New Deal, New Patriots: How Roosevelt’s Welfare Programmes Made America Great Again

Yves here. This finding on New Deal spending might make some Republican heads explode.

By Bruno Caprettini, SNF Ambizione Fellow, Department of Economics, University of Zurich and Hans-Joachim Voth, UBS Professor of Macroeconomics and Financial Markets, Department of Economics, Zurich University. Originally published at VoxEU

Governments of modern states need to convince men and women to fight and possibly to die for their country, putting aside their ‘selfish’ instinct to stay alive. This column examines whether welfare spending under Roosevelt’s New Deal boosted US patriotism during WWII. It finds that higher welfare spending prior to 1940 is positively correlated with greater patriotism, as measured by war bond purchases, volunteering for the US Army, and exceptionally brave acts in battle. The findings suggest that when the federal government looks out for its citizens’ needs, men and women who benefit repay the largesse by becoming more patriotic.

Without a Leviathan to defend him, the life of man is “nasty, brutish, and short”, as Thomas Hobbes argued. However, for each individual bearing arms, the decision to fight is tricky. The cost can be extreme – he runs the risk of death. The benefits are also large, but they accrue to the collective.

In small communities, the problem is typically solved by social norms (Costa and Kahn 2003). Evolutionary anthropologists have long argued that warfare co-evolved with a tendency towards altruistic parochialism – a willingness to undertake costly actions favouring the in-group (Choi and Bowles 2007).

Modern states with millions of citizens cannot use the same tools to encourage participation in war as hunter-gatherer communities and small societies did. This begs the question: how can governments convince men and women to fight and die for their country, putting aside their ‘selfish’ instinct to stay alive?

To solve the problem of action for the collective, one school of thought underlines the importance of creating ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson 2006). Shared myths, the emphasis of a common history, the enforcement of linguistic uniformity in school, and collective remembrance can all enhance a sense of shared identity (Colley 2009, Anderson 2006, Nora 1989).

An alternative interpretation points to the rise of modern welfare states as a motivating force (Alesina et al. 2017). Governments only got into the business of redistributing a significant share of GDP to the old, the sick, the invalid and the needy at the same time as mass armies rose to military prominence. By providing support in times of need, welfare states acquired a moral claim on the willingness to sacrifice of their citizens.

In a new paper, we examine whether welfare spending boosted patriotism for the US case during WWII (Caprettini and Voth 2018). Figure 1 illustrates our main finding. It shows how three measures of patriotism varied with welfare spending: higher New Deal support was associated with a greater frequency of patriotic acts, namely, war bond purchases, volunteering for the US Army, and exceptionally brave acts in battle (represented by medals awarded).

Figure 1 New Deal spending and WWII patriotism

Notes: New Deal welfare spending prior to 1940 is positively correlated to greater patriotism as measured by purchases of war bonds (panel A), frequency of volunteering for the US Army (panel B), and heroism as measured by medals received (panel C).

Prior to 1933, the federal government rarely touched the lives of ordinary Americans, who did little more than occasionally use the post office. With the coming of Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’, this changed dramatically. The federal government’s share of GDP more than doubled from 4% in 1933 to over 9% by the end of the 1930s (Folsom 2009). Social security for the elderly, unemployment insurance, public works programmes, loan support for distressed businesses and homeowners, help for farmers – there was hardly a corner of life that was not affected by New Deal spending (Figure 2d displays the geographical variation of welfare support).

Figure 2 Geographic distribution of main variables

Notes: Panels illustrate the geographical distribution of (panel A) war bond purchases, (panel B) volunteers for the US Army, and (panel C) number of medals awarded (this measure for the states in the 7th Service Command could not be calculated due to poor coverage). Panel D shows the geographical distribution of New Deal grants. Darker colours represent higher numbers.

To measure patriotism, we look at three outcomes: war bond purchases, volunteering for the US Army, and exceptional acts of bravery in battle (represented by the number of medal recipients).

The US entered WWII when Japanese planes attacked and sank a good part of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor. Some 18 million men and women eventually served in the US armed forces; public spending accounted for 47% of GDP in 1943. A large share of this spending was funded by borrowing. In 1944, the government deficit amounted to 25% of GDP. Bond issuance was a key funding source.

War Bond Purchases

War bonds were issued in a range of denominations and were, on average, costly propositions for the owner. The interest rate was low, not indexed to inflation, and paid only at maturity. Moreover, the bonds were not transferrable, and repayment was decades in the future.

Figure 2A illustrates the geographical distribution of war bond purchases. The US south saw fewer bond purchases, and the west and northwest look particularly patriotic in this dimension. Importantly, war bonds were more widely bought in areas that benefitted from New Deal spending in the preceding decade. As Figure 1A shows, counties that received high support saw a much more active uptake of war bonds than areas with limited welfare spending.

Volunteering for the US Army

While most Americans who served in the armed forces after 1941 were conscripts, some 3.4 million volunteers were inducted before this option was shut down at the end of 1942. Volunteers came from all over the country (Figure 2B), but to various extents. Figure 1B shows that in areas benefitting from more welfare spending after 1933, the frequency of volunteering was markedly greater.

Acts of Bravery

Our final indicator comes from medals. We focus on two of the highest awards for valour: the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross. Both were given out for outstanding acts of bravery involving physical courage in the face of the enemy; many were awarded posthumously.

In one example, Sergeant Sylvester Antolak was killed when single-handedly attacking (and destroying) a German machine-gun team in Italy in 1944; he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Men like Sylvester Antolak came from all over the US, but with a great deal of variation in frequency at the county level (Figure 2C). Figure 1C shows how the likelihood of receiving a medal varied with the level of New Deal support prior to 1940: higher welfare spending spelled more heroism.

Establishing Causality

Is welfare support really driving patriotism, or is some hidden variable simultaneously affecting welfare support and patriotic actions? We show that the correlation between welfare and patriotism remains strong even after we account for a rich set of demographic and economic characteristics. Even within individual states, the counties that received more New Deal support showed more patriotism during WWII.

Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. To demonstrate the causal link between welfare and patriotism, we narrow the scope of our analysis. The New Deal paid a great deal of attention to the plight of farmers. In particular, the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) paid farmers to take land out of production and compensated them for losses due to soil erosion. Some 12% of spending went to farmers, putting an average $386 into their pockets (in 1939, the median annual wage was $880).

Some of the agricultural support was allocated for reasons not reflecting economic conditions. In particular, a significant share of spending was driven by committee membership in the US Congress. In other words, districts who had a long-serving congressman typically received more AAA funds than other, similarly blighted (but less well-connected) districts. We can use the variation in AAA spending that is driven by ‘connections’ to explain patriotic behaviour. The effect is strong and goes in the same direction as the baseline correlation: more spending spelled more patriotism across rural America.

A New Geographical Pattern of Patriotism

Interestingly, the New Deal created a new geographical pattern of patriotism in the US. When we compile the same data for WWI – where information on volunteers and medal recipients is available – we find no correlation with 1930s spending. This also puts to rest any concerns that more federal help went to areas that were more patriotic to start with.

In his best-selling book Sapiens, Yuval Harari argues that the “real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mythical glue that binds together large numbers of individuals, families and groups. This glue has made us masters of creation.” If ‘mythical glue’ is important, we want to know where it comes from. Does it mainly derive from shared language, schoolroom indoctrination, and common narratives?

We argue that welfare spending can act as Harari’s mythical glue – when the US federal government began to look out for its citizens’ needs for the first time on a substantial scale, men and women who benefitted repaid the largesse by becoming more patriotic. Powerful propaganda argued that the New Deal’s main purpose was to look after America’s ‘forgotten men’.

When ordinary Americans had less reason to feel forgotten in times of need, they repaid Uncle Sam, in both cash and blood; areas that benefitted from New Deal programmes produced more volunteers, more soldiers who fought with outstanding courage and distinction, and they saw more war bond purchases.

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36 comments

  1. Anarcissie

    This certainly puts together succinctly the purpose of the Bismarckian Welfare state — to secure the home front from dissidents and malcontents, such as socialists, thus permitting the state’s rulers to continue to profit at home while engaging in imperial adventures overseas (“patriotism”) — and its evident success in the case of the United States. I wonder if the authors wanted to make such a demonstration.

    Reply
    1. Susan the other

      It’s a stretch to say we are the only species with “mythical glue” when it can’t even be defined. Social biology is ubiquitous on this planet. It is definitely a survival mechanism. Even spiders are learning to cooperate. But the term “mythical-glue” is really a good description of how crazy and stuck together we are. I think we’ve got an insatiable appetite for fiction. And a nack for group hallucination. Suspend belief? No problem. Will I take up arms and kill to protect my myth? That depends on how alien the enemy is. And if the alien has a really good sense of humor I’ll modify my devotion. Just think about language – basic words are universal among animals. But we humans can translate the word for mother or god or water or epistemology into any other human language. That’s amazing. Our glue is not mythical, our glue is genetic. The only difference between human languages is sound. We are probably bound together by a really good joke more than a patriotic lecture. And when it comes to bribing people to be patriotic, it could be that leaders know deprivation leads to rage – and so who’s bribing/extorting whom?

      Reply
      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I agree. We are not the only species with “mythical glue”. We combine the mythical glue with possession of a complex language suited to complex patterns of cooperation, and coercion.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          …and use that language to make up stories about what the glue is, and why it’s there.
          then we argue about them.

          Reply
  2. notabanktoadie

    When ordinary Americans had less reason to feel forgotten in times of need, they repaid Uncle Sam, in both cash and blood; areas that benefitted from New Deal programmes produced more volunteers, more soldiers who fought with outstanding courage and distinction, and they saw more war bond purchases.

    Then why was the draft needed in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam?

    Otoh, the army in ancient Israel was much more voluntary since being afraid was an acceptable exemption, as well as being engaged, having just planted a vineyard, and having just built a house.

    And there was no shortage of heroes in Israel’s army.

    So rather than a new* New Deal, how about a Just Deal for a change if we want a truly strong, resilient and patriotic population?

    *including, like the original New Deal, INCREASED privileges for private depository institutions, aka “the banks.”

    Reply
    1. c_heale

      Korea etc. may not have been seen as existential threats by the population at large. Certainly after WW2 there was probably no appetite for conflict. Israel is a society with a very strong feeling of an ingroup protecting itself from external threats.

      Reply
  3. Wukchumni

    Interestingly, the New Deal created a new geographical pattern of patriotism in the US. When we compile the same data for WWI – where information on volunteers and medal recipients is available – we find no correlation with 1930s spending. This also puts to rest any concerns that more federal help went to areas that were more patriotic to start with.

    In his best-selling book Sapiens, Yuval Harari argues that the “real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mythical glue that binds together large numbers of individuals, families and groups. This glue has made us masters of creation.” If ‘mythical glue’ is important, we want to know where it comes from. Does it mainly derive from shared language, schoolroom indoctrination, and common narratives?

    I bought a photo album that contains about 80 personal images of the first CCC camp erected in the west, here @ Potwisha in Sequoia NP 1933. Its part of a 300 photo array of a young Italian-American boy who was born in SF in 1914.

    It took just 2 weeks to erect the wood camp buildings that housed 202 men. One photo has the entire compliment all dressed in uniforms, looking sharp. All of the work they did was for us, not some billionaire. There are pictures of a smart looking bulldozer, truck ambulance and other gear. Their living quarters were spartan and yet not bad looking. You can sense there was much good mystical glue bonding.

    The CCC camp @ Potwisha which existed from 1933 to 1942, was later torn torn and a car campground established, a fitting end to an era.

    One of the biggest issues with CCC enrolees, was that so many were malnourished, and providing them nutritious food was a must, and these young men weren’t in it for the money, $25 of their $30 monthly pay was sent home to their family.

    Reply
    1. Mike Elwin

      Well, I’m all for looking at the traits we’ve inherited from our evolutionary forbearers, but isn’t Harari’s “mythical glue” just another way of looking at the herd instinct of, well, herds? How come those herds aren’t our masters? They’re much better at mythical gluing than we are.

      It’s not gluing that makes us the cleverest and most dominant. It’s our out-sized frontal cortex, which is likely a mutation that might well be an evolutionary dead end.

      Reply
    2. sierra7

      I remember well the CCC camp located in Lake County in the surrounding mtns behind Nice, Clear Lake. In the ’40’s we made several trips up there in order for my mother and sisters to cook spaghetti lunches for them. It was up in the “boonies” but they were all young boys working to maintain the “woods”. I’m all for bringing back the CCC camps and utilizing the idea for helping the homeless and getting the unfortunate druggies off their ill meds. (The mentally ill is a whole other story; but we do have lots of abandoned military camps that could be modernized and converted to mental institutions; we have no political will for that)
      As for the general public and the “shape-shifting” pols they would in no time label those camps as “concentration” ones. Too bad. They don’t have any idea what we can be capable of on the “good” side.

      Reply
  4. Jesper

    Whenever I see someone plotting a graph against the log of a variable then I wonder: Is the log used to get the data to fit the theory or is the reason for the log something more real? Maybe a combination of both?

    & while I do get that a cost benefit analysis is often a good thing but at times I just want something to be done because it is the right thing to do. Should really a government elected by the people to act for the people only act in the interests of the population as then the government can get more support for (in this case) going into war?
    The cynic in me see the above as the government justifying its policies to oligarchs/aristocracy/elite – if the oligarchs want people to fight for the oligarchs business interests then the oligarchs have to let the people have some nice things or the population won’t help….

    Reply
    1. flora

      if the oligarchs was people to fight for the oligarchs business interests

      Speaking of hizzoner paying people to say nice things about him and canvas for him , who do so only half-heartedly , and in some cases actually undermine the effort. “I’m saying this nice thing about hizzoner. (now please vote for Bernie.)” heh.

      Reply
  5. flora

    Thanks for this post.
    Reciprocity between citizens and govt, evidenced by govt lending a helping hand to economically struggling citizens creating citizens’ greater trust in govt and commitment to the country: that makes sense.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      Government is people, let’s remember. Acting along lines of authority, laid down how? How does “good government,” whatever good means, come to be, let alone persist?

      In long ago Basic Training, our training sergeants took pains to point out that were were being taught to KILL, to make sure the OTHER guy “died for his country.” My experience and I think that of a lot of others is that the goal, first, was to stay personally alive, and second to help our biddies stay alive. Where the chain of command more often was about “doctrinal” idiocies like body counts and “We have to hold Khe Sanh no matter what, it’s the key to the entire war!” Same for Fallujah, and Wardak Province, and Hamburger Hill and so many other “you go get ‘em, troops!”

      And those who waded through “Band of Brothers,” the camera was mostly on the best of the best, but if you wad through to the end you saw the corruption and breakdown. And none of the stuff that went on off camera, the mass killing by patriotic Americans of German POWs, the rape and looting.

      I’d say this piece is a sales pitch for an ugly form of nationalist autocracy. Fostered by that “mythical glue.” Not much chance of fielding a phalanx of people who identify and practice reciprocity as a human, as opposed to “my country, right or wrong” warring “tribes with flags.” Which seems what is needed if our really special frontal-lobe driven infestation of the planet is not to end in self-extinction of our species.

      Reply
  6. Kouros

    Yes, it looks compelling. But we are talking of a different US than we have today. Draft was how armies were manned then for war. Now you have a pauperized population, with no readily available ladder other than volunteering for an imperial/mercenary army a la Gen Smedley Butler which then can provide you with support for education and medical coverage, things that any other normal country already provides. Forever war for the purpose of imperial occupation and subjugation is antithetic to a citizens’ draft army.

    So imperial owners, decision makers, and politicians will not be impressed by this analysis, because they want cogs within and without. Informed citizens are to be silenced and brainwashed and pushed down into becoming deltas.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      There were also lots of paupers who benefited from the New Deal – just think of how many didn’t have indoor plumbing or electricity. The New Deal was great but it didn’t improve fortunes for most people overnight. So while there may be a correlation between New Deal spending and volunteering for the armed forces, as we know that doesn’t also mean causation.

      People in the 30’s and 40’s very likely volunteered for the same reason you mention they do today – they were poor and going to war was a better option than staying home and wallowing in poverty.

      We need a new New Deal not because it would increase patriotism, but because it’s the right thing to do. No statistical analysis necessary to do that.

      Reply
      1. Harold

        People volunteered because their country had been attacked. To be 4F was a source of shame. My father was 4F so he contributed to the war effort by moving to DC & writing instruction manuals for airplanes.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          Of course there were lots of people who were not so patriotic: https://fee.org/articles/the-two-price-system-us-rationing-during-world-war-ii/

          War profiteering we have always with us: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truman_Committee

          And of course a lot of “American” businesses made a buck trading with the enemy, then and now: https://www.vigile.quebec/IMG/pdf/139661258-higham-charles-trading-with-the-enemy-an-expose-bookos-org.pdf

          Vietnam was different from current wars because of the number of troops sent to do ground battle there. Max of 100,000 or so total troops (large numbers of rear echelon support and maintenance and bureaucrat) in Not-againstan, versus 600,000 at the peak of the Vietnam invasion. Vietnam GI draftees usually only had a 12- or 13-month single tour (many exceptions to that), current wars have GIs rotated in and out, in and out, of the various “conflict zones.” Lousy pay and benefits (though better than Deplorables at home, generally, in both conflict periods.)

          Toward the end of Vietnam, there was a lot of sitzkrieg inactivity by US troops — “they pretend to lead us, so we pretend to fight.” Right along with a pretty complete erosion, except among the war lovers and most Gung ho among the ranks, of that “patriotism” thing.

          Reply
    2. polecat

      We were also on the upswing with regard to physical resources on the homefront (petroleum, minerals, etc.) … more so then the present. We’ve used up quite a bit of the nation’s cornicopia. And it goes without saying, that we as a polity have lost much of our former commonality. So now that the tiny infinitesimals are making their exponential presence known far and wide, concurrently with a fear-spanner pointed directly at the ‘hungered-for-moarrr’ games ..the consequences of which will be a wain bourne by you, me, most everyone.. is when the real hunger begins. The human economy will pine for what it cannot have !
      Sanders or Trump .. it does not matter. They are but caretakers, trying in their own befuddled ways to keep a scuttled behemoth from hitting the rocky shoals too fast, too hard !

      Reply
    3. LifelongLib

      Yes, as other commenters have pointed out, the U.S. didn’t maintain a large standing military until after the Korean War. Huge draft armies were built for the Civil War, WW1, and WW2, then quickly disbanded when the wars were over. None of those wars lasted longer than 4 years for the U.S. It’s difficult to believe that a draft army could fight wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Reply
        1. flora

          Well, for one thing, the draft sign-up and enlistment notices prior to Truman desegregating (1948) the armed forces (a bottom left-corner tab that indicated black or white on the enlistment card. That tab made all the difference in how conscriptees to the armed forces were treated. ) Now, this may not sound like much in today’s world. Back then, it was huge.

          Reply
        2. LifelongLib

          “How do these wars differ…”

          I was thinking mainly of their (relatively) short duration and that they were apparently fought for reasons that were important to the U.S. as a whole (whatever the “real” reasons may have been).

          Reply
  7. PKMKII

    I don’t think this would bother that many Republicans because the kind of patriotism they fetishize is not the same as what this article is discussing. This is talking about sacrificing and going without (or at least less than you could have gotten) in order to serve the needs of the country. Republican patriotism is all reactionary militarism and vulgar nationalist boasting. It’s all aesthetics of patriotism, no substance. Actual sacrifice isn’t necessary and in fact frowned upon because it does not fit into the tax cuts at all costs mentality.

    Reply
  8. eg

    Thinking beyond the American experience, I was put in mind almost immediately of the “levee en masse” of the French Revolutionary forces and the elan with which the subsequent Grand Armee terrorized the “professional” armies of their reactionary foes.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy Grimm

      This post associates actions by a beneficial government with increased actions by individuals helped by that government to support it in war — volunteering to kill and to risk death on its behalf. Regarding the elan of the French Revolutionary forces — did offers/delivery of benefits inspire Napoleon’s soldiers or did hatred for their reactionary foes based on past insults and injuries, combined with fear based on what those foes had done in the past or threatened to do in the future?

      Reply
  9. Jeremy Grimm

    I believe the overwhelming majority of people are inclined toward altruism, empathy, and helping others. I also believe there is small portion of Humankind who enjoy power – holding dominion over others. There are those — sociopaths — who greatly appreciate wealth and special things well beyond normal avarice and would willingly sacrifice the basic needs of others to satisfy their desires for luxury, and wealth. Why is it that so many people in this small population so often control our large organizations? Why do people who are inclined toward altruism, empathy, and helping others — follow their direction? How does a group of people who are inclined toward altruism, empathy, and helping others become a mob? The behaviors of Humankind are more complex than “mythical glue” can explain.

    Examining large organizations more closely — are some organizations more prone to select sociopaths for promotion and if so what characteristics are common to those organizations. To what extent do organizations acquire the traits of those who lead them and promote and select for those traits in their members and their leaders? Can an organization grow so large, and select so well for its members and leaders that it acquires a degree of autonomy? The answer to that question might be tested by asking whether any one person could change the direction an organization pursues. Just as there are sociopathic humans, are there sociopathic organizations?

    These are all puzzling questions for trying to explain how Government and Big Money could know — both about Global Warming, and know about finite resources, finite oil, finite fossil fuels — yet continue ignoring these problems and continue taking actions that will make those problems and their future impacts worse. As times grow darker we all, sociopaths and sociopathic organizations included, might want to think about the origins of and motivations driving mobs.

    Reply
    1. smoker

      I really, really like your comment; especially when it’s so difficult to express how rotten things are in such short space and ‘postability.’ Regarding your last paragraph though, I would have added ever exploding US suicide rates – first, and foremost – to what is known but not at all acted upon, in any meaningful way.

      Reply
    2. Grayce

      A clue may be found in the practiced thrill-seeking of a stock trader (not investor) to stay in a rising market until just before it breaks, and get out with a profit while someone else takes the hit. Combine this with an ability to forget those that garner loss, and like any gambler talk about the big clever wins. If the gambler type is Government or Big Money, then the rationale is that “I’ll skim the cream and get out before it’s over,” while ignoring the possibility that it can be over for everyone. Big Power always imagines a private getaway.

      Reply
  10. Amfortas the hippie

    “Some of the agricultural support was allocated for reasons not reflecting economic conditions. In particular, a significant share of spending was driven by committee membership in the US Congress. In other words, districts who had a long-serving congressman typically received more AAA funds than other, similarly blighted (but less well-connected) districts. We can use the variation in AAA spending that is driven by ‘connections’ to explain patriotic behaviour. The effect is strong and goes in the same direction as the baseline correlation: more spending spelled more patriotism across rural America.”

    I wonder if there are now certain mechanisms in place to prevent this sort of thing…earmarks?
    are those back?
    esoteric rules of the house?

    Reply
  11. RBHoughton

    The Antipodeans have an answer to this – mateship. It may start in school, grow exponentially in sport and ultimately benefit the military forces. Aussie’s foremost film-makers, Peter Weir (Gallipoli), Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant) and Simon Wingler (The Lighthorsemen) have all expressed features of mateship as the tool to overcome the urge of self-preservation and arouse duty to the group.

    I am unsure where it comes from – there is a hint of it in Irish history post Cromwell.

    Reply
  12. The Rev Kev

    Late to comment but I will try to add something, even though I have never been to war. People living through the New Deal may have been encouraged to join up or buy war bonds but that is not enough. After the first fight, you have to find a reason to fight yourself. Your mother, wife and your family? Unless they are on the battle-line, then no. Same with things like country and patriotism. The lies that your teachers told you also get shredded after you see your first casualty.

    From what I have read, it comes down to your fellow soldiers as you got their back and they have yours. Mateship as RBHoughton talks about above. It is all that you have to help keep you alive and get through the worse. That is why I was horrified to read accounts from Vietnam where new troops were almost ignored by the experienced troops as the later would not bother with them until they saw who actually made it through their first few contacts. That attitude must have led to a lot of unnecessary deaths. The truths in Shakespeare’ St. Crispen Day Speech are solid even though they are centuries old

    Reply
  13. proximity1

    … “From what I have read, it comes down to your fellow soldiers as you got their back and they have yours. Mateship as RBHoughton talks about above. It is all that you have to help keep you alive and get through the worse. That is why I was horrified to read accounts from Vietnam where new troops were almost ignored by the experienced troops as the later would not bother with them until they saw who actually made it through their first few contacts. That attitude must have led to a lot of unnecessary deaths.” …

    __________________________

    Precisely. But there is no contradiction in either principles of comradery or survival instinct going on here. This isn’t mysterious. Think about it. You’re in a combat-zone. You’ve seen many fire-fights and you know your own unit’s personnel and know their dependability. You’ve seen lots of death–enemy death and, what counts most: the deaths of friends, more or less close to you, In the course of field-experiece, If there are any in your unit who show themselves less than fully-committed to the others’ survival, those are going to be the last ones snatched from death’s door in a desperate combat engagement. That is why you shall not hesitate to risk your life to save any of your unit who you know you can depend on.

    Soldier’s in a combat-zone can’t and won’t know which of the (new-arrival) replacement soldiers are dependable until they’re tested under fire. How are they supposed to know this? Yet it’s one of the two most important data points you can have in combat. You have one life. It’s precious. You risk it for the sake of those who you know can be counted on to reciprocate.

    So replacement-soldiers must expect to have to prove under fire their worth to the unit. They have to demonstrate their courage and their smarts. Courage should not be confused with ferocity, A fierce but dangerously reckless fighter could prove worse for the unit that one whose is smart but not very daring. You want the best and smartest fighters to survive so they’re around to save your life when you need them. It should not be imagined that the war in Vietnam was, in these respects, any different from any other war. It’s naive to imagine that WWII G.I.s arrived with some special and universally-distributed undifferentied “patriotism”–whatever that is.

    In my view, this whole study is hopelessly lacking in a reasonable ground to hold its premises and conclusions together. It is wrong in so many ways and in so many levels that practically anywhere one turns, there’s some questionable assumption made which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The researchers don’t seem to have done much in subjecting their assumptions to questioning. The correlations found are virtually inevitable in such a wartime set of circumstances.

    Reply
  14. anonymous

    This column examines whether welfare spending under Roosevelt’s New Deal boosted US patriotism during WWII. It finds that higher welfare spending prior to 1940 is positively correlated with greater patriotism, as measured by war bond purchases, volunteering for the US Army, and exceptionally brave acts in battle. The findings suggest that when the federal government looks out for its citizens’ needs, men and women who benefit repay the largesse by becoming more patriotic.

    This “cake” is not even “half-baked”.

    Reply
  15. LowellHighlander

    A valuable study, to be sure. But this, to me, seems quite reminiscent of a lesson that the English government had to learn through experience in the 19th Century. As recounted in one of John Prebble’s books (The Highland Clearances, if I remember correctly), when the government in London sent recruiters up to the Scottish Highlanders to round up men for regiments afoot, to fight in the Crimean War, almost no one answered the call – in stark contrast to the 18th Century, when (in the latter half of that century) approximately 30% of all British regiments afoot had come out of the Highlands.

    This non-response up in the Highlands set off shock waves in the London press: “Where are the Highlanders?” So, a governmental commission went up to investigate. And people testified, apparently on the record, to these commissions. To paraphrase, the Highlanders remaining told the commission: “You have sent many of us into exile; You have burnt old people out of our homes; and you have taken our young men for years to die in wars overseas that redounded to our benefit none at all. If the Tsar or Russia were to come over to our shores and take us over, he could do no worse than that which has already been done to us.”

    Reply

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