(Page 2 of 2)
As manufacturing was refitted for war production, there was a reversal in the trend toward specialization. Those remaining on the home front were forced to produce for themselves what they had previously been able to purchase. The household again became a center of production rather than consumption alone. The pressures of wartime meant a clear loss in productivity for those forced to engage in the more difficult processes of growing and canning their own food as well as sewing and resewing clothing to make it last longer. Women had less time to spend caring for their children as other household tasks, such as saving cooking grease or tin foil, consumed their time...
Not only were various consumer items unavailable, but those that could be found were of inferior quality. Substitute goods were of substandard construction and were often uniform, precluding consumers' choice of styles, shapes, and sizes. The reduction in variety and precision of sizes is yet another form of economic retrogression, and the consequent welfare losses for consumers are difficult to quantify in traditional measures.
Among other things, Horwitz and McPhillips trace changes in advertisements for kitchen appliances to show the deteriorating living standards of American consumers. Taken-for-granted goods increasingly became unavailable during the war. Such indicators belie the claim that the depression ended during World War II, as do the long stretches of time spent in line waiting to buy things.
Their bottom line: "Whatever the war's effects on seemingly booming conventional macroeconomic aggregates, it entailed a retrogression in the average American's living standards, and that disconnect should alert us to those aggregates' limitations."
Keep this in mind the next time a politician or pundit exhorts you to support more government spending in order to restore prosperity. Rising living standards comes from saving, entrepreneurship, and innovation—in a word,freedom—not politicians' self-indulgent schemes with your money.
This article originally appeared at The Project To Restore America.