February 2002

Mitchell, Schoeffel, eds: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky: Ch. 3: The Permanent War Economy: note 8

8. For warnings about the necessity for government intervention in the economy after the war, see for example, Paul A. Samuelson, "Unemployment Ahead: (I.) A Warning to the Washington Expert," New Republic, September 11, 1944, pp. 297-299; Paul A. Samuelson, "Unemployment Ahead: (II.) The Coming Economic Crisis," New Republic, September 18, 1944, pp. 333-335. An excerpt:
Every month, every day, every hour the federal government is pumping millions and billions of dollars into the bloodstream of the American economy. It is as if we were building a T.V.A. [Tennessee Valley Authority, a massive New Deal public works project] every Tuesday. Did I say every Tuesday? Two T.V.A.'s every Tuesday would be nearer the truth. We have reached the present high levels of output and employment only by means of $100 billion of government expenditures, of which $50 billion represent deficits. In the usual sense of the word, the present prosperity is "artificial," although no criticism is thereby implied. Any simple statistical calculation will show that the automobile, aircraft, ship-building and electronics industries combined, comprising the fields with rosiest postwar prospects, cannot possibly maintain their present level of employment, or one-half, or one-third of it. . . .

[I]t is demonstrable that the immediate demobilization period presents a grave challenge to our economy. . . . Our economic system is living on a rich diet of government spending. It will be found cheaper in the long run, and infinitely preferable in human terms, to wean it gradually. . . . For better or worse, the government under any party will have to undertake extensive action in the years ahead.
"Shall we have Airplanes?," Fortune, January 1948, pp. 77f. An excerpt (emphasis in original):
[The U.S. aircraft industry] is today producing at a rate that is less than 3 per cent of its wartime peak. . . . [Its spokesmen] speak frequently of "free enterprise," but they speak just as frequently of "long-range planning." It is crystal clear to them that they cannot live without one kind or another of governmental support -- yet "subsidy" is a shocking word to them. . . . Its respected heads . . . freely play the game of nagging and chiding the government, but it then transpires that their reproaches are made because the government has not gone far enough toward stating "clearly and frankly" its "obligation to help develop new and improved air transports and efficient networks of air transportation," as well as fostering new programs for military planes. . . .

Every one of these proposals acknowledges the inability of unaided "private" capital to venture any deeper into the technological terra incognita of the aircraft industry. Every one acknowledges that only the credit resources of the U.S.A. are sufficient to keep the aircraft industry going: to enable it to hire its engineers, buy its materials, pay wages to its labor force, compensate its executives -- and pay dividends to its stockholders. The fact seems to remain, then, that the aircraft industry today cannot satisfactorily exist in a pure, competitive, unsubsidized, "free-enterprise" economy. It never has been able to. Its huge customer has always been the United States Government, whether in war or in peace.
"Aviation RFC (Reconstruction Finance Corporation)?," Business Week, January 31, 1948, p. 28 ("the aircraft builders, even with tax carrybacks, are near disaster. . . . Right now the government is their only possible savior -- with orders, subsidies, or loans").

See also, Frank Kofsky, Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948: A Successful Campaign to Deceive the Nation, New York: St. Martin's, 1993, at p. 2 (arguing with substantial documentation that the Truman administration manipulated "war scares" for the purpose of sustaining and expanding U.S. industry through the military system; citing business magazines and newspapers of the period that "made it quite unmistakable that the aircraft industry would have collapsed had it not been for the big procurement orders that came in the wake of the war scare of 1948").

In the following years, the business press routinely recognized that continued high levels of military spending were essential to the U.S. economy. See for example, Ward Gates, "Approaching Recession in American Business?," Magazine of Wall Street, May 31, 1952, p. 252. An excerpt:
[R]earmament has played a large part in the increase in world trade directly after Korea and remains one of the basic elements in the future of world business. No better illustration could be had than the effects of the U.S. withdrawal from the primary markets when it had about completed its stock-piling program. When this occurred the primary markets practically fell apart. It is obvious that foreign economies as well as our own are now mainly dependent on the scope of continued arms spending in this country. . . . Basic to continued high activity in industry is the government program of defense expenditures, actual and projected.
Ward Gates, "Major Economic Adjustment -- If Shooting War Stops?," Magazine of Wall Street, July 28, 1951, p. 436. An excerpt:
Cynics both here and abroad have claimed, and not without some justification, that American business interests "fear peace." The moral aspect of this dilemma need not concern us but, on a realistic basis, there is no question that the prospect of peace is altering the thinking of economists, business men and investors. For that reason, it is imperative that a new view be taken of the over-all situation and to see whether the prospective ending of hostilities will produce marked changes in the industrial, business and financial picture. . . .

While the prospect of peace in Korea has exerted an unsettling act and probably will continue to do so during the next few months, we must consider whether these comparatively adverse conditions will not disappear as the enormous armaments program acquires momentum. . . . [T]he very high continued rate of arms production will greatly tend to support the economy and as long as this feature remains it is difficult to see the possibility for a genuine recession generally in the period ahead, although individual industries will have to contend with the uncertainties presented by the cessation of hostilities.
See also, "Newsgram From the Nation's Capital," U.S. News and World Report, May 26, 1950, pp. 7-8. An excerpt (emphasis in original):
Money Supply will continue to be abundant, rising. Population will go on rising. Households will grow proportionately faster than population. "Cold war," at the same time, will go on, uninterrupted. It's in that little combination of facts that Government planners figure they have found the magic formula for almost endless good times. They now are beginning to wonder if there may not be something in perpetual motion after all.

The formula, as the planners figure it, can work this way:

Rising money supply, rising population are ingredients of good times. Cold war is the catalyst. Cold war is an automatic pump primer. Turn a spigot, and the public clamors for more arms spending. Turn another, the clamor ceases.

A little deflation, unemployment, signs of harder times, and the spigot is turned to the left. Money flows out, money supply rises, activity revives. High activity encourages people to have bigger families. . . . Good times come back, boom signs appear, prices start to rise.

A little inflation, signs of shortages, speculation, and the spigot is turned to the right. Cold-war talk is eased. Economy is proposed. Money is tightened a little by tighter rein on Government-guaranteed credit, by use of devices in other fields. Things tend to calm down, to stabilize.

That's the formula in use. It's been working fairly well to date. . . . Truman confidence, cockiness, is based on this "Truman formula." Truman era of good times, President is told, can run much beyond 1952. Cold-war demands, if fully exploited, are almost limitless.
And see chapter 2 of U.P. and its footnotes 4 and 5; footnotes 3, 4, 7, 9 and 10 of this chapter; and chapter 10 of U.P. and its footnotes 22 and 23.