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On the "food as a weapon" - is this likely to be a question of saving grease for the war effort and that sort of thing?

If it is then "freedom fries" isn't the best comparison. Freedom fries is a vague jingoistic finger in the eye to... well, to France essentially. Democratic, developed, ally France.

The sorts of cutbacks that Americans went through in the forties may have had jingoistic elements, but I'd venture to say the target was considerably more legitimate.

Steve, I applaud you and Mike for compiling this evidence. I guarantee that you can continue to find such evidence for as long as you care to continue searching. I have seen countless such examples, spanning not only a host of consumer goods and services, but many forms of producer goods and services. For example, it was very difficult to obtain lumber during the war years for any purpose other than construction of war-related projects (e.g., war plants, shipyards, barracks, etc.). Oh, yes, somehow the contractors who built the concentration camps for some 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry managed to obtain lumber, though not enough, apparently, to build anything more than glorified shacks for the prisoners to inhabit in the designated desolate areas surrounded by barbed-wire-topped fences with armed-guard towers. One is tempted to conjecture that these people's consumer well-being declined just a tad. BTW, my June 2004 article in the J. Econ. Hist. presents additional relevent evidence along these lines (this piece also appears as chap. 4 in my book Depression, War, and Cold War).

What we really need is an Austrian book on the 1937 recession as this is constantly used by Keynesians as evidence of the need to maintain government spending.

Actually, what we really need is a modern version of *America's Great Depression* that takes into account the scholarship and evidence on the GD that has been done since Rothbard wrote it. Such a book should be rooted in the relevant scholarship (and by not just Austrians) but accessible to the layperson. Think the Shlaes book but more comprehensive yet not as technical as I suspect Scott Sumner's book will be. And it needs to be more hefty than Bob Murphy's PIG version (which, btw, is really quite good).

Murray gave us the model. It's time to update it.

Thanks a lot for this. I frequently listen to the sports radio station AM 1400 from Ogdensburg and for several years now I've been trying to use the number and type of ads to guess what was going on in the northern NY state economy. About 5-10 years ago, it seemed like there was almost nothing on except advertisements for credit based purchases of houses, cars, etc. plus a few ads for credit counseling.

Then around 3-5 years ago the economy seemed to hit rock bottom and there was practically nothing on except government-sponsored PSAs, either fascist "click it or ticket" and selective-service scaremongering or welfare-promoting ads extolling the joys of food stamps and FEMA. Often there was dead air between show segments.

Since about 3 years ago I have the impression that there has been something of a turnaround in the North Country because now there are very few PSAs and there is a wide variety of ads for automobiles, furniture, restaurants, etc.

Perhaps an analysis of newspaper ads from the last decade would be a good illustration of bubble/crash and (putative) recovery of this very typical rural corner of the USA ...

The shortages and declines in living standards should not come as too much of a surprise.

After all John Kenneth Galbraith was in charge of the Office of Price Administration (OPA), that meticulously regulated prices and rationed virtually every durable and non-durable consumer item, with ration coupons and certificates.

Since production was re-directed into war-related output, the greater scarcities were inevitable. But those scarcities could not be translated into higher prices due to those controls. So, instead, shortages were everywhere at the controlled prices, and the far more limited supplies had to be rationed by someone and by some standard, and that someone was "Uncle Sam" and its bureaucrats.

There were huge black markets in food items, women's stockings (there would be scenes in "homefront" movies made in Hollywood saying it was "unpatriotic" to buy silk stockings on the black market, silk that should go into military parachutes), automobile tires and gasoline (look carefully at the front windshield of automobiles in movies made during the war, and you'll see the gas ration sticker in the lower right hand corner -- you'd want an "A" sticker to be eligible for the largest monthly ration of gasoline).

You can find articles in, say, "Life" magazine during the war years showing the FBI and local law enforcement hunting down black marketeers in tires or meat, or . . .

During the period of price controls in the 1970s in the U.S., Erich Schiff wrote a very good monograph for the American Enterprise Institute on the experience of price controls and rationing (and its consequences) in America during the Second World War.

Richard Ebeling

I am surprised that popular outlets such as movies and television are not a source as well.

For example, the British television classic Dad’s Army, which was about a home guard platoon in 1940 and 1941, routinely discussed rationing and pervasive shortages.

Dad’s Army was an ensemble sitcom made in 7 series from 1968 to 1977 and was one the greatest British television comedies of all time. The local black-marketeer was a leading member of the platoon.

One of the most common lines appearing in almost every episode of Dad’s army when someone complained about shortages and declining quality was “there is a war on, you know”

Good news! I hope the study will be available for the public when it's finished.

If you haven't seen any "Dad's Army" I recommend it, it's very good. It was made in the mid 60s and has quite a lot of digs and petty chauvinism and a lot about the black market.

But, remember that those who say that WWII ended the Great Depression are talking about the US, not Britain. I think it's largely accepted that living standards fell in Britain.


Analytical history. I love it!

"Oh, yes, somehow the contractors who built the concentration camps for some 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry managed to obtain lumber, though not enough, apparently, to build anything more than glorified shacks for the prisoners to inhabit in the designated desolate areas surrounded by barbed-wire-topped fences with armed-guard towers."

It pains me to see someone whose work I admire as much as Higgs' make statements like this.

http://www.amren.com/ar/2003/01/index.html

What does Prof Higgs think of the treatment of German civilians and POWs after the war?

Let's see...

Well-known site for xenophobes and racists, or Bob Higgs?

Gee, that's a toughie. A real toughie.

Don't give them traffic by hitting the link folks.

FWIW: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Renaissance_%28magazine%29

I have been invited to give a talk at a FEE summer seminar (for high school age students) on the Great Depression, and am reading Benjamin Roth's "The Great Depression: A Diary" (recommended I think by Megan McArdle).

I look forward to drawing from Bob Higg's books and articles and recommending them to students.

Steve, if you have an interest in food rationing during WWI and WWII, may I suggest the USDA special collection of wartime posters on the topic http://www.good-potato.com/beans_are_bullets/ ? I've been using this material a lot in my classes and public lectures against locavorism, essentially arguing that locavores will bring us "wartime" prosperity...

There are other factors that need to be taken into consideration. For example, even at the height of the Dust Bowl, the remaining farmers were so over-productive, that when the Depression deflation struck, wheat was near worthless and corn was burned for fuel, while people were starving.

The initial response to this was the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation to destroy vast amounts of food, such as six million pigs, and redistribute some of the rest to the starving.

This was only finally addressed with decoupling the currency from specie and increasing market liquidity by printing money, causing currency inflation. But in effect, since then, American agribusiness has been semi-nationalized (with the fascist (literally) economic model), of a tightly controlled and heavily subsidized public-private partnership.

The saying of the time was "You could buy a pound of hamburger for a nickel, but nobody had any nickels." A currency shortage deflation.

Alternatively, in 1933, the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority and other such electrification projects caused a massive overabundance of cheap electricity.

Thus electrical companies went to lengths to provide appliances of all types to consumers.

This overabundance was solved after the war by the astounding energy demands to produce enriched uranium and plutonium, consuming almost 50% of American energy production for many years.

Oil overproduction was likewise a major problem. In 1930, the largest oilfield to date was discovered in East Texas, and was mostly worked by "wildcatters", with no production controls. While this helped Dallas during the Depression, governor Sterling had to intervene because overproduction threatened to crash the price of oil.

Eventually the federal government took over and limited production--during war rationing.

So there was, or could have been, food, electricity, and fuel in abundance, even at the peak of the war years.

So the biggest shortages were in machines and parts, and labor, because so many of the men were gone.

"This overabundance was solved after the war by the astounding energy demands to produce enriched uranium and plutonium, consuming almost 50% of American energy production for many years."

I find that very difficult to believe do you have a cite for that 50%?

Although it is a different war and a different country, Edwin Cannan's letters, reviews and articles during and after the First World War may also be of interest. He noticed how people became very focused on the growth of nominal incomes, redistribution, steady and regular incomes and visible production of war materials. He struggled to convince people that the war was wasteful, that Britain was ultimately 'living on capital' and become poorer through the war. He sums it up in a review article quoting a London cleaning lady: 'The war has made many a happy home'. (An Economist's Protest. 1927. King & Son, London. page 178.)

It takes about 10 kilograms of nearly pure Pu-239 to make a bomb. Producing this requires 30 megawatt-years of reactor operation, with frequent fuel changes and reprocessing of the 'hot' fuel.

Hence 'weapons-grade' plutonium is made in special production reactors by burning natural uranium fuel to the extent of only about 100 MWd/t (effectively three months), instead of the 45,000 MWd/t typical of LWR power reactors.

It takes about 10 kilograms of nearly pure Pu-239 to make a bomb. Producing this requires 30 megawatt-years of reactor operation, with frequent fuel changes and reprocessing of the 'hot' fuel.

Hence 'weapons-grade' plutonium is made in special production reactors by burning natural uranium fuel to the extent of only about 100 MWd/t (effectively three months), instead of the 45,000 MWd/t typical of LWR power reactors.

Oak Ridge was soon unable to produce the amounts of plutonium needed, with energy from the TVA, so the new facility at Hanford was brought on line. From 1956-1965, its peak operational years, the amount of energy produced and consumed to make weapons grade plutonium was staggering.

Robert Stanley,

Perhaps, but *how* do you know all this? What's your source?

Everyone knows that the Libyans supply plutonium. Common knowledge on the streets, ask the Doc.

Greetings, what happened to the promised study from Mike McPhillips? When can we expect it?

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