"The standard thinking of the day was that the United States would sink into a deep depression at the war’s end. Paul Samuelson, a future Nobel Prize winner, wrote in 1943 that upon cessation of hostilities and demobilization “some ten million men will be thrown on the labor market.” He warned that unless wartime controls were extended there would be “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.” Another future Nobel laureate, Gunnar Myrdal, predicted that postwar economic turmoil would be so severe that it would generate an “epidemic of violence.”This, of course, reflects a world view that sees aggregate demand as the prime driver of the economy. If government stops employing soldiers and armament factory workers, for example, their incomes evaporate and spending will decline. This will further depress consumption spending and private investment spending, sending the economy into a downward spiral of epic proportions. But nothing of the sort actually happened after World War II.In 1944, government spending at all levels accounted for 55 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). By 1947, government spending had dropped 75 percent in real terms, or from 55 percent of GDP to just over 16 percent of GDP. Over roughly the same period, federal tax revenues fell by only around 11 percent. Yet this “destimulation” did not result in a collapse of consumption spending or private investment. Real consumption rose by 22 percent between 1944 and 1947, and spending on durable goods more than doubled in real terms. Gross private investment rose by 223 percent in real terms, with a whopping six-fold real increase in residential- housing expenditures.The private economy boomed as the government sector stopped buying munitions and hiring soldiers. Factories that had once made bombs now made toasters, and toaster sales were rising. On paper, measured GDP did drop after the war: It was 13 percent lower in 1947 than in 1944. But this was a GDP accounting quirk, not an indication of a stalled private economy or of economic hardship. A prewar appliance factory converted to munitions production, when sold to the government for $10 million in 1944, added $10 million to measured GDP. The same factory converted back to civilian production might make a million toasters in 1947 that sold for $8 million—adding only $8 million to GDP. Americans surely saw the necessity for making bombs in 1944, but just as surely are better off when those resources are used to make toasters. More to the point, growth in private spending continued unabated despite a bean-counting decline in GDP.""between 1944 and 1947 private spending grew rapidly as public spending cratered. There was a massive, swift, and beneficial switch from a wartime economy to peacetime prosperity; resources flowed quickly and efficiently from public uses to private ones.Just as important, the double-digit unemployment rates that had bedeviled the prewar economy did not return. Between mid-1945 and mid-1947, over 20 million people were released from the armed forces and related employment, but nonmilitary-related civilian employment rose by 16 million. This was described by President Truman as the “swiftest and most gigantic change-over that any nation has made from war to peace.” The unemployment rate rose from 1.9 percent to just 3.9 percent. As economist Robert Higgs points out, “It was no miracle to herd 12 million men into the armed forces and attract millions of men and women to work in munitions plants during the war. The real miracle was to reallocate a third of the total labor force to serving private consumers and investors in just two years.”""Although the GI Bill surely had a positive effect in the 1950s on the educational level of U.S. workers, the bill played a very minor role in keeping the immediate postwar unemployment rate low. At its height, in the fall of 1946, the bill only took about 8 percent of former GIs to college campuses and out of the workforce.""In the years under discussion, however, no new government program was facilitating this transition; indeed, it was the end of government direction of the economy that facilitated the postwar boom in private employment.""When the war ended, however, the command economy was dismantled. By the end of 1946, direct government allocation of resources—by edict, price controls, and rationing schemes—was essentially eliminated. Tax rates were cut as well, although they remained high by contemporary standards. By any measure, the economy became less subject to government direction. Despite the pessimism of professional economists, resources that previously would have been directed to the production of war goods quickly found their way to other uses. The business community did not share the economists’ despair. A poll of business executives in 1944 and 1945 revealed that only 8.5 percent of them thought the prospects for their company had worsened in the postwar period. A contemporary chronicler noted that in 1945-1946 businesses “had a large and growing volume of unfilled orders for peacetime products.” In fact, the elimination of wartime economic controls coincided with one of the largest periods of economic growth in U.S. history."
Fortunately, the gruelingly long workweek described by Sanders is not the norm. In fact, leisure time has been on the rise. In 1950, an average U.S. worker worked 1,984 hours a year, or about 38 hours a week. In 2015, an average American worker worked 1,767 hours, or about 34 hours a week.
That means that the average U.S. worker had 217 more hours for leisure or other pursuits in 2015 than in 1950. That is about 9 days of extra time.
The 50-hour workweek described by Sanders is more common in China, where the average worker worked 2,432 hours in 2015, or around 47 hours a week. Compare other countries using HumanProgress.org’s interactive dataset."