My First Seventy-Six Years: Autobiography

By Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTY
Foreign Policy

I HAVE repeatedly insisted that I have never laid claim to being a politician. Quite obviously I am minus certain qualities necessary for such a career. It seems to me also that a politician's reputation does not always depend so much on his ability as on favourable current circumstances which contribute to his success. I don't believe Mussolini's saying, that men make history. The men who have gone down in history as great politicians were very often only the instruments of their era. When the time for a new perception was ripe it favoured many a politician who, for all his good intentions and efforts, would otherwise have been doomed to oblivion.

Economic policy is a part of general politics. With the increasing importance that economic policy has assumed for Europe since the eighteen-nineties, it was unavoidable that I should be drawn into questions of foreign policy. I have described my endeavours in London and Paris during the early nineteen-twenties to awaken understanding of the idea that reparations á la Versailles are thoroughly mischievous. In the years that followed I pointed out again and again that to make it possible for Germany to obtain raw materials and foodstuffs from overseas territories by her own labour and with her own currency would provide the only secure basis for conditions in Germany to develop on peaceful lines.

On this subject, as on the subject of currency, I was obliged to refute the classic principles of the doctrine of free trade. My study of British mercantile authors had shown me clearly that there is nothing of the abstract science about political economy. It was on their trade requirements that the mercantile writers had based their theoretical claims with which they had been able to found and to protect their wool industry and their shipping.

After Britain had succeeded in establishing her great industrial advance and the superiority of her merchant fleet, British political economists began to raise freedom of trade, i.e. unrestricted competition, to the level of a standard economic theory, culminating in the most-favoured-nation principle which would have ensured Britain's economic supremacy for all time, had not other countries finally rebelled against it from sheer necessity. The so-called

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