Wednesday, 18 January 2012

As recommended by Mises

I'm reading Benjamin M. Anderson's 'Economics and the Public Welfare' at the moment, recounting the economic history of the period 1914 to 1946, mainly of the United States, but also, and necessarily so, covering events in Europe and the rest of the world. The following observation (at the end) struck me as particularly well said.
France entered the war with bad government finance. She had a national debt of 30 billion gold francs as against an estimated national wealth of 300 billion gold francs at the beginning of the war. France had had chronic deficits for many years before the war. There was governmental extravagance, and there was a great reluctance on the part of the people to submit to direct taxes. They did tolerate very heavy indirect taxes. When Caillaux undertook early in 1914 to introduce an income tax of 2 percent in the effort to balance the French budget, the outcry in France was so extreme that one would have supposed that the end of the world had come. During the war France did relatively little with taxation, and the public debt ran up from 30 billion to 147 billion francs before the war was over.

Then France began to have some real deficits. Adherents of the school of Keynes and Hansen would do well to study the history of French finance from 1918 to 1926. The one difference between the policies followed in France in this period and the polices advocated by the New Deal spenders for the United States is to be found in the fact that the French were ashamed of it and tried to conceal it and to find excusees for it, whereas the New Deal spenders would glorify it and call it "investment".
From chapter 14 - France 1918-24

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