The Costs of the World War to the American People

The Costs of the World War to the American People

The Costs of the World War to the American People

The Costs of the World War to the American People

Excerpt

To the most casual observer of the effects of the World War one outstanding fact is evident: the greatest catastrophe of modern times touched the United States relatively lightly, compared to its effects on other countries. Whatever are the economic burdens of modern war, the recent experience of this country does not afford a sample comparable to that of the countries which felt the full impact. The aggregate costs of our participation were enormous, as was the economic effort they represented, but the burden has been borne with comparative ease--until the coming of the present depression.

This was the richest country in the world before the invasion of Belgium, and in the years from 1922 to 1929 it became vastly richer than ever before. Even now, in the midst of a depression of the first magnitude, with unemployed workers estimated at six to eight millions, we are still a rich nation, and while recovery, when it comes, may start from a level representing a temporary loss of many years' progress, and may not for a long time restore the prosperity of 1928 or 1929, there is no real doubt that this level will ultimately be regained. We are in a "new era," as every generation is, but not one of permanent stagnation.

And by contrast with the impoverished condition of our chief companions in the family of nations after the War, our post-war prosperity exhibited a discrepancy which was one of the most outstanding phenomena of the new period which the end of the War ushered in. The rebuilding of the economic life of Europe has reduced that discrepancy, but the major fact remains. And the stresses produced by it are among the causes of the present depression, and may well constitute one of the most serious problems which the War has brought to America, and to the world at large.

To enumerate a few of the evils which we escaped: our territory was not invaded and we were spared the destruction of factories, mines, homes, and of the very soil itself, which visited France and Belgium. Our loss of life due to the War has been at least 170,000 and is still growing, in addition to which the numbers receiving disability compensation at any one time have mounted to totals of over 260,000; but this represents a small burden compared to that borne by the European participants. It has not, as in Europe, so trenched . . .

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