Sunday, 24 August 2008

Capitalism and the Second World War

"It was at wartime General Motors that Peter Drucker saw the birth of the modern 'concept of the corporation', with its decentralized system of management. And it was during the war that the American military-industrial complex was born; over half of all prime government contracts went to just 33 corporations. Boeing's net wartime profits for the years 1941 to 1945 amounted to $27.6 million; in the preceding 5 years the company had lost nearly $3 million. General Motors Corp. employed half a million people and supplied one-tenth of all American military war production. Ford alone produced more military equipment during the war than Italy. Small wonder some more-cerebral soldiers felt they were risking their necks not in a 'real a regulated business venture', as James Jones put it in The Thin Red Line. It was strange indeed that the recovery of the American economy from the Depression should owe so much to to the business of flattening other peoples' cities."
Niall Ferguson, 'The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred', pp. 528-529.
On the impact of the successful dropping of the atomic bomb, Hastings comments:
"Leaders of the oil and coal industries issued statements reassuring stockholders that for the foreseeable future the new discovery would have little effect on existing fuels. Some left-wingers demanded that atomic patent rights and means of production should remain controlled by Congress, and not be allowed to fall into the hands of large oil or munitions combines. To the embarrassment even of many capitalists, the prospect of an end to hostilities caused the New York Stock Exchange to fall sharply. A correspondent of the London Sunday Times wrote: 'It is always unedifying when moneyed interests are revealed as benefiting or believing themselves to benefit more from war than from peace.'"
Max Hastings, Nemesis: The Battle for Japan, 1941-45, p. 521

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