Fireworks touched off by the Sonate Munitions Inquiry have thrown into House strong relief the ethics of armament makers and of those who own shares of stock in these companies of doubtful morality, yet the Senate committee makes no attempt to define any workable set of standards by which their ethics may be judged. Partly through P. T. Barnum publicity, but more because of the amazing facts that were revealed, England has appointed a royal commission to examine the arms, trade, while public interest all over the world is keener than ever before. Undoubtedly this is a good thing in principle. But just as hurried and ill considered action in passing the NIRA has left its trail of troubles within the nation, so between nations, can poor understanding of the armament issues leave still heavier sears.
As Harold Callender points out in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, it is impossible o draw a hard and fast line between those who are makers of armaments and those who are not. What are the makers of fertilizer who can turn their production to explosives at a moment's notice, and automobile manufacturers who can make armored cars and tanks, and even the owners of oil wells and wheat fields, which are no less essential in wartime? Speaking of this problem as it affects the investor who is looking over his portfolio of stocks, Mr. Callender says, "it is difficult to find an industry that would not in some way contribute to success in war, directly or indirectly; and there seems more idealism than logic in the attitude of those who would shun he making of bombs or shells or hand grenades while approving the production of the motor cars or ships or cloth or food, which enable an army to hurl bombs and shells and grenades."
What the public, as well as their elected representatives must realize, is that the armament trade is an international problem, so complicated by technical, political, and moral issues as to render the likelihood of practical legislation virtually nil. The armament trade is bound to flourish so long as the world is torn by the political animosities that threaten it today.