Professor Young acted as Economic Advisor to the American Delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference. He is now Professor of Economics at the University.
The French occupation of Germany's wealthiest mining and industrial district is perfectly consistent with what from the beginning has been French opinion respecting the best way of securing reparations from Germany. At the time of the peace conference France showed herself vastly more interested than the other allied countries in securing some measure of control over Germany's political and economic activities. So far as reparations were concerned, the French attitude showed itself in demands for "sanctions" and "guarantees" of one kind and another. France's allies, for the most part, would have preferred to give Germany a larger freedom and liberty of action. Making Germany responsible for her own good behavior and for the fulfillment of her treaty obligations, it was held by those who did not see things as the French did, would not only contribute tot he earlier passing of the passions bred by the war, but would also enable Germany to guide her own economic recovery in such a way that she could make maximum reparation payments to France.
France thought and continues to think otherwise. She does not trust Germany. She holds that Germany will avoid all obligations she is not actually compelled to meet. Whether the French interpre- tation of the German attitude be right or wrong, French action based on that interpretation has had unfortunate results. In the first place, it has made a fair test of Germany's willingness and ability to pay impossible. In the second place, reparations problems have become inextricably confused with political and military problems and purposes.
Both Countries to Blame
It is difficult for one to sympathize wholly with either France or with Germany. France has not given Germany a fair chance to do her best. Nor, in view of the continuous pressure from France, could it have been expected that the German attitude should be that of complete and cordial cooperation. On the other hand, Germany has done less and has paid less than could reasonably be expected of her. There has been inexcusable laxity in her management of her own financial and monetary problems. Of course, the continuing insistence upon reparation payments has made the German financial problem not only difficult but possibly insoluble. But it does not appear that Germany has tried to do her best to solve it.
The French insistence that a firm hand be kept on Germany, that reparation payments be guaranteed by "sanctions" has perpetuated something like a state of war