government was a monarchy or a republicrnor how extensive (or restricted) thernconstitutional franchise, popular supportrnhad long been necessary to mobilize thernvast resources available in the modernrnera. That the Anglo-American democraciesrnhave been on the winning side inrnall of this century’s world wars, thanks tornstrong leadership and energetic populations,rndemonstrates the enormous potentialrnof popular government.rnRutgers history professor William L.rnO’Neill, in his 1986 book American High:rnThe Years of Confidence 1945-1960,rnpraised the World War II generation forrninfusing the country with “buoyant expectationsrnand a rare sense of unity” duringrnthe presidency of a five-star general,rnDwight D. Eisenhower, when the suburbsrnsprawled, living standards rose, babiesrnboomed, the divorce rate fell, mannersrnand morals were proper, the streetsrnwere safe, and the mail was deliveredrntwice a dav. Now, in A Democracy atrnWar, O’Neill looks at the social impact ofrnthe war years that produced such a generationrnof vigorous, practical achievers.rnThe preexisting social environmentrnwas conducive to the formation ofrnproper values. Eady on, O’Neill offers arncentral part of his thesis when he writes,rn”America had great vitality. . . . Materiallyrnthe United States was far and awayrnthe world’s leading industrial nation.”rnHe continues:rnThere were social and moralrnstrengths as well, without whichrnthe physical assets alone wouldrnhave been inadequate. Family lifernwas solid and the basis of nationalrnmight. The average years ofrnschooling had been greatly extended,rnand literacy wasrnwidespread. To what now seemsrnan amazing degree, Americans ofrnmany different ethnic backgroundsrnlived and worked together.rnPeople of all races and religionsrnshared a common faith inrnhard work, individual obligation,rnand respected legitimate authority.rnThe young Americans whornwere called upon to fight and diernfor their country had been raisedrnto believe in it, to prize loyalty tornneighborhood and nation, and torndo what was asked of them. Consequently,rnthe United States metrnthe world crisis with a relativelyrnhomogenous, well-disciplined,rnand well-educated workforce, arnhuge industrial capacity, and arngeneration of young men whornwould prove to be excellentrnwarriors.rnIt is standard practice to contrastrndemocratic societies with totalitarianrnstates, stressing what appears to bernthe superior ability of the latter torn”command” major efforts. But a comparisonrnof actual performance indicatesrnthat democracies are better equippedrnfor the work. It is possible to stampede arnherd of cattle, but their performance isrnnot likely to match that of high-spiritedrnthoroughbreds who enjoy the run.rnThough congressmen were constantlyrnafraid of provoking a revolt, Americanrnvoters were actually willing to makerngreater sacrifices than their governmentrndemanded. Thus the politicians were oftenrnleft behind as the public acted on itsrnown initiative, setting up grass-roots organizations;rnvolunteering as air raid wardens,rnhome guards, and first aid workers;rnplanting “victory gardens”; and pouringrninto the factories and recruiting offices.rnIn Chicago, 23,000 block captains werernsworn in during one mass ceremony.rnShipyard workers in San Francisco offeredrnto work Sundays for free. Farmersrnplowed their fields at night to put theirrncrops in early. Wounded soldiers went tornelaborate lengths to avoid the bureaucraticrnobstacles that got in the way of arnspeedy return to their units.rnO’Neill faults the politicians for notrnmaking better use of popular enthusiasm,rnas in fact they had failed to do asrneadv as the 1930’s, when, in spite of pollsrnindicating overwhelming support for increasedrnconscription not only for militaryrnservice but also to fill labor shortages inrnkey industries. Congress failed to takernthis step. In 1943, the military stoppedrnaccepting volunteers, for the reason thatrnthe draft could better manage the flowrnof manpower. But draft levels were setrntoo low to provide enough combat divisionsrnto win the war earlier. The 1941rnVictory Plan had called for 215 Army divisions,rnbut the number was cut to 90 divisionsrnin 1943. While this drop overstatesrnthe actual reduction in plannedrnstrength (American divisions with theirrnattached support units were larger thanrnenemy divisions and were kept closer tornfull strength), even before D-Day inrn1944 the Army was running short of infantry.rnThe United States put a smallerrnshare of its population under arms andrnkept a larger share of its economy devotedrnto domestic consumption than didrnany of the other major combatants.rnO’Neill also deplores the discriminationrnagainst women and minorities, whichrnlimited their role to far less than theyrnwere willing to contribute.rnThe left did try to turn patriotic passionsrnto partisan ends. They wanted arn”people’s war” in which citizens wouldrnexert themselves not merely for theirrncountry (a reactionary notion that leftistsrntried to link with the fascism beingrnfought overseas) but for the personalrngains promised by “progressive” reformers:rndirection of the economy by therngovernment could be continued afterrni:he war to install socialism. Yet this effort,rnled by the New Repubhc and thernNation and by journalists such as I.F.rnStone and Vice President Henry Wallace,rnfailed because, as O’Neill notes, “itrnwas the people who lacked interest inrnsocial revolution.”rnThough conservatives often trace today’srnbloated welfare state to the eras ofrnthe New Deal and World War II, in truthrnthe great changes came in the latern1960’s, not the mid-1940’s. Governmentrnactions during both the Depressionrnand the war were taken mainlyrnwithin the traditional and legitimaternframework of responses to emergencyrnsituations. It was not until the GreatrnSociety of Lyndon Johnson that massiverngovernment intervention was institutionalizedrnon a permanent basis with domesticrnsocial programs outspending militaryrnand infrastruetural programs. To gornback to the 1940’s would represent arnshrinking of government far beyondrnwhat conservatives of the present dayrncan even dream of effecting.rnToday’s problems are not the result ofrnthe generation that fought World War IIrnbut of those that came after it, growingrnup in a secure and affluent society theyrndid not have to sacrifice to build. It isrnnot mere coincidence that the “breakpoint”rnin American economic growthrn-came in 1972, just after the babyboomersrnhad emerged from college withrnattitudes far different than those whornhad gone to college on the CI Bill. Thern”generation gap” was between the temperedrnsteel of the World War II veteransrnand the soft plastic of the “Me” generation,rnbest known for its constant agitationrnfor rights and its constant shirking ofrnduties.rnAs the baby-boom generation reachesrnmiddle age, it has taken a sufheient measurernof reality to understand the need tornAUGUST 1994/35rnrnrn