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Helmut Schmidt Gives Sound Advice on the World Economy

April 1, 1983 -

Helmut Schmidt, former chancellor of West Germany, prepared a report on the world economy for the Korber Foundation in Hamburg. This report was published in a Japanese and in European publications, including The Economist of February 26, 1983. Schmidt begins by describing the sense of paralysis casting a pall over the world economy. He then pleads for the recognition that our problems are not incurable, but that they are man-made and can be resolved if we are willing to face reality and seek imaginative and farsighted alternative policies. After outlining the developments that have landed us in our present predicament, Schmidt presents suggestions for recovery, including possibilities for: overcoming unemployment, building a more stable world monetary system, avoiding the pitfalls of protectionism, dealing with the difficult challenges of oil and nuclear power, establishing a better relationship between the rich North and the poor South, and coping with the impact of the tremendous increase in world population. Regarding the world population problem, Schmidt writes: "When I was at school, there were 2 billion people in the world; when I was chancellor, there were 4 billion; by the year 2000 there will be more than 6 billion. Demographers say that between the year 2020 and 2040 the figure could rise to between 8 billion and 10 billion. Nobody has convincingly shown that the earth's resources can cope with this kind of population explosion."

Schmidt concludes this report with five theses: 1) The safety of the West is threatened by the arms race between East and West and by the danger of a sustained world economic crisis; 2) Domestic and parliamentary debate in our countries is systematically underestimating the international dimension of our economic problems; 3) Close cooperation between North America, Japan and the European Economic Community is essential for a healthy world economy; 4) Neither trilateral cooperation nor worldwide cooperation is imaginable at present without American leadership; 5) To accept American leadership, the West must have confidence in the judgment of the American president.

Those looking for a clearly written, compact and thought-provoking analysis of our present world problems should not neglect to read this important document. (For another significant contribution to the discussion about the world economy see Common Crisis North-South: Cooperation for World Recovery, published by The Brandt Commission, Pan Books Ltd., 1983.)