Page:The voice of an oppressed people.pdf/22

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THE PROBLEM OF SMALL NATIONS

Czechs; then would follow the Portuguese, Swedes, etc., and finally would come what might be described as the fragments or splinters of nations.

I hardly need point out that such a classification is based upon mere numbers and their effects; nor will anyone seek to minimize the decisive material value of these mathematical calculations. We all know now what a greater or smaller army means.

But the numerical greatness of a nation is variable and changing. Since the nineteenth century almost all nations have been growing in numbers. All nations then, are getting larger and statisticians can calculate when the population of the various nations will be doubled. Through this process of growth the numerical relation of the different nations will be changed, owing to the fact that some increase more rapidly than others. The most striking instance, and one which provides a partial explanation of this war, is the slow increase of the population in France compared with its quick growth in Germany. Till 1845 France had a larger population than Germany; indeed, at the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth century the Frenchmen were practically the largest nation. A good deal of the French history of that time can be explained by this fact, just as recent German history will become clear if we consider the numerical increase of the population. The Germans themselves boast of this increase as one of their claims to greatness.

We touch here upon the intricate problem of decadence and degeneration; the fact that the annual birth-rate in many countries or parts of countries has been falling in recent years, the fact that changes in the development of the birth-rate are experienced very often and often very suddenly, these facts, I say, force every thinking man to abstain from general indictments and condemnations.

The German extreme nationalists have no right to condemn France and other countries in which the increase of