Commitment to Social Improvement
The Struggle for Survival
It is now generally recognised that the excesses of 1920s precipitated the stock market collapse of 1929, and the great depression that followed. The Second World War was, at least in part, an outcome of reactions to the hardships caused by the depression. Together, the depression and the war represented more than 15 years of inordinate hardship, neglect, inactivity, suffering and destruction, with little social development.
This was no ordinary generation. After suffering the Great Depression during their childhood and adolescence, and fighting the war during their late adolescence and early adulthood, they returned from the war, and after some 15 years of inordinate hardship, were crystal-clear what they did not want – any return to the excesses caused by greed and extremism. And they knew exactly what they did want – to rebuild their nations and their own personal and family lives in a steady, sound, constructive and responsible manner. There was much to rebuild, after decades of neglect, and destruction. The rebuilding fell upon them, which they sustained over decades as their children grew up. Overall, it was a huge, transforming experience for a single generation to experience and survive. They became known as “the greatest generation”.
All Governments had been significantly involved in the war effort, and now turned their attention, and much of the war infrastructure, to the rebuilding. They created and funded all measure of programs to ensure genuine nation development at all levels, and set many codified standards. They provided forward planning, new major infrastructure projects and redirected the power of the war effort into peacetime reconstruction. The decades following World War 2 were a period of much social discovery and improvement. Having suffered the consequences of zealous ideologies, they would instead focus on creating ever improving living and working conditions for all.
Post war rebuilding was a planet-wide effort. The United Nations was created, and set up many planetary institutions to ensure that all aspects of national and international life would be safe, secure, viable and durable, enabling a better world for all to emerge, without returning to past errors. For many years much of it worked quite well. The major war-seeking nations were successfully turned into militarily-pacifist democracies, incorporating the latest management and business understandings, especially quality control and non-adversarial management-worker relations. They produced higher quality, more competitively priced products, resulting in high export demands, high growth and affluence, and became economic superpowers.
This help establish, perhaps for the first time ever, the sense and experience of a just and fair, cohesive, egalitarian society that people felt good about, with institutions owned by the people, which they could justifiably feel proud of. People wanted to contribute to society’s betterment. Egalitarianism was at an all time high and valued dearly, encouraged by the recent war experience as the great social leveller. The work ethic was, in the main, fairly honest and decent. There followed decades of stable, full employment, near zero unemployment, inexpensive basic living costs, low inflation, and a stable, reliable stock market. People felt that after decades of inactivity, neglect, madness and destruction, and despite the ongoing, somewhat contrived cold war, the western world was basically heading in the right direction.