I am amazed when I read about the personal sacrifice made by so many Americans during World War II. Our nation’s production of goods ramped up dramatically as millions of people took jobs and the average work week lengthened. Meanwhile, consumption was curtailed as rations were enforced on meat and clothing, and most families were limited to three gallons of gas per week. People were willing to give more and take less because they believed in the cause strongly enough to sacrifice for it. The ultimate economic result was that the personal savings rate was the highest of any time in the last century.
In contrast, recent wars have been funded by borrowing from future generations. There’s no way that voters today would support rationing, conscription or sacrificial tax rates to fight the ambiguous enemy of “terror”. And perhaps the people are right; it’s easy to talk tough, but if ordinary people are not willing to put some skin in the game, maybe that’s a sign that these recent wars are not as clearly justifiable. If we limited the amount of debt we can accumulate in policing the world, it might force us to think twice about which battles (if any) are worth fighting.
To put it frankly, I can’t trust my government to enforce its morality on the world, when I no longer trust it’s own morality at home. It was Jesus who cautioned: “First take the log out of your own eye; then you will see well enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Only when we have ended our policy of pre-emptive strikes, drone attacks against civilians, and torture can we begin to reduce international tensions enough to lead the way to peace. To influence the world, we must win back their trust, showing them that we’re still willing to sacrifice for the common good.