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Wartime Rationing and Governmental Organization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Paul M. O'Leary
Affiliation:
Cornell University

Extract

Prior to Pearl Harbor, few Americans had given any serious and sustained thought to rationing as a form of wartime economic control. The United States was felt to be a land of chronic surplus in which rationing had no place. To be sure, certain industrial raw materials had become scarce under the impact of the defense program early in 1941, and had been subjected to priorities control by the Office of Production Management. But rationing of consumers' goods was not taken very seriously. Mr. Ickes' East Coast gasoline “shortage” of the late summer and early fall of 1941 had evaporated quickly. There were, of course, a few bright young men in the back rooms of Leon Henderson's O.P.A. who knew that strict wartime price control of consumers' goods would eventually necessitate rationing, price increases not being permitted to control distribution of relatively scarce goods. But even in the O.P.A. the immediate pressure of other duties, principally the control of prices of basic raw materials and the preparation of a price control act then being considered by Congress, prevented the creation of any real rationing organization. Pearl Harbor found the United States with no rationing plans, no rationing organization, and no real appreciation of the indispensability of rationing in a genuine all-out war effort.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 1945

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