HAROLD BUTLER'S INTERNATIONAL SURVEY The Most Disturbing Paper Ever Issued from Geneva
A prosperity based on preparations for war is not only of sinister augury, but is fallacious and illusory, because it limits the healthy recovery of business after a period of anxiety and depression.
Such is the pessimistic burden of Mr. Harold Butler's annual report of the International Labour Office, of which he is the director. No one perhaps is in a better position to sum up the economic state of the world as a whole.
"Has the world emerged into the flowing tide of economic recovery or are we witnessing merely an interlude of mitigated depression?
"Is there even sufficient political sense and stability in Europe and Asia to make world recovery possible at all?
"Or is our whole civilisation slipping into disintegration and dissolution, from which all our mastery of the material universe is impotent to preserve it?"
These are the questions he asks.
Economics Turned Upside Down
"Overcasting the whole sky," he answers, "is the fear of war, imminent or not remote, which throws its blight over every project or transaction based upon a calculation of the future.
"In every continent preparations for war on the largest scale are being pushed with feverish energy under the spur of panic. Nor is it merely colossal expenditure on armaments which is involved, with the fatal effects on real recovery to which reference has already been made. In addition, industrial and agricultural measures are being adopted which aim at ensuring the largest attainable degree of national selfsufficiency in foodstuffs, raw materials and productive capacity in the event of war. Such measures are necessarily autarchic in their aim and effect. As such they inevitably run counter to all teachings of economic reason."
Danger of Collapse
"Autarchic principles," he laments, when commenting on the intellectual revolt against self-sufficiency which is making itself at last felt, "are being more and more widely applied on grounds of military preparedness. Here again is proof that economic recovery is an impossible dream until the fear of another and more catastrophic collapse of the whole international system has been dispelled."
Europe, and the same may be true of Asia, "stands at a turning-point of its fate."
"It is a moment when statesmanship is called upon to rise to greater heights than at any time since 1914. If the occasion is allowed to slip the discussion of economic and social progress may shortly become largely academic."