The economic mobilization before and during World War II relied on, and stayed within the bounds of, American political and economic traditions. That's how it won the support of business, labor, and voters of all political persuasions. The flexibility and dynamism of its approach allowed the U.S. to mobilize industry faster and on a massively greater scale than European and Soviet command-and-control efforts.
The state led the transformation, but industry participated voluntarily — and with greater energy, efficiency, and creativity as a result. It was crucial to the success of the effort that the individuals who directly led the mobilization were almost all drawn from the ranks of industry.
The World War II mobilization was carried out to overcome two crises: the Nazi conquest of Europe and the Great Depression. Business was afraid to invest. No amount of government lending and encouragement had been able to fully reignite their courage. America needed an urgent mission to overcome its fear — and to provide sufficient and sustained demand for products, services, and innovation.
Today, we face a new crisis, and business again lacks the courage and vision to take on the gargantuan task of ending greenhouse gas emissions and reinventing the world economy for the post-fossil fuel era — a project big enough to provide prosperity and economic security for all.