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A Different Perspective: A free market miracle

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013

The election is over. Celebration is in order for some, recrimination for others. Another Veterans Day has passed. Even the sun came up this morning, again.

Atascadero has confirmed its support for the current city council and we now move on to celebrate our 100th year as a community with many events planned for the next 12 months. Hopefully we at least will be drawn together as a community over the next year as we remember the roots of our past.

Part of that centennial heritage was military, with a good portion of Atascadero comprised of an Army camp, mostly along Morro Road. This part of the county has a memorable military heritage, with Camp Roberts just north of Paso Robles as the Army’s largest training center in World War II. Explosive growth marked the region at that time, with every available extra room housing soldiers or their families.

During the spring of 1942, we were losing the war. The Japanese were unstoppable in Asia, our troops under siege in the Philippines. Marines at Wake Island made a heroic last stand, with virtually all the defenders killed on Wake or murdered as prisoners at the end of the war upon orders from Japan.

California was the scene of incredible mobilization. In March 1942, the Richmond shipyards were a swamp, until an industrialist named Kaiser drained the swamp and put in the shipyard foundations in three weeks. The government expected him to take six months. The first ship was launched by Dec. 31.

Businessmen, pilloried by “New Dealers” for 10 years, did the impossible using free market concepts, over the objections of First Lady Roosevelt. She wanted the government to run arms industries, but only American industry had the technical know-how to make such a massive feat occur. Her interference nearly sabotaged the industrial mobilization effort started in 1940 by the president.

In 1940, Roosevelt appointed Bill Knudsen, a Danish immigrant and industrial genius to organize American industry for war. First Lady Roosevelt got him fired in 1941, but not until he got mobilization off the ground.

To placate a firestorm of criticism from Knudsen’s supporters, Roosevelt made him a three-star general and used him to uncork industrial bottlenecks for the next three years. The result? The American auto industry alone out-produced Germany, Japan and Italy’s combined war production. Men like Kaiser in Richmond reduced the construction time of a ship from 252 days to a record four days from laying of a keel to launch of a Liberty Ship. They literally built ships faster than the enemy could sink them.

American industry produced nearly 50,000 aircraft in three years and increased tank production from 3,900 in three years to more than 24,000 in just one year. People forget that to accomplish this, industry often had to design and build new factories to build the tanks, planes and ships.

America was in the war for three years and nine months, put 16 million men in uniform and launched over 5000 ships, to provide the tools to the Allies to defeat three tyrannical world powers.

It happened because free men, using free markets were able to use their ingenuity and creative powers, unimpeded by the heavy hand of regulators, to defend a country they loved. Perhaps there are still lessons to be learned here.

Al Fonzi is a retired Army Lt. Colonel and career intelligence officer with more than 30 years of service. He is a self-described conservative and active in several political organizations. Fonzi first moved to Atascadero in 1972.

For the complete article see the 11-14-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-14-2012 paper.

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