World War I: The Great War Was also the Great Enabler of Progressive Governance
Commentaries about World War I frequently discuss causes and consequences but almost never mention the enablers. At best, they might mention them approvingly, as if we were fortunate to have had the Fed and the income tax, along with the ingenuity of the liberty bond programs, to finance our glorious role in that bloodbath.
Economist Benjamin Anderson, whose Economics and the Public Welfare has contributed greatly to our understanding of the period 1914–46 and is a book I highly recommend, nevertheless takes as a given that the Fed and the income tax had a job to do, and that job was supporting US entry into World War I. After citing figures purporting to show how relatively restrained bank credit expansion was during the war, Anderson writes:
We had to finance the Government with its four great Liberty Loans and its short-term borrowing as well. We had to transform our industries from a peace basis to a war basis. We had to raise an army of four million men and send half of them to France. We had to help finance our allies in the war, and above all, to finance the shipment of goods to them from the United States and from a good many neutral countries.
We had to do none of these things. Only the government made them necessary, and the government was not acting on behalf of its constituents when it formally entered the war in April 1917. The US was not under serious threat of attack. The population at large, Ralph Raico tells us, “acquiesced, as one historian has remarked, out of general boredom with peace, the habit of obedience to its rulers, and a highly unrealistic notion of the consequences of America’s taking up ar
Article from Mises Wire