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The Effect of the War on European Neutrals (Classic Reprint)

The Effect of the War on European Neutrals (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The Effect of the War on European Neutrals

The effects of the war in general upon the European countries which remained neutral were diverse, depending upon factors peculiar to each nation. The interchange of goods between nations plays so important a role in economic life that any serious disturbance of the normal course of world trade entails losses for all the trading countries.

How a nation shares in these losses depends on such factors as its location with reference to other nations, the nature and extent of the restrictions upon its trade, changes in relative demand for commodities in other countries, and the country's own degree of self-sufficiency as regards the sources of the goods it consumes. Other losses may be due to extraordinary expenses on account of the mobilization of military forces in order to preserve a state of neutrality.

It is possible, then, for a nation not taking part in a war to bear not only relatively but actually heavier economic losses than are borne by belligerent nations comparable in population and industrial strength.

One can, therefore, no more attribute identical effects of a war indiscriminately to all neutrals than to all belligerents. One neutral may be an important source of supplies needed by the warring peoples, while another may have almost no exportable goods which the belligerent nations require. The less fortunate nation may be even more unfavorably placed as regards commodities, for besides producing principally those goods which the belligerents least want, it may normally require imports of fuel, foodstuffs, and other materials which are eagerly sought by the groups at war.

Neutrals may experience also all the embarrassments growing out of currency disorders and price fluctuations to which belligerents are subjected.

On the other hand, a neutral nation may have its losses on account of a war completely offset or more than equaled by the gains attributable to the war. In the sale of supplies at unusually high profits, and in the development of the capital equipment of the country for producing the exported goods, the nation increases its wealth. Moreover, the inability of belligerents to continue during the war to place upon the neutrals markets the same volume of goods as before may operate for the neutral country exactly like an effective tariff designed to protect industries in their early stages of development, industries which are really appropriate for the country. While serving all belligerents legitimately and without partiality, a neutral nation may, therefore, have its industrial growth materially hastened during the war, so much so that its losses are trivial in comparison.

With these considerations in mind we shall note some of the outstanding developments which have taken place in some of the European countries that took no direct part in the war.

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