Courtesy Reuters

The Tasks of the World Economic Conference

NONE of the long and apparently interminable series of international conferences that have met since the war -- with the exception of the Peace Conference itself -- has been charged with more vital importance or anticipated with more hopefulness, not unmixed with anxiety, than the World Economic Conference which is to meet in London this year. This is due to the now almost universal recognition of the fact that the economic crisis cannot be solved, and can hardly even be palliated, by the action of individual governments. It has now been abundantly proved that independent action, unless very wisely conceived and studied in its reaction upon other countries, is likely to deepen the general depression, and that any benefits which accrue to an individual nation are at best only relative. In short, there has rarely been a clearer case of a vicious circle, or one on a larger scale.

Nearly every government in the world, for example, has tried to protect its national economy by a restriction of its imports. The more countries take such action, the stronger is the inducement for others to do so; and the more futile it becomes for all together, since every nation's imports are some other nation's exports. The process is obviously a suicidal one; yet none of the countries caught in the circle dares singly to step outside it for fear of becoming a dumping ground for other countries' exports, without being able to expand its own. For this reason, the progressive decline in the trade and production of the world can only be halted by coöperative agreement between the nations. To achieve this not only in commercial matters, but in financial and monetary policy also, is the task of the Conference.

It is to be hoped that the idea of a common aim will inspire the work of the Conference when it meets. In previous meetings, whether primarily of a financial or a political nature, the task has too often been to

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