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12E.1.5 The Chance for Peace

Excerpt from a speech by Dwight Eisenhower on April 16, 1953 to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, in Washington D.C.
Eisenhower, Dwight D.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Address "The Chance for Peace" Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

Societies and their governments have to decide how to spend budgeted dollars. When at war, a country may choose to steer its productive resources toward making war goods like bombs and tanks, as it did during World War II. In times of peace, the government may choose to spend more on roads and libraries to support society as a whole and to improve the welfare of the people. Or, governments may take a more laissez-faire approach to allocating resources and let markets decide once mandatory spending has occurred. President Eisenhower delivered this speech in 1953, during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

A production possibility curve (PPC) is an economic model to show alternative ways that a society can use its productive resources. The axes of the graph could show any combination of categories of goods or services, a capital good or consumer good, or any pairing of specific goods. The classic model pairs guns and butter. The PPC is the model used to show the concept of tradeoffs, scarcity, and cost–benefit analysis. This source specifically addresses societal choices during wartime, and the 1953 “Chance for Peace” speech by President Eisenhower shows him grappling with these decisions. Teaching the PPC curve prior to using this primary source is important. If the PPC of “guns versus butter” is referenced in your course’s textbook, this primary source can be used to reinforce learning along these lines.

The class can also consider how the government has emergency powers to steer production from textile and automobile goods to making necessary items, such as masks to fight the spread of COVID-19. This is another example of choosing how resources are used in the production of goods and services.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.