the products in the cases worked ten and twelve hours.

The French people have subscribed even more generously to the “second war” loans than to the first war loans. The nation has kept on increasing its enormous debt and not balancing its budget. Income taxes are high, but, ready as the Frenchman is to subscribe to loans, he will not fill out his returns with more than what he considers a justifiable percentage of his income, while public opinion will not permit the government to be inquisitorial.

Obviously, such continued borrowing can lead only to national bankruptcy. Contrary to the custom of concerns facing insolvency, the French are only too eager to admit that this is true. They

are always volunteering that it is. “Bankrupt France!” is the monstrous goblin who supports the appeal of “Poor France!”

What is bankruptcy? It means that creditors compel a reckoning when you cannot meet your obligations. France’s debt to United States is small in comparison to her total internal debt of sixty billions of dollars. She owes Frenchmen this internal debt. When the creditor forcloses it will be on herself.

If the internal debt were repudiated, or scaled down, France would be no poorer in her plant, her soil, her skill and industry, which are the real wealth of a people. She would be richer in that many people who look forward to being leisurely rentiers on the income from their bonds would add their labors to the sum of industry.

Bankruptcy can come to a nation only when it continues to páy out to other nations more than it receives, and continues losing gold and living on credit until its credit is exhausted. The French national gold reserve in metal and gold credits is about one billion and a half of dollars, which is not all the gold France holds. Immense amounts of gold and silver coins have been privately hoarded out of circulation while the script and alloy pieces in place of silver, which the traveler sees add to his conviction regarding the stricken financial condition of the country.

Thirty thousand Americans are now living in France and drawing their incomes from home. They are not the only tourists who increase the foreign throng on the boulevards, exhaust their funds in shops, in flying over French roads in hired motor cars, and in a general burst of extravagance because they are “abroad.” Some of us drink enough of the wine of France while in

France to make up for what we miss at home.

Altogether France is gaining gold at the rate of at least four or five hundred million dollars annually. Hold what views you will about titular bankruptcy, actual bankruptcy seems very remote. While Britain faced the winter with a million unemployed, France had twelve thousand. So largely self-sustaining in foodstuffs, her products so distinctively the product of the genius of her people, her prosperity, unlike England’s, bears small relation to that of Germany except in steel. She will be in the safest position of all rivals against the flood of cheap goods which must eventually come from Germany whose people, being unable to emigrate in numbers, will produce on the narrowest margin of costs in order that they may have work and live.

When France’s military advantage in the Ruhr is politically confirmed—-which means a favorable conclusion about reparation payments—and the revelation of her carefully planned, closely held policy is set with the seal of achievement, perhaps France will not dwell so much on her poverty.

The Foch idea is to prevent war by the old methods which in the end provoke war. There is no further martial glory to be won by the greatest marshal of the greatest of wars. Far from Napoleonic is this elderly and lively gentleman who -likes to go about in a jacket coat and fedora hat, finding his second youth in the rejuvenation of France. He has shown that he has no political ambitions. He is an adviser to whom statecraft turns under the thrall of that prestige which carries weight in the councils of the little allies who may be tempted into embarrassing military adventures. The inheritance which he would leave is a secure France as the keystone of the European political structure.