Loc: Whittier, California
Originally Posted By: Greger
The American manufacturing system was going gangbusters to supply everything that the world needed because their own productivity had been shattered by WW2. We were the only industrial nation still standing. Good times!
Actually, by 1949, at the latest, that whole "last man standing" thing was a memory.
Consequently, by the end of World War II, the United States had opened up a huge lead in levels of output and productivity. But this also meant that there existed an extraordinary backlog of technological and organizational knowledge ready for Europe's commercial use. By licensing American technology, capitalizing on American produ ers' knowledge of mass-production methods, and adopting American personnel-management practices, Europe could close the gap. [...]
Catch-up was facilitated by solidaristic trade unions, cohesive employers associations, and growth-minded governments working together to mobilize savings, finance investment, and stabilize wages at levels consistent with full employment. The problem of getting a set of interdependent industries up and running simultaneously was solved by extramarket mechanisms ranging from government planning agencies, state holding companies, and industrial conglomerates in Western Europe to wholesale nationalization and central direction of the economy in the East. The capacity expansion needed to efficiently operate these scale-intensive technologies was financed by patient banks in long-standing relationships with their industrial clients.
In a nutshell, then, opportunities for catch-up and convergence were realized because of the conformance, or more colloquially the "fit," between the structure of the Western European economy and the economic and technological imperatives of the day. The result was a period of exceptionally rapid growth from the end of World War II through the 1960s.
I've posted pictures of a few European goods owned by my parents and grandparents pre and postwar. My favorite, a grand old deluxe hi-fi radio, now long gone, was given to me by my grandmother, a Blaupunkt SW/LW/AM/FM receiver made in 1951. How I wish I could have afforded to repair it.
Here's an identical one.
The entire reason "It's IMPORTED!" became such a well-worn phrase in this country is precisely BECAUSE firms like Bayer, AEC, Siemens, Telefunken, Fiat, Leica, Mercedes, Renault, Blaupunkt and thousands of others were able to rebuild and restart manufacturing within a few short years after the devastation of the war.
Yes...WITH OUR HELP, it is acknowledged. That we HELPED them is not in dispute. What is in dispute is some notion that somehow for thirty-five to forty years after the war we only enjoyed dominance due to the devastation of WW2. Sorry, but from a manufacturing and export point of view, that only lasted maybe four or five years for most countries. Even JAPAN restarted its manufacturing with a vengeance too.
That is the whole reason the United States suddenly began seeing the flood of imported cars, clothing, cameras, business machines, radios, foods and vast quantities of elegant luxuries from across the water. Not to mention millions of those cute little death traps known as VW Bugs. Every American suddenly wanted one of those cute little miniature Sony TV sets, too.
We were only "the last man standing" for a very short handful of months. By the the time Ike got elected in 1953, European manufacturing was in good shape, thanks in part to Truman's Marshall Plan.
PS: Today "It's imported!!" is largely meaningless because today, we IMPORT damn near EVERYTHING...even critical pharmaceuticals and defense technology.
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