At the war’s end, the collectivized and bureaucratized nation tested its new ideas against a more normal backdrop, but the change was slow. Despite demobilization, the American economy easily absorbed the men returning from war, in part because many women returned to the home. The other part of the equation came from the condition of the American industrial sector compared to that of the rest of the world. Europe and Japan were destroyed, decimated, and exhausted by war.Put another way, the victory dividend was a resource curse.
The United States was the only nation to escape the years of bombing that left millions dead and factories in ruins. When they rebuilt, allies and former enemies had nowhere to turn but Uncle Sam. The Marshall Plan sped the process, but even without American aid, the other developed nations would have looked to the United States for leadership in the rebuilding process.
While Britain endured rationing for nearly another decade, American workers saw production and prosperity unheard of since the 1920s. It did not return because more heavily regulated businesses make more money—collectivism was more advanced in impoverished Europe, after all—but because American companies had more customers than they knew what to do with. Whether the permanent structural changes worked as well as the temporary New Deal programs that directly employed people was yet to be seen. In a national economy with such advantages, it hardly mattered; business was making enough money to smooth over the problems.
Wages rose and working hours fell only because Europe was destroyed, Jim Crow was in effect, and the nation was nearly closed to immigration for two generations. The New Deal’s collectivization was a collective of, by, and for white native-born men presiding over a world ravaged by war. Without those moral flaws and unique circumstances, it would never have succeeded in the first place.Yes, and unfortunately, our Wise Experts wanted to extend the benefits of prosperity to people left out, without providing the foundations for continued prosperity.