Courtesy Reuters

The Reconstruction of France

FRENCH reconstruction should be considered in relationship to France's population problem, geographic location and natural resources, historical background and political psychology. This approach may appear ambitious and will be distasteful to a friend of mine who advocates a "League for the Promotion of Lack of Knowledge Between Nations," because, he contends, the more the people know each other, the more they quarrel. However convincing his argument might sound, the main objection to it is that systematic use of a lack of knowledge has been tried over and over again, even in recent times, but the results have not always given full satisfaction.

The population of France has increased relatively slowly during the last century, with a consequent decrease in relation to other countries. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the French population, around 25 million, was about equal to the population of the German Confederation, only slightly smaller than that of Russia, about twice that of Great Britain, and twice that of Italy. In 1940, the French population of 41 million had become smaller than the population of either Great Britain or Italy, had dropped to about one-half of Germany's and about one-quarter of Russia's. And for each 10 French births there were 17 Italian, 27 German, 80 Russian.

French hegemony in Continental Europe, which had been conceivable in the Napoleonic era, became inconceivable in the twentieth century. If French and British officials had pondered over these fundamental facts of demography immediately after the First World War they would have neither hoped nor feared French hegemony in Continental Europe; and the two countries in coöperation might have been able to erect a dyke against German and Italian aggression.

French demographic conditions have been interpreted in certain quarters as a sign of decadence in the French race. But the causes of the relative decline in the birth rate are not physiological. They are chiefly economic. There are good reasons to believe that proper economic and legislative measures could reverse the trend. Careful analysis shows that different causes

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