20.8.11

DON'T YOU HAVE TO WIN THE WAR?  Cold Spring Shops has long been a site for skepticism about a causal connection between the United States war effort and the subsequent broadly shared prosperity.

It's fitting to revisit that skepticism in light of a recent suggestion by a regional economist somewhat better known than me that a worldwide project to prepare for an alien invasion might end the recession.
The World War II years were a time of shared privation, with virtually every item that we take for granted today either rationed: e.g., meat, gasoline, sugar, clothing; or not available at any cost: e.g., new cars, appliances, etc. The American standard of living throughout World War II remained at an excruciatingly low level that no 21st century American would accept. Meanwhile, unemployment disappeared simply because 16 million able-bodied people were sent to war, paid below-market rates and subject to danger, death, and maiming they may not have preferred to unemployment.
The prosperity of the United States, after the victory, reflected the paucity of productive capacity elsewhere.   Britain's victory didn't provide any immediate dividends, and it took Germany and Japan a long time to get back to where they were before the two World Wars.

I leave it to more imaginative minds than mine to envision the surviving allocations of productive capacity after a victory over aliens.  After a defeat, the remaining productive capacity is useful only as forage for the space invaders.  That's what a summer show, Falling Skies, teaches.  There is supposed to be a second season.  I keep humming "Cherokee Nation" when I contemplate the ending of the first season.

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