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Any method of getting economic cooperation between German's Ruhr and French industry, and at the same time effectively controlling German war potential might seem a godsend for Europe. When Foreign Minister Robert schuman of France Proposed a plan last year with these objects as its ends, many people, including members of the U.S. State department, considered it such.
Withe conferences still going on intermittently, the Schuman plan is not yet in operation, and there is a question of whether it will ever be. One important reason for the proposal's failure so far has been Britain's refusal to join.
Under the plan, West European countries submit their coal and steel production to control by a super-national authority; this board would have representatives from members nations. The English far such a program would take too much sovereignty away from their own government. But there are other reasons why many Europeans fear or dislike the French Foreign Minister's idea.
schuman originally intended to have only France and Germany in the project. He thought that the high authority would be able to keep Germany and her industry in line and, at the same time, strengthen ties between the Germans and the western nations. Frenchmen themselves objected to this, feeling that, in an economic union of two countries, France would always be a junior member. France then asked other nations to join the program.
Apart from these political objections, there were questions on the very economics of Schuman's plan. In England, and in the French socialist party itself, economists complained that the program might become, in time, merely a super cartel, one that could practically make its own laws. Others pointed out that the continent has seldom been without its earls in the modern past; this group feels that an organized monopoly might be better than the disorganized system that is now in existence.
It is possible that Britain might be willing to join now. Much of the vagueness of the first proposal is now gone; the international authority may be made responsible to the Council of Europe; and Britain's absence from the system might projudice that country's position in the long run.
For instance, last week, at a world trade conference, the French spoke of increasing coal and steel tariffs, even though France has supported free trade until now. This may be an example to Britain of what could happen under a Schuman plan-controlled economy with Britain out.
Europeans know that the Marshall Plan is soon to run out. Whether that aid will be renewed is now not known. This fact could weigh the diplomatic balance in favor of the plan, since countries might rather take their chances together than all alone. sehuman of France, however, still has his work plotted out for him.
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