Sunday, September 15, 2013
What Drove American Military Production in WWII?: Historians have argued at length about how American industry converted from producing consumer to military goods during WWII. One group, represented by Paul Kennedy, essentially believes it was America's vast engineering force which refined mass production techniques to the point of mass efficiency. Another group, represented by Arthur Herman, emphasizes major American businessmen such as Henry Ford and Henry Kaiser. Either way, the federal government played a vital role in organizing the defense contracts that American companies desperately sought. For Kennedy's engineers, mass production of military goods had almost everything to do with feedback mechanisms. That is, engineers offered real-time responses to problems with military equipment that soldiers and sailors were having. And American engineers (people like Vannevar Bush and Crawford Greenewalt) were exceptional at developing feedback mechanisms, as soldiers/sailors were often able to fix their guns, tanks, airplanes, and ships on the front lines. Yet for Herman's businessmen, if there was one American industry which really adapted mass production techniques (assembly lines, interchangeable parts, etc.) for military purposes, it was automobiles, as Ford and GM each converted their plants to produce tanks, planes, half-tracks, etc.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
On Jesse Jackson's 1984 Presidential Bid: Perhaps most people remember Rev. Jackson's 1988 presidential bid because of its impact on the Democratic Party's nomination process. But his 1984 bid represented one of the more dramatic developments in modern American political history. To be clear, Jackson's 1984 presidential bid was a "campaign-movement," as it fused traditional political objectives (taxation, spending, etc.) with social issues afflicting America's underclass (poverty, discrimination, etc.). And in the larger context of "Reagan's America" (coupled with Cold War thinking), Jackson's fusion approach seemed radical. Yet it was Jackson's non-profit civil rights organization Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), which helped him rise to national political prominence by the early 1980s. At the time, Jackson had become fundamentally disenchanted with the Democratic Party. After witnessing the Party's endorsement debacle in Chicago's 1983 mayoral race, whereby Harold Washington became the city's first black mayor, he felt the Party had moved too far to the center. What Jackson ultimately wanted to accomplish in running for the presidency was reintroduce the Democratic Party to the idea of the state as "final arbiter," especially in matters of equality relating to education, employment, and housing.