This Age of Fable

ByGustav Stolper
THIS is a work of exceptional and enduring quality, a strong, lucid, plausible, and realistic interpretation of the gigantic crisis of our age. It cannot be recommended too warmly to that very large number of readers who must be seeking for clues as to the past and present trend and the future prospects of world politics and economics.
Dr. Stolper is that all-too-infrequent type, a German liberal. With a correct instinct of prevision he left the Third Reich as soon as Hitler came into power and took up residence in America. His present book is a distinguished achievement of the liberal spirit, the kind of lucid, temperate, yet thoroughly vigorous commentary on the state of civilization that John Locke or John Stuart Mill might have offered if they had lived in the twentieth century. Although the author is a very distinguished economist by training and profession, he rises far above any narrow specialization in his description of the ‘age of fable,’ which, in his opinion, began on August I, 1914, the date of the outbreak of the First World War. He displays a strong grasp of politics and philosophy, and his writing is lit up with flashing epigrams, ot which the following are characteristic: —
In the first period of capitalism depressions were due to shortage of goods; in the second, to shortage of money; in the third, the one in which we live, to shortage of wisdom.
The civilized world has forgotten how to fight beasts of prey.
Dr. Stolper points out that the relatively civilized, sheltered, orderly pre 1914 world rested on three freedoms which, for various reasons, almost completely disappeared after the great conflict of 1914-1918. These were all freedoms of movement, for men, for goods, and tor capital. They vanished in an age of immigration and emigration restrictions and prohibitions, of state control ot foreign trade and quotas and barter arrangements, of managed and manipulated currencies, and restrictions on the tree transfers of currency.
Add to this the growing predominance of politics over economics, most pronounced, of course, in the totalitarian regimes, but far from invisible in the democracies, and the plebeian upsurge so brilliantly depicted by Ortega y Gasset, and it is no exaggeration to say that the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 marked a definite line of demarcation between a completed era of European civilization and the complicated and painful process of transition to a new era.
Dr. Stolper sets out to refute a series of what he calls ‘fables’ and makes out a strong case against the ideas that capitalists work for and cause wars, that Hitler rose to power because of the support of the big German industrialists, that the fall of France is attri butable either to ‘the two hundred families’ or to the Front Populaire, that dictatorships are more efficient than democracies for any purpose except war, and that the German Republic was an economic and social failure. He perhaps overstates the ‘fable’ of unequal distribution of raw materials and here does not fully realize the implications of his own point about the fateful disappearance of the ‘three freedoms’ of the liberal age. But in breadth and depth, in accuracy and perspective, his work towers head and shoulders above most of the books which endeavor to interpret the political and economic world in which we live.
W. H. C.