Ex-Premier Lloyd-George, on his first invasion of America since his period of office, has expressed himself favorably in regard to the American attitude towards the Ruhr problem. That is, he has strongly approved Secretary Hughes' plan for a committee of expert accountants to audit Germany's books. In doing this he has voiced the general American public opinion, and has called attention to a solution which has long lain neglected.
Germany's capacity to pay her bills is the inescapable question-mark of the day, and until this mark is erased international politics will remain in a hopeless muddle. The recent discussion of the problem in Symphony Hall brought out, among other things, the value of accurate statistics. But, unfortunately, these statistics so far have been concerned with the amount of reparations which Germany has already paid. These, after all, are small in comparison with the total bill--even counting in all the cows and swarms of bees at their maximum market value. The question to be determined is the exact amount which she is capable of paying, in the opinion of the best economic experts of the day. Statistics such as these would make possible the erasure of the question mark now on the account books, and, indeed, would help to settle the whole problem. If Germany is totally and hopelessly bankrupt, as has been often intimated, this investigation would disclose the fact.
Even if Germany or France should declare itself dissatisfied with the decision rendered, the rest of the world, at least, would know where to stand. Non-partisan opinion, which at present is groping among a mass of "sentimental" conjectures tossed about by politicians or propagandists, would know which side to approve. And public opinion is a potential force of unquestionable power.
Lloyd-George, although at present a private individual, can still be taken as representative of a large liberal party in England. Newspaper headlines, still proclaim the possibility of his return to power, due to a deep public dissatisfaction with Premier Baldwin's lack of vigor in dealing with the Ruhr situation. And behind this opinion of the ex-premier stands the opinion of Washington as expressed by Secretary Hughes and President Coolidge. As Lloyd-George says: "the plan is not too late for consideration, and it is absolutely the best hope of the settlement of reparations."
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