American business in wartime
“WHAT is America but beauty queens, millionaires, stupid records and Hollywood?” asked Adolf Hitler in 1940. With hindsight, this ranks as just about the most foolish rhetorical question posed during the second world war. But it did not seem so at the time. As Arthur Herman shows in his wartime history, when Hitler mocked its prowess America had experienced not so much a double-dip as a double-dive depression. Yet somehow the country’s moribund military-industrial complex was able to respond with great force to President Franklin Roosevelt’s call to arms.
The production statistics cited by Mr Herman, a think-tank scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, still astound. Preparations for war got off to a stuttering start. But everything changed in 1941 when Germany invaded Russia and then Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbour. By the end of 1942 America’s output of war materiel already exceeded the combined production of the three Axis powers, Germany, Italy and Japan. By 1944 its factories built a plane every five minutes while its shipyards launched 50 merchant ships a day and eight aircraft carriers a month.
作为美国企业研究所（American Enterprise Institute）的智囊学者，赫尔曼援引的生产统计数字至今仍让人震撼不已。战争准备在仓促间蹒跚起步，但到了1941年，当德国和日本先后入侵俄罗斯与偷袭珍珠港美国海军基地时，一切都发生了变化。到1942年年底，美国的战争物资产量已经超过了德国、意大利和日本三大轴心国的总和。到1944年，美国每5分钟就能生产一架飞机，每天能让50艘商船下水，每个月能让8艘航母投入战斗。
As a combative anti-Keynesian, Mr Herman scorns the notion that such triumphs resulted from the dictates of an interventionist Roosevelt administration. He often cites instead the free-market ideas of Adam Smith to support his claim that it was the profit motive that inspired America’s feats of mass production.
The business heroes in his history are mostly immigrants or high-school dropouts and often both. Two tower above the rest: William “Big Bill” Knudsen, a General Motors executive who was once a teenage clerk in a bicycle business in Copenhagen, and Henry Kaiser, who began work at 16 as a travelling salesman for a dry-goods store in Utica, New York. Knudsen headhunted corporate innovators and persuaded them to give up their pay and perks to join him as “dollar-a-year men” in Washington. Kaiser recruited a can-do team from such blue-chip American companies as Lockheed, Bechtel-McCone, Chrysler, Boeing and General Electric to produce everything from dams to tanks to ships to steel. Each executive received an annual fee of $1.
在他书写的历史中，创造经济奇迹的英雄多为移民或中学辍学者，而且经常是移民中的中学辍学者。其中有两位英雄的成就远超侪辈：一位是通用汽车（General Motors）高管威廉姆•“大比尔”•纳森（William “Big Bill” Knudsen），他十几岁时曾是哥本哈根一家自行车公司的职员；另一位是亨利•凯泽（Henry Kaiser），他16岁开始工作时是纽约州尤蒂卡市（Utica, New York）一家服装店的游动推销员。纳德森四出猎头，找寻企业创新者，说服他们放弃工薪与额外收入去华盛顿，跟他一样做“年薪1美元的员工”。凯瑟尔则从洛克希德、贝克特尔、克莱斯勒、波音和通用电气（Lockheed, Bechtel-McCone, Chrysler, Boeing and General Electric）这样一些声名显赫的大公司中招募人员，成立了一支万能团队。该团队生产人们需要的一切，从大坝到坦克到舰船到钢铁。两位高管的年薪都是1美元。
Big business did not succeed on its own. It needed the help of small business. The Boeing B-29 bomber, for instance, had 40,540 different parts, and 1,400 sub-contractors provided most of them. The Research Institute of America spurred them on. In a booklet entitled “Your Business Goes to War” it asked its readers to consider switching from making vacuum cleaners to gas-mask parts. Or from shoes to helmet linings. Or from razors to percussion primers for artillery shells.
大企业光靠自身是无法成功的。它需要小企业的帮助。例如波音的B-29轰炸机的40540种部件大多由1400个分包商提供。美国研究所（The Research Institute of America）鞭策这些企业努力工作。一份题为《您的企业要投入战事》的小册子敦促读者考虑从吸尘器转产防毒面具零件，或者从鞋子转产钢盔内衬，或者从剃须刀转产炮弹起爆管。
Among those who gawped in wonderment was Joseph Stalin. When he met Roosevelt and Churchill in Tehran in 1943 he raised a glass to toast “American production, without which this war would have been lost.” His words were as wise as those of his rival tyrant, Hitler, were not.