240. The Cost of War Presents a Variety of Aspects

The Great War exhibited the most significant example of a fiscal emergency that has ever confronted the nations of the world, and it is to be hoped they will be called upon to meet no such emergency in the future. Few have any concept as to the burden that was entailed, and, indeed, it is next to impossible to form any adequate concept, because of the enormity of the demands which were made. Figures can be compiled as to the monetary outlay, but the amounts are so staggering as to be almost beyond the possibility of comprehension. Statistics were omitted in the previous chapter, with the idea that they would be more significant and important when viewed as an attempt to interpret war costs. Some of the statistical tables will serve, nevertheless, as valuable illustrations of part of the discussion which is found in the preceding chapter.

Citizens not only have a right to know, but should know, the magnitude of this burden which has been involuntarily thrust upon them. This is the more important, too, in these days, when the demands upon the functions of the state have become so extended as to make the securing of funds for ordinary expenditures a real problem. Many citizens, moreover, may now or in the future be in positions of political power and influence, and by having an adequate understanding of the consequences of war, they should hesitate to thrust a country into a state of hostilities without the maturist deliberation.

Money Costs. - The first significant factor that appears in the mention of the cost of war is that large sums of money are demanded and expended. It has already been noted that this aspect is but superficial, for in reality the actual money is of no service except as it will command ships, artillery, munitions, and supplies. A period of war, in fact, is almost without exception marked by a perceptible increase in the circulating medium. If the direct money expenditures were the only cost of war, the calculation would be comparatively easy and the burden would be materially lessened. War costs do not begin, however, with the opening of hostilities, nor do they cease with treaties of peace. The expense of maintaining the military machine in Germany was an enormous burden, while the maintenance of armies and navies in countries which were considered as unprepared for war, has formed no little proportion of their entire expenditures.

Other Costs. - The direct money expenditures for war, its preparation and aftermath, are not the only consequences to which a fiscal importance can be attached. The need for safeguarding the patrimony of the state has already been emphasized, and the possible effects of war upon the potential sources of revenue cannot be overemphasized. The decrease in productive capacity which arises from the destruction of capital and man power is an item which at once presents itself. The diversion of industry from productive enterprises to those of producing for destruction; the disarrangement of trade and commerce; the decreased productive capacity of those left physically and morally deficient; the destruction of the virile manhood which leaves a larger proportion of the weaklings to propagate the race; the sums which must be expended to take care of those left dependent or partially dependent - these all must be considered in the invisible and visible costs of war. Because of these results, the state is handicapped in raising funds for prosecuting the many progressive enterprises which are con-tinually calling for its support.

Returns from War. - To endure such costs as indicated above, the returns from war should be great. These returns are often exaggerated. The claim of the militarists has been that war makes for strength and manhood, and unless military training be given, the male population would degenerate into weaklings. The fallacy of such reasoning was clearly demonstrated when the strength and vitality of the peace-bred American soldier was pitted against the one of militaristic breeding on the Western front. War does, no doubt, stimulate progress, but it is impossible to measure the amount of progress which has been dependent upon war. Necessity is the mother of invention in time of war, if at any time, and may bring rapid advancement in scientific progress. The development of the air craft, for example, received a remarkable stimulus from the Great War, and it is impossible even to estimate how many years of peace it would have taken to have arrived at the same place. While some such benefits may come, they sink into insignificance when compared with the cost.

An attempt will be made to show briefly some of the costs which have been found to accompany war, with the general effects upon the citizenship. The figures which will be found may be far from accurate, but they form a valuable basis of comparison.