Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/1113

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1059
Nathan — National Debt

tons in 1918, the decline being attributed to the effect of the influenza epidemic of that year. In 1919 the output was 2,800,000 tons. Natal coal is of excellent quality,, and commands high prices — double that of Transvaal coal. In 1918 the output was valued at £1,358,000.

Nathan, Ernesto (1845–1921), Italian politician, was born in London in 1845, and died at Rome on April 9 1921. He was the son of an Englishman, Joseph Nathan, and of an Italian mother, Sara Rosselli, both Jews. His parents had befriended Italian political exiles in England, and on the death of Joseph Nathan in 1858 the widow and son settled at Pisa, where the latter attended the university. Soon afterwards they had to repair to Switzerland on account of Sara Nathan's republican sentiments; it was then that Ernesto Nathan became acquainted with Mazzini, whose views became thenceforth his chief inspiration and cult, and he devoted himself as a journalist, teacher and social reformer to their diffusion. A violent anti-clerical, he soon joined the free-masons and was elected “Grand Orient” for Italy in 1899, but resigned in 1905 owing to internal disagreements. He became an Italian citizen, and although he had been a republican in his early years, he gradually accepted the monarchy as the best régime for Italy, and ended by being received at Court. He showed great activity in organizing the “Unione dei Partiti popolari” in 1900, a blocco of the various radical and anti-clerical parties in Rome, and when at the municipal elections of 1900 the clerical administration fell, Nathan was chosen as mayor. That an English Jew and a militant anti-clerical and freemason should become mayor of Rome seemed indeed incongruous, but he was selected for his sterling honesty and business ability. Unfortunately he lost no occasion to offend Catholic sentiment and frequently made himself ridiculous, becoming a butt for the comic papers and revues. His plans for modernizing Rome did much to spoil its beauty for no useful purpose. Reelected in 1910, he fell when the blocco broke up in 1913. On the outbreak of the World War, in spite of his 70 years, he volunteered for the army and actually served as a lieutenant of infantry for a time. In 1917 he was reelected “Grand Orient” but resigned a year later. He was editor of the National edition of Mazzini's works.

National Debt. — The World War, 1914–1918, brought about a complete transformation in the size and composition of the world's national debts. Those of the belligerent countries were swollen to an enormous extent. The liabilities of the European nations were inflated to a degree which in the pre-war period would have been regarded as symptomatic of financial madness and world-wide collapse of credit. The British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George), at the close of the war, estimated its cost at about 40,000 millions sterling, a figure which was accepted by a number of statisticians in Europe and America. Table I. is compiled from Paper No. IV on Public Finance, issued by the League of Nations for the International Financial Conference held at Brussels in the autumn of 1920. For purposes of comparison pre-war figures are also given, when they are available.

Table I.

The increases shown in Table I., however, cannot be regarded as mathematically correct. Like is not compared with like; the unit of value has been changed in many cases, inconvertible paper currency having been made the legal measure of value in place of a definite weight of gold in all the belligerent countries except the United States and Japan. In order to make a proper comparison it is necessary to make a correction for the depreciation expressed in gold, in the value of money in the various countries. There is, however, no mathematical formula for making this correction, but the existence of a 20% discount in the gold value of the pound sterling (in May 1921) shows that the margin of error is a very material one. From the standpoint of national finance the importance of these national debt figures depends upon their ratio to national revenue. Ratios are shown in Table II., which expresses the debt as so many years' purchase of current revenue.

The countries are arranged in Table II. according to the post-war percentages. As the true burden of debt can only be determined by the relation which it bears to capacity to carry it, it follows that Table II. gives a truer picture of the world's national debt position in 1920 than Table I.

In the case of certain countries such as Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, where the depreciation of the unit of value