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Make America the Medicine Chest of the World
Workers at the Vought-Sikorsky aircraft factory in Stratford, Conn., March 1943.
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Make America the Medicine Chest of the World

Arthur Herman

America’s “arsenal of democracy” saved Europe and the world from fascism during World War II. Today the U.S. can win a similar victory over the novel coronavirus by sticking to the same principles that made the war effort so successful. President Trump took a vital step in that direction Wednesday by invoking the Defense Production Act, which gives him the authority to expedite and expand industrial production of key medical resources necessary to fight the pandemic.

America’s productivity in World War II wasn’t the result of bureaucrats in Washington exercising command and control over the U.S. economy, as some seem to think the Covid-19 pandemic requires. On the contrary, the federal government harnessed the energy and innovation of America’s finest companies to produce what government could not: materials and supplies in sufficient quantities to prevail in two theaters of war on opposite sides of the globe.

By May 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized the tide of fascism and Nazism would overwhelm the forces of freedom unless the U.S. helped to rescue the world’s democracies, starting with beleaguered Britain. Many in his administration believed then, as many Americans believe now, that the only way to deal with an extreme crisis was to adopt the same measures authoritarian governments were using to build their war machines—even to the point of nationalizing key industries like steel and automobiles.

Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

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