NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wars Bring A Command Economy

April 21, 1999

There is a vast difference between a declared war and the kinds of operations the U.S. and NATO are involved in currently in Kosovo, legal scholars point out.

In a declared war, the President assumes substantial powers denied him otherwise.

  • He could temporarily nationalize war industries, and even arrest and detain people without trial -- as well as abrogate contracts and requisition ships.
  • In World War I, the government levied price and rent controls, confiscated private property, nationalized the railroads, assumed control of all shipping, regulated the allocation of coal and oil, subsidized wheat production and instituted the draft.
  • The Wilson administration launched a massive pro-war propaganda campaign and denied postal privileges to hundreds of newspapers and magazines which didn't cooperate.
  • In addition to these powers, President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II added wage and price controls, nationwide rent control, rationing of many consumer goods and central planning of production.

Price controls were applied again during the Korean War and President Harry S. Truman seized control of the steel industry in the midst of a strike -- but that action was later ruled unconstitutional.

Source: Brian Mitchell, "What If Congress Declared War?" Investor's Business Daily, April 21, 1999.


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