Individual and Social Consequences

Apart from the military sacrifices that are necessary at a time of war, there are substantial civilian sacrifices that are necessary in order to keep the war machine running. For the sake of comparison between the war effort and the transition to energy efficiency, it makes sense to mention some of the civilian sacrifices that had to be made in the United States during the Second World War. Once more we turn to John Steele Gordon, who describes how unemployment was eradicated overnight as a large share of the male population was drafted and women had to take their places in the production and transportation of war materials and in the production of raw materials for this purpose.

In addition to this there were shortages of goods. Tires were the first product to be rationed and many other products made of rubber were not available in stores during the war. This was also true, as mentioned above, of automobiles and other industrial goods such as refrigerators. In 1945, 13 different rationing programs were running and a number of different products, ranging from gasoline, sugar and coffee, to butter and oils, meat and shoes, were rationed within these programs.

Through the war effort, many careers changed direction. People who had trained for a particular line of business had to spend the war years learning something else and many times people stayed in their new businesses.

One of the advantages for the veterans who survived the war was that they were offered extensive opportunities to get a high-level education. This was done, primarily, in order to keep a number of veterans happy and away from the labor market for a few years, so as not to create a labor surplus. For American society this led to a tremendous rise in competence. More than 8 million veterans received more education in college and technical schools than they would have received otherwise. The percentage of the population that had college degrees increased and the number of college degrees awarded doubled in 1950 compared to 1940, before the country joined the war. This huge investment in training and education, not only of the veterans, but of building and expanding a national education system, has benefited the US economy ever since.

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