The Happpiest Years of Their Lives
EVEN BEFORE THE WAR, THE COUNTRY HAD BECOME A BUREAUcrat's paradise. But with the launching of the war effort the bureaus proliferated and the bureaucrats swarmed over the land like a plague of locusts. In 1940, Roosevelt named a National Defense Commission with three horns. Edward Stettinius, of United States Steel, managed one horn on industrial materials, Sidney Hillman another on labor and Leon Henderson a third on price stabilization. It didn't work. In January, 1941, it became the ill-fated Office of Production Management (OPM) under William S. Knudsen and Sidney Hillman. By August it was snarled in feuds. Roosevelt named a super-bureau over it called the Supply Priorities and Allocation Board (SPAB) with Henry Wallace at its head. That blew up, of course, before it got well started and after Pearl Harbor was attacked the WPB--War Production Board--under Donald Nelson took over. At some point, Leon Henderson and his Price StabiLization Division got lost until April, 1941 when it was made a separate bureau and called the Office of Price Administration with Henderson at its head. After that it proceeded to go to town. The odor it created still lingers amongst us and it will remain for all time a classic for students in what not to do and how not to do it.
Henderson was perhaps the worst possible selection for this post. In a position requiring infinite tact and understanding, he had as much tact as a runaway elephant. By no means a basically bad person, he was congenitally incapable of resisting the destructive personal effects of power. Power went not merely to his head, as in the case of others; it went to his muscles besides. Five feet six, weighing