National Affairs: Army & Navy

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War Without Profit (Cont'd)

Last week the War Policies Commission, chairmanned by dapper, pink-cheeked Secretary of War Hurley, concluded its public hearings, prepared to write a report for the President. Created by Congress, it had heard many a witness, some with ideas, more without, on how to take the profit out of war. No proposal had gained more attention or stirred more discussion than that of Bernard Mannes Baruch, Wartime head of the War Industries Board, for "freezing" all prices by presidential proclamation at the outbreak of War (TIME, May 25). At the Commission's closing session Mr. Baruch reappeared to answer such critics of his plan as Newton Diehl Baker and General Douglas MacArthur, Chief of Staff.

''There was not a single witness," declared Mr. Baruch, "who did not propose price-fixing through some means. The excess profits tax standing alone as a means of equalizing the burdens of war is fatally defective because it aggravates inflation. The fixation of a few individual prices is a wrong war policy because it would be confiscatory, because it has only a fragmentary effect on inflation and because it is more difficult than general stabilization.

"We used a good many euphemisms during the War for the sake of national morale and this one of 'price-fixing by agreement' is a good deal like calling conscription 'selective service' and referring to registrants for the draft as 'mass volunteers.' Let's make no mistake about it. We fixed prices [during the War] with the aid of potential Federal compulsion and we could not have obtained unanimous compliance otherwise."

Next to the Baruch plan, the most arresting proposal the Commission heard last week came from New York's swart little Congressman Fiorello Henry La Guardia. A War aviator, Representative La Guardia wanted a constitutional amendment to allow a wartime Government to declare a moratorium, nationalize all industry, ration the entire civil population and conscript everyone "from Texas Guinan to J. P. Morgan." Ships, railroads, everything would be taken over without compensation and returned later to their owners without damage payments. Testified this Republican insurgent:

"The safest place in the next war will be in the first-line trenches. The casualties among the civil population will be enormous. Under any system there will be inequalities. There will be casualties among industry, finance and commerce, the same as combatants. . . ."

Herbert Bayard Swope, onetime executive editor of the late, muzzle-hating New York World, startled newsmen by his rigorous advocacy of wartime censorship and propaganda. He would put all publications under Federal license with a Secretary of Information in the President's Cabinet. Said he to the W. P. C.:

"Just as raw materials, capital and men are conscripted or controlled, so must public opinion be dealt with in time of war. It must be organized and paraded under drillmasters. Censorship and propaganda are the agencies of domination. . . . Propaganda, however naive at times, shall proclaim our virtues, sublimate our aims, accentuate our successes, indict the vices of the enemy and minimize his achievements. . . ."

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