Business: The Great Gamble

In 1951, said Defense Mobilizer Charles Wilson, we took "a gamble . . . perhaps the greatest gamble in our history." By "we," Charlie Wilson meant the United States of America.

The gamble was that U.S. business could expand fast enough to 1) produce the armaments needed for possible war, and 2) furnish the U.S. people with all—or almost all — the civilian goods they wanted.

With the year's end, the reckoning is in: the U.S. both won and lost. U.S. industry expanded at a rate undreamed-of at the-start of the year, and kept civilian-and...

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