Tuesday, November 9, 2010

POW Economics

The POW Economy Explained

Richard Radford is one such soldier. When war broke out in 1939, he left his studies at Cambridge and joined the British army. Captured in Libya in 1942, he spent the remaining war years in prisoner of war camps. Upon his release, he wrote an analysis of The Economic Organisation of a P.O.W. Camp. It is worth reading today, both for what it says about life during wartime, and for its lessons about “the universality and the spontaneity” of economic activity.

Soldiers in the German P.O.W. camps received regular rations for most of the war. Their captors provided basic necessities – bread, margarine, and so on. Red Cross and private parcels provided the rest – cigarettes, chocolate, meat, tea, coffee, and less popular items, like tinned carrots. Almost as soon as soldiers were captured, barter systems emerged, with non-smokers trading cigarettes for chocolate, for example. But over time camps became highly organized economies, with cigarettes serving as currency.

Definitely a recommended read... I'm even thinking about looking for the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment