by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent
“No Real Profit In War” reads the lead editorial in today’s Oregon Statesman:
The European belligerents, especially the two that are interfering most with our commerce, are convinced that we are getting rich out of the war, and that conviction has a good deal to do with their petulant treatment of our trade protests.
If we are getting rich, it isn’t merely because we’re profiting, even intentionally, from the misfortunes of the warring power. Most American economists agree that we should have been in a better business condition than we are if there had been no war. That view is supported by the fact that every hint of peace sends up the prices of American securities in the stock market, and every event that seems to portent a prolongation of the struggle has a “bearish” influence.
Foreign trade figures sweep away any misconception as to the share that war orders have had in reviving American business. According to the statement of the federal department of commerce, our total exports of manufactured articles for the war period so far are less than for similar periods in peaceful years. The net increase in our exports has been due solely to the marketing of our big wheat surplus. The war helped to make that market, to be sure, and yet that advantage was counteracted by the crippling effect of the war on the cotton industry. Our enormous favorable balance of trade has been due more than anything else to the fact that we were unable to obtain our usual quantities of imports, and that lack in itself has seriously hampered many of our industries.
It may fairly be said that our business recovery thus far has been less on account of the war than in spite of the war. Our great crops, together with the need of replenishing manufactured supplies of all kinds after a long period of slack production, and the encouraging understanding and cordiality arrived at between business and government, all seemed to create the groundwork of a new period of development such as no merely political events could altogether destroy. The outburst of war nipped in the bud what appeared to be a genuine business revival. Now the revival is coming again, with a prospect of growth which the war will help in some respects, and hinder in others.
Our manufacturing exports are now steadily increasing, and unless interrupted are likely to be a much bigger factor in foreign trade history during the next few months. But however much stuff we may sell to Europe for military purposes, we wish that Europe would understand that we’d be better off in a business way if the war would stop, and that even if our prosperity depended solely on the saar we’d work and pray for peace just the same.