Arnold Kling  

Michael Barone on Thomas Bruscino

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Again from the Claremont Review of Books, again gated.


One enormous divide--far wider than it is today--was between North and South. Between 1865 and 1940, when more than 30 million foreign immigrants moved to the North, only about one million Southern whites and one million Southern blacks followed suit, despite the fact that wages were more than twice as high in the North as in the South.

The book under review is A Nation Forged in War: How World War II Taught Americans How to Get Along. Evidently, it makes a case that serving together in wartime helped make America better integrated as a society. Much as a libertarian might suspect that this book comes from a conservative point of view, Barone writes that "Readers will come across some irritating liberal pieties," which suggests otherwise.

I think it is possible that the war helped the economy to thrive in the late 1940's and 1950's, by helping to break down the cultural barriers to which Barone refers. My late father told me that without the war, he believed that few of his classmates from Soldan High School in St. Louis in the 1930's would have moved more than a few miles from home. As it turned out, they fanned all over the country.

My guess is that the post-war social network had dramatically more complex connections than the pre-war social network. If the Great Depression required a Great Recalculation, then creating a more complex social network could help new fusions of people to form enterprises.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Sam Schulman writes:

WWI is when it really began. Gertrude Stein was in Paris and a friendly celebrity in 1918 and 1945, to whose apartment American soldiers flocked. She compares, somewhere, the WWII GIs to the WWI Doughboys, and said she was struck by the degree to which the boys of 1918-1919 were complete hicks, utter innocents and provincials, while the boys of 1945-1946 were much more cosmopolitan, superficially educated, hip and with-it (alas, I can't remember her words - but it was as if the peasantry had been replaced by smart-aleck urban swagger).
WWI itself did some of the job, but then so did radio and movies as national mass media - both of which existed for almost a generation before WWII.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

Whereas total war shuffles the pack, unemployment bene is like glue. The govt pays you to maintain the ludicrous fiction that you will find employment in an industry similar to the one that just shut down, next door to the one that just shut down.

Also, ten+ years of depression changes people's attitude to moving. An individual life is finite. I have wondered what I would do if I lost absolutely everything - I would probably move to Australia, and start from zero.

Ed, Maryland writes:

A somewhat similar phenomenon described here:

Military Service and Economic Mobility: Evidence from the American Civil War
Chulhee Lee1

Department of Economics
Seoul National University and UCLA
February 2010

http://www.econ.ucla.edu/workshops/papers/History/Lee,%20Warmobility3.pdf

[visible email address removed for privacy--Econlib Ed.]

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