Courtesy Reuters

Can Italy Live at Home?

ITALY possesses scanty quantities of iron, coal, copper, and potash and must import from abroad her whole supply of petroleum, cotton, rubber, and phosphates. She is almost self-sufficient as regards chemicals and nitrates. But she is really self-sufficient only in sulphur, mercury and aluminum.[i] She can reduce her imports of coal by turning her water power into electricity. But electric power is economically profitable only when the price of coal is high. As soon as coal drops in price it becomes preferable to electricity. In the present state of technique, Italy is handicapped in comparison with those countries which can obtain raw materials without paying heavy freight charges. She is and must remain first and foremost an agricultural country.

Even so she cannot nourish her entire population. On a total area of only 120,000 square miles, she must support 42,500,000 inhabitants. Yet one-third of Italy's land is unfit for cultivation. Consequently she must import large amounts of foodstuffs, as is indicated by the following table:

Cattle Frozen Meat Salted and smoked fish
(number of head) (tons) (value in lire)
1930 265,000 66,500 232,000,000
1931 176,000 54,890 180,000,000
1932 81,000 48,840 107,000,000
1933 121,000 46,200 120,000,000
1934 141,000 48,620 128,000,000

How does Italy pay for her imports? In three ways: she exports her own products and services; she sells services and goods to tourists; and she receives remittances from her emigrants. If any of these sources of international income decline, her imports undergo a parallel decline and her population must sink to a lower standard of living. In recent years all three of these sources have been curtailed. As a way out of this impasse Mussolini proposes to conquer Ethiopia, where he expects to find for his people raw materials to exploit and an abundance of lands to colonize.


Would the conquest of Ethiopia help Italy to solve her population and raw materials problems? The area of Ethiopia -- 350,000 square miles -- is about three times that of Italy. It is divided climatically into four zones: the highlands above 8,000 feet; the temperate zone, between 8,000 and 5,000 feet; the tropical zone, between 5,000 and 2,500 feet; and the desert lowlands, under 2,500 feet. The cold climate of the highlands is not suitable

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