I have wrote before on how the Great Depression lasted until well after World War 2. There is a recent paper out which explains my very premise: that life during WW2 worsened, and that Americans did not return to pre-Depression standards of living until well after the end of the war.
One would expect this to be common sense. Rationing, building war machines, young men being forced out of the workforce to other countries just to die in battle. These do not lend themselves to a feeling of prosperity. Apparently, though, common sense is not common. This paper reviews journals and other contemporary sources to confirm what should be obvious: war does not cause prosperity.
From the paper:
Not only were various consumer items unavailable but those that could be found were of inferior quality. Substitute goods were of sub-standard construction and were often uniform, removing consumer choice of “styles, shapes and sizes.” … As the OPA tightened rations on particular items or they became all together unavailable, consumers turned to clearly inferior substitutes. Several products that still exist today became widely accepted as substitutes during the war including margarine as a substitute for butter. Boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese also became popular during the war as they were provided at a two for one discount per ration ticket. Spam also became a substitute for those craving meat. Other substitutes included “honey for sugar, corn oil for olive oil, cotton or rayon for wool, paper containers instead of tin; and wood furniture instead of metal”. The effects of these changes in consumption cannot easily be measured by economic aggregates, but were the reality for families during the war. Even if household income remained the same or even increased, Americans were forced to live poorer lives during the war due to the reduced quality, quantity, and variety of products available.
This paper is a must read. Those in today’s world who say war creates prosperity are carrying on an Orwellian tradition of Doublespeak.