To those who realized the chaotic situation into which the economic nationalism of the post-war decade had plunged the world, the proposal last spring for a comprehensive economic and monetary conference seemed to offer a prospect of a return to some more endurable kind of normalcy. Beginning with the demand of the United States that war debts and particular tariff policies be barred from the agenda, that prospect has slowly dwindled, until the conference and its chances of success are now clouded in uncertainty.
In view of Mr. Roosevelt's refusal to take any part in national affairs until after March 4, the decision which has apparently been made to postpone the conference until March or April is a wise one. While some of the monetary problems are largely non-political in nature, the larger issues at stake, the mitigation of world depression and the termination of virtual economic war, are bound up with national political policies. They depend for their solution upon a cooperative attitude on the part of this country, upon Mr. Roosevelt's sincerity in advocating reciprocal tariffs, and upon a showdown in the present war debt deadlock.
The Lausanne agreement last summer came as a triumphant challenge to the defeatist attitude in regard to international conferences which had resulted from many previous failures. It is still true, however, that unless some substantial measure of agreement is arrived at beforehand, they tend to degenerate into battle-grounds of conflicting national biases.
The attainment of the most important objectives of the international economic conference depends to a large extent on the incoming American administration. The prohibitive tariff has been tentatively repudiated by the electorate, the war debt tangle is reduced to a choice between revising the debts or having them repudiated. The time is ripe for Mr. Roosevelt's "new deal," applied to American foreign policy.