HERE is a projection of the American post-war future with a maximum of factual deduction and a minimum of wishful thinking. The author starts out with two important premises about the war: it will “have solved no basic problems.”and it “has struck no real emotional response.”This is a dash of cold water both for those who saw in the war an ennobling crusade, and for those who have assumed that the unprecedented wartime production foreshadows a higher standard of living in time of peace.
But Mr. Cherne is in agreement with most of the observers who have been in close contact with the -soldiers in reporting that their predominant impulse is to heat the enemy and come home. And he points out very clearly the fundamental differences between wartime and peacetime industrial production. To beat tanks and airplanes and warships into automobiles and washing machines and low-cost houses is very difficult. Instead of dealing with one customer, Uncle Sam, whose money reserves are inexhaustible and whose needs are relatively few arid simple, industry must reckon with the changing tastes, whims, and fears of 135 million individual customers, large and small.
the author indicates the formidable task ahead when he points out that America has recently been producing goods to a value of one and a half times what was sold in the most prosperous pre-war year. In a half-humorous illustration of what would he necessary to ensure full employment, he lists such items as: lay three tombstones in 1946 tor two in 1940, wear three shoes, travel 150 miles for every pre-war 100 miles.
He frankly doubts whether this can be done under private enterprise, and anticipates a swing back to government intervention, although he believes that the mood in the country will be conservative, that labor unions will he curbed, and that there will be little favor for radical innovations. His horoscope also forecasts a growth in race and class tensions and a spotty growth of unemployment. He discounts the danger of runaway inflation and believes that people will hold their war savings.
Dealing largely with what has been called the dismal science of economics, the book is lightly written: and one can imagine an Oxford don searching vainly in a dictionary for tlie meaning of the following phrases: “Small business will really need the hay. . . . The chap with the biggest bank roll will continue to get the gravy.”But for all its breezy American slang this is a hardheaded analys:s of the American that is shaping up, and its predictions will probably wear well. Doubleday, Doran, $2.75.
WILLIAM HENRY CHAMBERLIN