Economic Foreign Policy of the United States

By Benjamin H. Williams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
CONCLUSION: THE ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY OF THE FUTURE

The improvement of national economic conditions by political means is an effort worthy of the highest statesmanship. It is salutary and wise to direct policies toward making better the material circumstances of life. We might almost say that here is a standard by which all doctrines and slogans should be measured. The chief question is whether the standard can be correctly applied in view of the influences which are brought to bear to compel the adoption of unwise and shortsighted measures under the pretense that they will promote the national economic welfare. As a counteractant against sudden and special influences a few general principles which will serve as a foundation for sound policy should be kept in mind.

In developing a truly economic policy it is imperative to consider the effect upon the nation as a whole. This is a day of powerful lobbies. Because of superior organization, effective publicity methods, and a shrewd sense of self-interest, an active minority may often affect public policy much more than the uninformed and less-vitally interested majority. The overemphasis given to the desires of a comparative few sets up strong temptations to commit political errors. There can be no general economic gain in sending forth a fleet of warships each time a few investors or concessionaires feel that they have been wronged, although the profit to the individuals specially concerned may be very great. The vigorous appeals of particular groups should be appraised with a definite realization of the tendency to overstatement of advocates under the psychological influences of partisanship and self-interest. The public official, like the artilleryman, must make proper corrections for the direction and velocity of the wind.

A far-sighted view of economic consequences is essential. To the "practical" man the present is vastly more important than the future. This year's dividends outweigh the profits of fifty

-406-

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