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Capitalizing Patriotism: The Liberty Loans of World War I

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  • Sung Won Kang
  • Hugh Rockoff

Abstract

In World War I the Secretary of the Treasury, William Gibbs McAdoo, hoped to create a broad market for government bonds, the famous Liberty Loans, by following an aggressive policy of "capitalizing patriotism." He called on everyone from Wall Street bankers to the Boy Scouts to volunteer for the campaigns to sell the bonds. He helped recruit the nation's best known artists to draw posters depicting the contribution to the war effort to be made by buying bonds, and he organized giant bond rallies featuring Hollywood stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin. These efforts, however, enjoyed little success. The yields on the Liberty bonds were kept low mainly by making the bonds tax exempt and by making sure that a large proportion of them was purchased directly or indirectly by the Federal Reserve. Patriotism proved to be a weak offset to normal market forces.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11919.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11919

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  1. Klein, Benjamin, 1974. "Competitive Interest Payments on Bank Deposits and the Long-Run Demand for Money," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 931-49, December.
  2. Balke, Nathan S & Gordon, Robert J, 1989. "The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 38-92, February.
  3. McCloskey, Deirdre N., 1998. "Bourgeois Virtue and the History of P and S," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 297-317, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Joel Slemrod, 2007. "Cheating Ourselves: The Economics of Tax Evasion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(1), pages 25-48, Winter.
  2. James L. Butkiewicz & Mihaela Solcan, 2012. "The Original Operation Twist: The War Finance Corporation's War Bond Purchase, 1918-1920," Working Papers 12-13, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  3. Joel Slemrod, 2009. "Old George Orwell Got it Backward: Some Thoughts on Behavioral Tax Economics," CESifo Working Paper Series 2777, CESifo Group Munich.

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