Student Question

How did the post-war economic boom affect American views on capitalism and freedom?

Expert Answers

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The United States entered World War II during the Great Depression. When the war ended in 1945, the country had rebuilt its economy and returned to prosperity. At the same time, the United States entered into the ideological conflict of the Cold War. As your question suggests, this all had a profound impact on the nation's perception of capitalism and freedom.

During the post-war period, the United States consolidated its status as the world's wealthiest nation. It had recently been instrumental in toppling fascism in Europe and the Pacific. Many Americans linked the ideas of the freedom they had fought to secure for the world with the capitalist principles of the economic boom they were also experiencing.

Most of all, the dichotomy presented by the Cold War reinforced this connection all the more. The Soviet Union and its communist allies represented the opposite of America's values of free-market capitalism and liberty. The economic growth that the United States experienced in the decade following the war was proof enough to many that capitalism had its benefits.

While the Soviet Union was also able to quickly rebuild its economy after the war, it did so in a repressive way. Much of the economic gains were made at the expense of political freedom and social liberties. This was a time of massive expansion of the gulag system and the consolidation of Stalin's power base. Americans could see that economic recovery was not necessarily tied to capitalism and liberty. However, they could still see that these two concepts could support each other and create a new era of prosperity at home.

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