Alfred Neumann: War and the stock market
From Empire (1936)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul
The time has an unquenchable desire to laugh, it wants to laugh at death and the devil, at Jupiter and at itself. What’s afoot? War? Is this New Caesar happiness going to crash to-morrow or fifty years from now? Laugh, man, laugh! The quiet, sagacious laughter of political scepticism creates the best of all possible worlds out of an undervaluation and a contempt for political destiny…
The Bourse was raising a terrific outcry, there was a slump in values, Morny was pulling strings in the stock-market, Morny who was great at pulling strings. He was pale, and mute. Rothschild, however, was voluble enough. That shrewd and wealthy financier declared that the Emperor did not understand the new France he had made. Twenty years ago, France could have made war without serious internal convulsions; for in those days hardly anyone but the bankers held securities; now all the world and his wife owned railway shares or had invested money in the three per cents. The Emperor had once said that the Empire signified peace, and that had been a true word, the only true word. He seemed to have forgotten that it would be all up with the Empire should France go to war. So said Rothschild, and all the world and his wife agreed…
The Emperor invited Rothschild to invite subscriptions for the Austrian loan. This was a war-loan, since Austria was arming as vigorously and conspicuously as Piedmont…Securities rose, Rothschild was satisfied…
There are a lot of questions to ask in such days as these, when war has come at last, closing the streets like a turnpike gate which holds up the traffic, divides people in the old evil fashion into those who stay at home and those who go to the front, and in which all the women are weeping. Why are we at war? Why, nevertheless, has there been no panic on the Stock Exchange?