The halo of victory: What Americans learned from World War I
Hugh Rockoff 04 October 2014
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
World War I had important consequences for the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. This was especially true in the world of finance. The US transitioned from being a debtor nation to a creditor nation, and financial leadership moved from London to New York. But equally important were the lessons that Americans drew from the war. Although the war had much to teach, Americans tended, I will argue below, to learn too much from the war, drawing strong conclusions from a war in which the US was actively engaged for only 19 months.
Competition policy Economic history
World War I, WWI, planning, rationing, New Deal, Great Depression, fiscal policy, monetary policy, stimulus, financial crisis, conscription, inflation, unemployment, price controls, Competition policy, antitrust, National Industrial Recovery Act
Endowments for war in 1914
Avner Offer 19 September 2014
Victory in World War I relied on three types of energy: renewable energy for food and fodder, fossil energy, and high explosive. This column argues that the Allies had a clear advantage in manpower, coal, and agriculture, but not enough for a quick decision. Mobilisation in continental economies curtailed food production, occasionally to a critical level. Technical competition was a matter of capacity for innovation, not of particular breakthroughs. Coercive military service and rationing of scarce energy and food had egalitarian consequences that continued after the war.
World War I was a mistake. Its consequences were not part of anybody’s expectations (excepting Stead and Bloch 1899) – certainly not of those who set it off, although there was an undertone of fatalism in their decisions (Offer 1995). If one side had possessed an unassailable superiority, then there would have been no call for war. The war’s duration indicates that the sides were matched, that the outcome was uncertain, and that instigating war was therefore a colossal gamble – and, as it turned out, a bad one. The decisions for war were irresponsible, incompetent, and worse.
Economic history Energy
WWI, World War I, war, imperialism, nationalism, energy, Agriculture, technology, technological change, innovation, conscription, Inequality, rationing
Walking wounded: The British economy in the aftermath of World War I
Nicholas Crafts 27 August 2014
It is well-known that World War I was expensive for Britain. The indirect economic costs were also huge. This column argues that the adverse implications of the Great War for post-war unemployment and trade – together with the legacy of a greatly increased national debt – significantly reduced the level of real GDP throughout the 1920s. A ballpark calculation suggests the loss of GDP during this period roughly doubled the total costs of the war to Britain.
World War I was not over by Christmas of 1914. It was a prolonged, brutal, and expensive conflict. Britain incurred 715,000 military deaths (with more than twice that number wounded), the destruction of 3.6% of its human capital, 10% of its domestic and 24% of its overseas assets, and spent well over 25% of its GDP on the war effort between 1915 and 1918 (Broadberry and Harrison, 2005). Yet that was far from the sum of the losses that the Great War inflicted on the British economy; economic damage continued to accrue throughout the 1920s and beyond.
World War I, unemployment
Short poppies: The height of World War I servicemen
Timothy J Hatton 09 May 2014
The height of today’s populations cannot explain which factors matter for long-run trends in health and height. This column highlights the correlates of height in the past using a sample of British army soldiers from World War I. While the socioeconomic status of the household mattered, the local disease environment mattered even more. Better education and modest medical advances led to an improvement in average health, despite the war and depression.
The last century has seen unprecedented increases in the heights of adults (Bleakley et al., 2013). Among young men in western Europe, that increase amounts to about four inches. On average, sons have been taller than their fathers for the last five generations. These gains in height are linked to improvements in health and longevity.
Frontiers of economic research Health economics
Height, socioeconomic conditions, World War I