The Greatest Generation and the Greatest Illusion

Success in World War II led Americans to put too much faith in government—and we still do.

Former defense secretary and U.S. senator Chuck Hagel offered some wisdom when he remarked recently that the hyper-partisanship of politics today owes much to the World War II generation’s passing from the scene. Former lawmakers who served in that war—George H.W. Bush, Daniel Inouye, Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, Bob Dole, and countless others—were models of public civility, and helped government run smoothly during their decades in office. These and other members of the aptly christened Greatest Generation made their mark on every area of American life, far beyond Washington. And with only about 558,000 of the 16 million World War II veterans surviving, each day presents an urgent reminder to reflect on their legacy.

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  • Brett_McS

    Shipping millions of working age men overseas hid the unemployment problem of the Great Depression and massive government spending on stuff that blows up kept everyone busy while depressing living standards.

    It was the repeal of the stifling Roosevelt regulatory quagmire after the end of the Second World War that ended the Great Depression (which was only great in America). There was a lesson there to be learned all right.

    • ECM

      There was also the small matter that every one of our economic competitors had been utterly destroyed, clearing the decks for American global dominance since we were nearly the only country left standing of any note.