The Economic Tasks of the Postwar World

Roosevelt and Churchill aboard HMS Prince of Wales.

THE United States is passing through a great psychological crisis. It is having to think out afresh its whole fundamental conception of its place in the world and its relationship with other countries. In the nineteenth century European immigrants by the millions quit the Old World in search of opportunities for a better life in the New. The vast stretches of the American west -- its forests and fertile plains, its mineral wealth and latent resources of power -- conjured up a restless spirit of enterprise. There was a will to do among Americans of that period, whether old settlers or fresh arrivals, a will to grow, to build a new society in the New World free from the restrictions upon individual opportunity which had been characteristic of the Old. Average Americans in that age felt little direct concern for the affairs of Europe. They wished merely to live their own lives. To be sure, many Americans still have the habit of thinking in those same terms. But even they are beginning to feel uneasy about it. A second World War after only two decades has come as a rude shock to the conception that we can handle our own affairs without regard to the reactions of other nations, even ones that are far distant according to former terms of measurement. We begin to see that the problems of Europe, and of Asia as well, have become our problems also.

The task of the nineteenth century was one of engineering -- to build up productive capacity, to develop physical resources, to construct capital plant and equipment and to train human skills. The task of the twentieth is to create more secure and mutually profitable relations between the peoples of the world. This task calls for equal inventiveness, equal daring and equally bold leadership. And it requires large outlays of the world's resources.

Prior to this war the United States spent no less than a billion dollars a year to attain physical

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