As most historians tell it, America won World War II because of massive government sponsorship and central economic direction. In his new book, "Freedom’s Forge," best-selling author Arthur Herman argues that narrative has the real story backward, an argument he reiterated in an event Monday evening at AEI.
When American factories converted during WWII from making washing machines to making war materials, they were not simply responding to top-down orders; instead, they were meeting the challenge before them. Herman traced the remarkable mobilization of American industry, technology and materiel production over the course of WWII, describing how William S. Knudsen and other American businessmen, engineers, production managers and workers provided the industrial muscle that pulled the United States out of the lingering Great Depression and pushed the Allies on to victory.
It was business innovation, not big government, Herman argued, that fueled America's rearmament and victory. By keeping New Deal Washington out of business's way, America experienced an explosion of creativity, innovation and productive capacity never before seen in history.
-- Emily Batman
In "Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II," Pulitzer Prize finalist Arthur Herman describes how the U.S. won history’s greatest conflict by harnessing free market principles and private-sector creativity and innovation to increase war production. Dubbed "magnificent," "powerful" and "a fresh approach" by Kirkus Reviews and "compulsively readable" by Publisher’s Weekly, "Freedom’s Forge" is a stirring tribute to the power of American business and free enterprise — and to the Greatest Generation that created the weapons that made America a superpower.
Herman — a visiting scholar at AEI— will speak on the themes of his book, and its lessons for America’s future. A book signing and reception will follow.