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August 23, 2007

Comments

Ryan Smrekar

The effects of the American Civil War fought between the North and South are difficult to quantify. To me, this article is almost akin to an accounting sheet trying to figure out future earnings potential or potential revenue for a great number of soldiers that perished in this conflict. There have been claims that the war pushed the processes of industrialization further and allowed for the development of the economic power we are today. However, Goldin and Lewis claim that there is no evidence that the Civil War benefited any part of the US. The authors arrived at this conclusion by using analysis centered around “the adding up of expenditures on the war effort and the value of destroyed physical and human capital” in order to quantify the loss incurred upon the economy after so many men died and so many resources lost. I enjoyed reading about the economic affects of the war in more detail; usually the death toll and battles were the only talking points of the war.

Lara Palanjian

In their study, Goldin and Lewis shed light on the economic debate of whether or not the Civil War actually benefited the union economically, as some historians argue that a political result of the war was that the North passed pro-capitalist laws that produced growth despite war destruction. However, Goldin and Lewis use a new approach to calculating war cost which leads them to conclude that the war did not benefit the union economically. They show that the difference between the direct and indirect cost of the war(which is ultimately the net real cost) was still a positive sum of about 2 billion dollars, for both the north and the south.

The article displays how economists must make assumptions to predict data. For example, they assume that a union soldier had the same opportunity cost as a confederate soldier when calculating the cost of the destruction of human capital. They also create hypothetical non-war economies using the pre-war growth rates of both the north and the south. One can see the potential holes in this assumption, given that growth rates can change due to many external factors that may have occurred during a hypothetical “non-war” era. However, I appreciated that they took into account all economic possibilities, as they calculated the indirect cost for both the native only-population and the immigrant-inclusive population in both the north and south.

Ed Lam

Goldin and Lewis examined the effect of the Civil War on the US economy by calculating the direct and indirect costs to the Union and Confederate. They concluded the war did not benefit the gross economy of the US. Although the data they used seemed reasonable, the myriad of assumptions an easily distort the results especially considering the indirect cost—based purely on hypothetical projections—were a significant part of the cost considerations. And because the benefits analysis only considered gross effects, political impact from the war still could have benefited the nation.

Stella Kang

This article illustrated a very interesting perspective on the Civil War, using economic analysis to reach compelling conclusions about the war’s undetermined effects on the U.S. However, I felt the many assumptions made were rather shaky. For example, when calculating the South’s direct cost, they had to assume that the opportunity costs of the Southern and Northern soldier were the same, which most likely was not the case in reality. And although it was an estimate that had to be adjusted anyway due to the lack of data for the South, the fact that they had to use such assumptions and hypothetical situations gives me the impression that the end result is not complete. I liked how the authors used the numbers they had to make such enlightening calculations, but their conclusion that the Civil War did not benefit anyone is not convincing. I don’t think anyone can accurately imagine what could have been had the war never took place.

Wei Li

Goldin and Lewis's article on the economic costs of the civil war was based on quite a few shaky premises that should be re-evaluated before any type of valuation should be made. Firstly, the adjusted expenditure for the South was created with no solid data about the dollar amount of goods that were seized without compensation or forced to be sold at lower rates than market price. Additionally, even the number of drafted Confederate soldiers was uncertain. The record inaccuracies aside, I find that it is interesting that the calculation method for the war assumed that 100% of men who were drafted would be making a certain wage and that the rate of wage would be the same for the men in the North as the men in the South. I think this argument has quite a few fallacies of its own. Firstly, there is a disproportionate amount of income to be made in the North compared to the South. Additionally, different people woud make different amounts of money even in their respective areas. Finally, not all men who were drafted would have held jobs if they were not enlisted in the military. The numbers for Goldin and Lewis's Human Capital loss have not factored in unemployment. Additionally, as far as post war industry is concerned, the war itself could have created a greater need for labor after the war, and this factor has not been adjusted for either. I believe that calculating the cost of war to be quite impossible to solve without better information and a better understanding of the post war economy.

Yaoyao Wang

I find the cost estimates to be very interesting, especially the discrepancies between direct and indirect costs for both the North and the South. According to the article, the direct cost for North is 3.4 billion while the South comes out to 2.9 billion. The indirect cost for the North is 4.5 billion while the South is at an astonishing 8.9 billion.

One reason for the huge difference between indirect and direct costs in the South is that emancipation costs and reconstructions costs are included in the indirect cost, but not in direct cost. Since indirect costs measure consumption rather than income, Goldin and Lewis assumed that consumption would rise with the decrease in work effort by freed slaves. They estimated a 32% decline in work effort for every year following emancipation. I disagree with this assumption. In lecture we learned about Adam Smith’s theory of why slavery is uneconomical. Adam Smith said that a clever landowner would make more money by freeing his slaves and renting out the lands. Though the slaves appear to be costless, their spite for their landowners would cause them to be unproductive, and they may even sabotage the crops. Although Adam Smith formulated this theory at a completely different place and time, I do think that this theory provides a good argument to why emancipated slaves would not decrease their productivity by 32% each year. I assume that as free men, they would probably be tenant farmers, and although they would trade some work time for leisure, it would not be as drastic as 32%. I think the indirect cost for the South is over inflated and perhaps should not be considered a good estimate of the cost of Civil War.

Jerry Hong

I agree with an important statement of the article: "The mere adding up of expenditures on the war effort and the value of destroyed physical and human capital does not equal the total cost of the conflict, for it neglects the costs of instability, commercial stoppage, and otter economic factors." It is true that many lives were lost during the American Civil War and that many cities were destroyed. However, like the article mentions, the true cost of the American Civil War is very hard to calculate, for there are so many factors affecting it.

The article mentions that one way to calculate the cost of the Civil War would be to make a hypothetical economy where the war did not happen. I think this would sound like a good idea, but it is difficult to calculate the different factors that the war affected. The Indirect Cost formula is a start, but it can only be so accurate

Hence, the cost of the Civil War is definitely very expensive. We should learn from the lesson and try to reduce future wars as much as possible for the sake of the economy.

Min Ru Jiang

I remember that my high school history teacher told me that war could be beneficial to a nation by making money. I don’t agree with my teacher’s opinion because it is so controversial. I think that it depends mainly on the background of the nation, who is the victor, the direct and indirect consequences to a nation ….etc. Goldin and Lew’s article illustrates two kinds of estimates for the economic cost of American civil war to the North and South, which are direct estimate and indirect estimate. I found the difference between the indirect and direct estimates interesting. Indirect estimate gives a better measurement than the direct estimates because it accounts for all the possible costs and benefits and the forgone consumption. They both incorporate with some corresponding assumptions. I agree with Goldin and Lew’s that there is no absolute answer to whether civil war benefits either the North or the whole US. We don’t have enough evidence as the authors point out that there are no complete and accurate records of both the confederated government and the union.

Krista Seiden

I find this article to be both interesting and slightly too mathematical in its assumptions. The discrepancies between direct and indirect costs, and what these costs might include, speak to vast task of calculating lost capital, labor, and human life. Putting a price on things such as a human life seems a bit trivial in light of the overall destruction of the war.
The article surprises me in its mathematical and formula driven observations of the costs of this war. I find it hard to make an accurate cost estimate given that economies and upturns and downfalls are unpredictable, and no one knows whether or not the economy was better or worse off for the war. The article finishes by saying that the war was so devastating that the direct measure could only capture 42% of the costs to the US as a whole. I'm not sure where this number has come from and what exactly it means in perspective with the rest of the article.

Kyle Jeffery

Civil war expenditures, although difficult to estimate, provide an idea of the true cost of the war. Adam Smith’s views of the unprofitability of slavery were correct; however, the abrupt end to slavery brought about by the war did not remedy this issue. In fact, the demise of established economies of scale led to significantly lower southern production and decreased work effort by the freedmen.
The economic impact of the war can be observed in appendix tables 12 and 13, where the south’s per capita consumption (PCC) reaches the pre-war 1860 level between 1899 and 1904. The non-south’s 1860 PCC level is reached much earlier—between 1869 and 1874. This reveals 30 years of positive non-south growth while the south was burdened with reconstruction. It is still less than hypothetical growth without the war, but a testament to the stronger northern & non-south economies nonetheless. I find it interesting that there are no measurable growth effects from the civil war. I had assumed that the southern economy would have benefitted from spurred industrial growth, but as it turns out, postwar industrialization was actually a continuation of prewar development, and the growth rate was very similar.

Chris Guarini

I find the article about the true cost of the American Civil War to be interesting in how much more expensive the war was for the South than the North. Although I feel that the numbers do not completely and accurately describe the costs because the article states that the “true cost” of the American Civil War needs to account for destruction of productive capital, political instability and repercussions of the war as well as the direct economic costs. The direct cost to the North was much lower than it was for the South. The Confederates were much less organized than the Union and the Confederates did not pay their soldiers on time which accounted for the direct cost to be slightly skewed downward. The physical destruction of capital accounts for 1/3 of the direct cost of the war, which I think might be a little low because of the amount of people that were directly involved in the war.

Peter Li

I was interested in how the author went about determining the cost of those that died in the war. The monetary loss from casualties is computed by taking the present value of the income the soldiers would have earned had they survived. And the wages of those that died is calculated from the weighted average of actual farm and non-farm wages for the post-war period.

I think this is a good method of determining part of the cost of casualties, because on average, the typical soldier that died would have made wages close to the weighted average wages for the post-war period, assuming the soldier was a typical male. Of course, there is also the indirect costs of casualties, such as decreased factory and farm production and decreased productivity due to the vast number of lost laborers, but these numbers are hard to capture.

Aseem Padukone

Goldin and Lewis do an admirable job of laying out counterfactuals in order to formulate their estimates of the cost of war. By deviating from traditional means of calculating costs, the authors incorporate additional data to reach their conclusion that the war was not economically beneficial in the long run. While some of the above posters have criticized this piece for being too mathematical and insist that the study is number based to a fault, I feel that the researchers utilized strong social science research techniques by observing what the economy would have been like WITHOUT the effects of a war.

While they definitely use a lot of empirical data to prove their point, their methololgy justifies this use of numbers. Their results are eye opening; the article ended strongly with the assertion that direct costs account for only 46 percent of Civil War costs. As pointed out by the authors, many studies ignore x-factors that could have potentially played a role in shaping the economies of both the North and the South. Yet the use of these indirect costs accounts for this and in my view, provides a more accurate depiction of the Post Civil War era.

Xing Zhen Wu

Although the authors tried to convince us that neither North nor South were benefited from the war by using the direct and indirect method (indirect method includes all possible costs and benefits to the wartime citizens, the lost comsumptions from deaths, plus everything in direct methods) to calculate the costs of Civil War, I believe that we cannot simply use accounthing methods to draw a conclusion on it. We knew that Civil War came with a dramatic price by taken into the facts of properties destructions, life perished, losing in poductions and etc. However, it also brought us an invisible benefit which is political stability. It allows U.S. to continue to grow industrilize, and so on to win the WWII, cold war, and has become the strongest country in the world today in both economically and militarily. If we cannot accomplish that the U.S. still had divided into North and South, so this is the greatest benefit of the Civil War.

Tushar Kumar

While reading this article, I focused a lot on the finance side of things. Although I think they do a good job of estimating the cost of war, I'd like to present another perspective. So they say that peoples' lives are worth how much money they would make in that time period - or life if they were to be killed in war. While this is the most logical way to value and estimate, I think one thing we can do retrospectively is think about how technologically deficient their economy was. If one of the persons who went to war was the next Thomas Edison, efficiencies in all aspects of their economy could be experienced. For example, if the war didn't take place and someone who would have been drafted actually discovered/invented the machine gun, this could change the number of casualties drastically for both sides and thus result in a greater loss for the side without the technology. I'm not discrediting the writers, as they have acted in the most logical sense, I'm simply providing something to think about.

Kim Luong

While the estimations undertaken by the authors are very difficult to quantify (as Goldin and Lewis point out themselves), their method of creating a hypothetical economy that did not suffer a war in order to measure the direct and indirect costs of the Civil War led to some very interesting results—that the Civil War did not benefit either the North or South. I just think that the conclusion the authors ended up with can really only be applied to the immediate quantitative measurements, whereas the state of the country post-war truly did go through drastic changes and economic development that I do not think would have been spurred in a country that had not just endured a civil war. The North was already going through industrialization, and the Civil War led to a complete turnaround in the South. After Reconstruction, Southerners had to find a new way to sustain themselves and rebuild their economy. The South therefore was open to embracing new technologies and new systems of sustenance that may not have developed if the Civil War had not happened. Previous articles show that the United States could not have been as successful if it had continued supporting a dominantly agricultural society instead of developing new technology.

Breana Pennington

This article had a very unique and interesting approach at formulating a cost analysis of the American Civil War. The direct/indirect form of analysis gave insight into the complications of analyzing the actual costs/benefits of the war. However, the assumptions that the authors used in their indirect and alternative indirect hypothesis were very problematic, as many of the comments above have stated. The slaves were calculated as if they just went into a "leisure" state after they were emancipated. In reality these people were, in time, given opportunities to use their labor more efficient in markets that demanded such labor. While slaves, many were known to rebel not just by running away, but also by doing as little work as possible. In the long run this attitude would change because as free men and women they would be able to utilize their skills in an efficient manner that would help the US economy. This is just one of many points that the authors overlooked in formulating their analysis. I believe the authors did make valid points, but this is only a start of what must be analyzed in greater detail in order to gain a more realistic account of the costs or benefits the war had on the US economy.

Dawn Oberlin

I feel that the analysis used in Lewis’s article to sum up the total direct and indirect costs of the Civil War was innovative and intelligent. Lewis used many factors in solving this economic problem that others before him had not even taken into consideration. His article provided a very organized analysis that separated the costs and benefits of the war for the North and the South, and I agree with his method of measuring consumption as opposed to income to get a more accurate figure of the costs of the war for each side. However I agree with Breana’s comment above about the assumptions the author makes regarding slavery and emancipation after the war. I believe his assumptions could have taken more thought because they were a little too generalized. Lewis does not even discuss the fact that many emancipated slaves continued to work on plantations after the war.

Yu (Ray) Zhao

As stated by Goldin and Lewis, the effects and expense that resulted from the American Civil War are extremely hard to quantify. While both authors make good points as well as valiant efforts as means to estimate the total cost of the Civil War, I found this article to be slightly lacking in certain areas. For instance, Goldin and Lewis focuses too much on GDP consumptions rather than the potential increases in GDP output. This is evident in Goldin and Lewis’s application of the economic lost of each soldier that perished in battle. Rather than estimating the potential long run increase of a certain soldier’s GDP, the researchers only utilizes a certain solider’s present marginal productivity value and keeps it constant. This is not good because, individuals can often increase their marginal productivity and contribute to society over time. Furthermore, wouldn’t the Civil War be able to create certain economic growth despite the destruction that can happen? While destruction will occur, the presence of the war might also induce individuals to increase investment spending in things such as weaponry thereby increasing GDP output. Such a trend was evident in World War II as it helped stimulate a staggering US economy out of the Great Depression.

Angela Vullo

It is very interesting to think that the cost of the war must be measured in terms of consumption and not in income. We would be able to measure in income if the value of currency was constant among all time periods and if inflation didn't exist. Using income as a measure of the cost of the war would be a common mistake that a person would make who had no background in economics.

Another interesting way to measure the cost of the war would be to examine the psychological damage that it caused families of the injured or wounded soldiers and not just measure the loss of a soldier as measured by his comparative advantage. There are more costs to the war that cannot be measured in solely consumption, human or physical capital terms.

Angela Vullo

It is very interesting to think that the cost of the war must be measured in terms of consumption and not in income. We would be able to measure in income if the value of currency was constant among all time periods and if inflation didn't exist. Using income as a measure of the cost of the war would be a common mistake that a person would make who had no background in economics.

Another interesting way to measure the cost of the war would be to examine the psychological damage that it caused families of the injured or wounded soldiers and not just measure the loss of a soldier as measured by his comparative advantage. There are more costs to the war that cannot be measured in solely consumption, human or physical capital terms.

Soo Hyun Kim

I agree with many posters above in that Goldin and Lewis were innovative for attempting to calculate the indirect cost of the war. However, their indirect measures have limitations as it is not possible to measure all indirect effects of the war. Some of the men who died could have been the next brilliant mind to shock the economy, or families of dead soldiers could have developed psychological problems that affected their standards of living but not consumption.

Furthermore, the lack of evidence from the South forces the authors to make many assumptions about the wartime budget. The article even mentions that many transactions were not recorded properly if even at all. Educated and reasonable assumptions are still assumptions and cannot fully replace the actual numbers. These factors point out that there can be no accurate costs of the Civil War. It is clear that there were both advantages and disadvantages of the Civil War, but the debate of which overweighed which will likely continue into the future.

Rosemary Lu

The Goldin and Lewis article was one of the first articles I have read that looked at the American Civil war with such an economic point of view and critical analysis. Although the task of estimating the value of deceased solders and creating numbers from North/South comparisons seems to be quite an impossible task, Goldin and Lewis do a good job explaining their reasons and concluding numbers in the article. I assume that this is one of many economic articles that exemplifies the way economists try to qualify and examine American economic history. In comparison to the Sheridan article, this one is much more mathematical while Sheridan continues to compare the economic value of Cuba slaves versus Jamaica slaves with much more qualitative comparisons without the same mathematical number crunching as Goldin and Lewis. I assume that even with the analysis that Goldin and Lewis put into this article’s calculations, many of their numbers are still rough approximations and I wonder whether it may have been better off to do a less mathematical analysis such as Sheridan did with his article.

Wei Shao

I think the point to take away from this article is that in many cases, the costs of certain actions cannot be measured empirically, but one must also look from the grand scale of things. As indicated in this article, there was the direct measure to the cost of the Civil War, and then there's the indirect approach. The direct cost is what we'd normally associated with the idea of a "cost"; it contains the general cost of soldiers, equipment, destruction of capital, etc. However, the direct cost, on the other hand, is basically the opportunity cost of the war.
Yet, I believe that though innovative, this approach to measure the full cost of the war may still be faulty. First, many of the data used in the calculations are simply hypothetical and were based solely on assumption. And secondly, as Angela Vullo indicated, there are simply many costs that cannot be measured, such as psychological and emotional damage (but I suppose that it was stated early on in the article that this would be an economic measure to the cost of the war). And of course, there are many things that are too vague to measure and would require the hypothetical knowledge of the economic output in the absence of the war: these include the political and social effects on the economy as a result of the war. Although these were somewhat addressed in the article, I do believe that they were not fully answered and were simply too vague to measure.

Jenna Lee

I thought it was very interesting to think about war in economic terms. Of course, economic issues arise with war, but I never really thought to think about war with such a mathematical perspective. It especially struck me that they gave a numerical value to those who were killed during the war. It's interesting that they just valued a death as potential wages and not really on anything else. But I guess you could argue that there's no other way to figure out how much a person's life is valued at. and does that mean that every human life is worth the same amount? Taking all of this into consideration and knowing how difficult it must have been to put these more qualitative costs into quantitative terms, I believe that Goldin and Lewis did a fairly decent job of explaining and justifying their reasons for all of it.

Jenna Lee

I thought it was very interesting to think about war in economic terms. Of course, economic issues arise with war, but I never really thought to think about war with such a mathematical perspective. It especially struck me that they gave a numerical value to those who were killed during the war. It's interesting that they just valued a death as potential wages and not really on anything else. But I guess you could argue that there's no other way to figure out how much a person's life is valued at. and does that mean that every human life is worth the same amount? Taking all of this into consideration and knowing how difficult it must have been to put these more qualitative costs into quantitative terms, I believe that Goldin and Lewis did a fairly decent job of explaining and justifying their reasons for all of it.

Stephanie Pai

I thought this article was very interesting but a bit too mathematical. As stated by Goldin and Lewis, the effects and expense that resulted from the American Civil War are extremely hard to quantify. What interests me is that the cost estimates are of two types, direct and indirect. I had thought that calculating the cost of any war was adding up all the consumption expenses and damages. Furthermore, I thought it was odd how they calculated human loss. How do you value a human's life? Turns out, Goldin and Lewis used income to calculate the cost of human capital.

Christina Chen

This article was a compelling read because of its analytical perspective towards war in terms of an economic sense. For example, it was interesting to see how the cost of war was measured through consumption and how death was analyzed in respect to wages. However, I think a weakness of this article might be its overwhelming economic perspective and its math-heavy analysis. While it provides an eye-opening view of the Civil War, I think that the numbers were heavily based on assumptions, and the heavy focus on numbers might have left gaps in other forms of reasoning. For example, I think it would have been interesting to take a step back and see how there are potential faults to the cost-estimates, because as Kumar pointed out, what if the person killed in battle had been the next Thomas Edison? It would have been brought some meat to the mathematical assumptions used throughout the article.

Monica Shih

I agree with Stephanie, that the article was a little too technical. I don't quite agree with the way that they calculated the costs of the civil war. There's no true way to quantify the benefit (or loss) that American manufacturing received from the Civil War, because there's no way to predict what would have happened had the war not occurred. While it's true that the War inflicted heavy social costs and led to a vast decrease in the labor population, manufacturing benefited and many technological developments were made. Also, as someone mentioned above, the authors assumed that the Northern and Southern soldiers had the same opportunity costs of time. This is definitely not true. Different regions in the states produced different goods and had different productivity levels. By the 1860s, A cotton grower in North Carolina was not nearly as productive as a cotton grower in the Northwestern states, so they definitely had different opportunity costs. While this article brings up many interesting points, I don't quite agree with the way the calculations were made. Plus, the article doesn't address the future social costs due to a damaged, disillusioned labor force. The authors do make valid points, but do they do not show a complete picture about the full consequences of the war.

Sherry Wu

I don't really agree with Goldin and Lewis's attempt to quantify the economic effects of the Civil War. Although their calculation of both direct and indirect method of calculating the economic costs of the war may be comprehensive, it cannot capture the true essence of the conflict, even though the calculation takes factors such as human capital and political instability into account. The war was fought because of differing principles and ideals, and it is a little morbid to put numbers and measures on the value of human lives. I believe that this analysis is useful only in comparing the expenditures and efforts of the Union and Confederate governments to understand why the Union was victorious.

Additionally, even though Goldin and Lewis have tried their best to reconstruct the efforts of the Union and Confederate sides in economic terms, they themselves admit that records, especially for the South, are tenuous and incomplete. They admit that the direct method fails to take intangible factors such as the effects of drafts, seizure of materials, and human error into account, and present the indirect method as a better method of measuring the economic impact of the Civil War by creating a hypothetical economy and comparing its functioning to that of the war economy. There are many caveats to this assumption, however, since it is possible that slavery would have collapsed on its own, or that a different catalyst would have caused the antebellum economy to veer from its hypothesized trajectory.

Even if it is true that the institution of slavery would have collapsed on its own because it was economically infeasible, I believe that African-American would still have suffered from social stigmas and racism that would not have been eradicated without the war. Thus, even though they would be free in name, their socioeconomic position would be a far cry from the rights and freedoms they have attained today.

Elizabeth Talbot

I agree with Sherry about Lewis and Goldin's attempts to assess the true economic cost of the civil war. Even if one only considers "direct costs" , there are so many different, and ambiguous variables that factor in to the total direct cost. Even when you take just the North, whose records were apparently well organized and accurate, I would have to assume there would be some error - some cost or payment not recorded, recording inaccuracies, a lost record - something. So as Goldin and Lewis go further - estimating the costs of the South and then inventing hypothetical economies, the error is bound to get larger and larger even if their estimates are founded on all available historical fact. And then they even invent an equation to measure indirect cost - this seems to be the height of their attempt to take the lives of millions of people, spread out across thousands of miles, and quantify it. In the end, after all their laborious calculations and rigorously estimated data, it seems they prove the point that war just might cost more than its worth. Wow, a novel idea.
I have to say on a positive note that despite the fact that I disagree with their general way of assessing everything, I have to say their effort was laudable and it is interesting to really delve in to the costs of the civil war and to think about the effects of a war on an economy.

Elizabeth Talbot

I agree with Sherry about Lewis and Goldin's attempts to assess the true economic cost of the civil war. Even if one only considers "direct costs" , there are so many different, and ambiguous variables that factor in to the total direct cost. Even when you take just the North, whose records were apparently well organized and accurate, I would have to assume there would be some error - some cost or payment not recorded, recording inaccuracies, a lost record - something. So as Goldin and Lewis go further - estimating the costs of the South and then inventing hypothetical economies, the error is bound to get larger and larger even if their estimates are founded on all available historical fact. And then they even invent an equation to measure indirect cost - this seems to be the height of their attempt to take the lives of millions of people, spread out across thousands of miles, and quantify it. In the end, after all their laborious calculations and rigorously estimated data, it seems they prove the point that war just might cost more than its worth. Wow, a novel idea.
I have to say on a positive note that despite the fact that I disagree with their general way of assessing everything, I have to say their effort was laudable and it is interesting to really delve in to the costs of the civil war and to think about the effects of a war on an economy.

Richard Park

As many people have already mentioned, I cannot help but question the validity of the estimates in the Goldin and Lewis article. It is quite evident that the authors present a lot of numbers and data; however, I believe that the given estimates are much too broad or simply impractical. The foregone earnings and the indirect cost due to the loss of life calculations seem to be a bit of a reach especially if the South did not keep orderly records. Additionally, I was very interested by Goldin and Lewis’s presentation of the Beard-Hacker Thesis. I agree with the opponents of the thesis that the shift toward manufacturing after the war was merely a continuation of changes already begun before the Civil War.

Grace Park

It was a common idea that the Civil War, with all it’s atrocities had a silver lining in that it helped industrialization. However, in this journal it states that there is not enough information to clearly state that the Civil War benefited in United States in any way. This is an accurate statement to make considering the different kinds of loss that occurred. The deaths of human lives, the billions of dollars lost by the government, destruction of land and all other negative externalities that can be thought of due to this war is impossible to measure. This articles shows that industrialization was just a natural development that occurred throughout the Civil War, instead of being a result of the Civil War. However, it seems as though that this article is toning down the affect of the Civil War too much. Yes, of course no matter what industrialization would have occurred with or without the war; however, in times of war, industrialization is emphasized and pushed to its limits. I would have to say that no matter what a war as big as the Civil War should have made a huge impact to industrialization.

Chuong Quach

By using the direct and indirect measures, Goldin and Lewis try to prove that there is no evidence that the Civil War benefited the North or the whole US in a significant way. On the contrary, Charles and Mary Beard and Louis Hacker believe that the Civil War actually encouraged industrialization and the "rise of capitalism". I personally agree with the Beard-Hacker thesis. After the Civil War, the absence of slaves forced farmers to either move to the North, which was business enterprise oriented, or invest in capital equipment/technology. Therefore, the US economy transfered from a predominately slave-dependent-agrarian state to an industrialized state. While the South suffered in the short-term, the whole US benefited economically in the long-term through business enterprises.

Sarah Lim

The Goldin and Lewis article was interesting in the perspective that it took with the costs of the Civil War. Like many other people, I thought that their analysis was very math and number-oriented. There are many other things that should have gone into consideration when trying to quantify the cost of the war, although it is difficult to quantify something like the Civil War. It is interesting to see the ways that Goldin and Lewis went about in order to get a number for the cost of the Civil War. By going about the process through two ways, the direct and indirect, and getting different numbers, people could see that the Civil War was an expensive war. Even with all of the numbers and math, Goldin and Lewis wrote that their calculations are most likely faulty due to a variety of reasons like incomplete records. Although it was interesting to read about these calculations and assumptions, I think that it is more important to look into the social costs of the Civil War and not necessarily concentrating on the numbers and math.

Sarah Lim

The Goldin and Lewis article was interesting in the perspective that it took with the costs of the Civil War. Like many other people, I thought that their analysis was very math and number-oriented. There are many other things that should have gone into consideration when trying to quantify the cost of the war, although it is difficult to quantify something like the Civil War. It is interesting to see the ways that Goldin and Lewis went about in order to get a number for the cost of the Civil War. By going about the process through two ways, the direct and indirect, and getting different numbers, people could see that the Civil War was an expensive war. Even with all of the numbers and math, Goldin and Lewis wrote that their calculations are most likely faulty due to a variety of reasons like incomplete records. Although it was interesting to read about these calculations and assumptions, I think that it is more important to look into the social costs of the Civil War and not necessarily concentrating on the numbers and math.

Andrew Grosshans

Rather than suggesting that the Civil War benefited the economy, the quantitative research presented by Goldin and Lewis details the great costs that the war imposed on the nation’s economy. The empirical argument presented by Goldin and Lewis proves convincing as long as one considers their multiple assumptions valid. Goldin and Lewis admit that only cursory data on the South existed, causing reason to doubt the accuracy of many of their assumptions regarding the cost to the South. Additionally, in determining the “indirect cost” of the war, the researchers assume that consumption would have expanded at a constant rate in the absence of the war, something that might not have actually been the case. Despite the uncertainty of their assumptions and incompleteness of records on the war, Goldin and Lewis accomplish what they set out to do: describe the economic cost of the war. Their economic analysis, while greatly valuable, should not obscure or diminish the importance of more qualitative analyses of the sociological impact of a war that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lost lives cannot be completely defined by a measure of their foregone productivity or consumption. Only with both quantitative analyses of the war’s economic implications and more qualitative analyses of the war’s sociological effects may an examination of the war be truly complete.

Ji Y Lee

Goldin and Lewis takes a look at the economic costs of the American Civil war. In their study they try to calculate the total cost of the civil war. They come up with mathematical functions that try to account for the costs of the civil war. They come to the conclusion that there was no economic benefit for either the north or south. And they fail to come to a definite conclusion on how these costs were significant. It is just calculating and estimating the costs of the war. Not really looking into the implications of these costs.

Shannon Lee

This article claims that in the end the Civil War had no economical benefit to the United States in the end due to the many deaths of soldiers as well as destruction of resources. However, I cannot believe this to be entirely true because we do not know what would have happened if the Civil War had not happened. Calculating the loss of lives due to human labor, on a social human benefit scale, America still might be much more behind than it is today. The loss economically might be huge. Also, the North and the South's opportunity cost probably was not the same because the South of environmental and social conditions. Thus, we cannot say that both the North and the South significantly lost economically due to the war. Of course if the whole thing were never a issue at the time we might have benefited but with the social development we have today, our economy may just be better the way it is now.

Kristin Rose

The concept of a concrete total cost of the Civil War is intriguing, but I think that it would be impossible to reach any accurate figure, given both the vast number of variables adding to the cost of the war and also the elements that are not easily quantified, such as the loss of morale amongst the people of the losing side. Nonetheless, Goldin and Lewis provide a comprehensive look at the factors contributing to the cost of the Civil War, and make a solid estimate of the cost of the war on the US economy. I agree with Andrew Grosshans above that their estimates concerning the South seem less solid than those they make with respect to the rest of the country, as they admit that their data is lacking in this respect. In the end, however, I think that their conclusion that the Civil War benefited neither the North nor the South is interesting, since a typical assumption concerning war is that the victors benefit economically.

Christopher Avedissian

Golden and Lewis' article was interesting in the manner that they broke down the American Civil War's total cost towards the economy. They conclude that the American economy suffered a heavy loss, therefore neither the North nor South benefited. And this is a reasonable argument for both sides had a vast amount of casualties and loss of resources. Their empirical analysis is intriguing and sufficient, and though it isn't perfectly accurate, I believe Golden and Lewis' claim that the American Civil War has no economical benefit is valid. I believe it to be impossible that one would ever be able quantify all the effects of war, for the variables are endless. I also agree with Kristin on how the typical assumption concerning war is that the victor benefits economically, and that is not true. An economy drains itself when in war.

Ian Ebert

I found the Goldin and Lewis article to be the most interesting article that I have read so far in this class. Goldin and Lewis determine the direct cost of the civil war was $2.5 billion for the North and $2 billion for the south. After Goldin and Lewis took into account the counterfactual, they determined the indirect cost of the war was $5 billion for the north and $9 billion for the south. Having the war fought in the south had a huge impact on why the cost was so high for the south. As many people have previously stated, I also feel that it is almost impossible to predict the true opportunity cost of the war because we have no idea what would have happened if both the north and the south were spending their money on something else, and men were producing goods instead of killing each other. Although the civil war according to Goldin and Lewis cost about $14 billion, I feel the war was necessary in order to preserve the union and eventually become the powerful nation we are today.

Vinit Sukhija

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, but I would like to focus on one incongruity regarding Goldin's and Lewis's application to war costs using the "direct cost method". When referring to the South, Goldin and Lewis state that the Confederacy failed to pay many of its soldiers, hence warranting an "adjusted" figure through which an accurate picture can be created. However, when defining the direct cost method, Goldin and Lewis state that this cost includes all war expenditures by both Union and Confederate governments, and the value of destroyed human and physical capital. Becuase the direct method is empirical, it doesn't make sense to me that the authors should make an adjusted figure anyways. Why add on the costs of what the government would have THEORETICALLY paid when it in fact was not paid at all? This contradicts the authors' definition of the direct cost method and cannot be accepted as empirical data.

I found Goldin and Lewis's description of the indirect method and forgone consumption extremely fascinating. It was interesting to see that Northern forgone consumption was $4.284 billion for natives and $4.515 billion for the total population, leaving $.231 billion for Northern immigrants from 1861-1879, when consumption loss was 0. If we used per capita information, we could potentially figure out how many immigrants existed from this time period.

It was interesting to read about the different reasons why the South suffered so many more economic losses (accounting losses and implicit losses included) than the North. Essentially, it is very difficult to calculate opportunity costs for what the North and South would have been doing instead of dedicating their efforts towards the war machine. How would Northern industrialization have fared without a war? How would Southern agriculture have grown (or subsided) without a war? This makes it inherently more difficult to calculate an indirect cost, which is why I was utterly surprised to read that the indirect cost for the South was almost double that of the North.

Sean Tennerson

I found the article to be very intriguing in the way that Goldin and Lewis attempt to quantify the economic loss of the Civil War. It offers a different way of showing the massive losses that nations suffer during a war, rather than just the apparent loss of life. Yet i agree with many of the other commenters when they say that it is impossible to really give a comparison of how the economy would have faired without the war as to how it did with the war. One must remember that there are many factors that go into economic efficiency and the point of unemployment, I really feel must not be left out i.e. no one cannot assume that a person not in the war would have been employed. Many of the arguments used by Goldin and Lewis, I believe, cannot be fully substantiated, though they do make their opinions much more persuasive.
In response to Ian Ebert, I cannot fully disagree with his statement about the war being necessary to preserve the union and eventually become the powerful nation we are today being a justification for the losses incurred, both monetary and otherwise. Yet, I feel that there is something naively insensitive in it, because I am sure that those people who lost their loved ones and were terribly burdened with hardships from the war might not agree. This makes it difficult for me to agree completely, because who knows what another "non"war option could have resulted in.

Eric Hsiao

Inter temporal economics states that one of the main draw backs of discounted cash flow, which was used to estimate the indirect method, is the assumptions by which the model is built on. Perhaps I missed something, but taking a prior period growth rate and applying it postwar is seems horrendously erroneous. For one, how do you separate growth rates attributed post war and prewar? To clarify, growth rate applied post war (a) = arbitrary growth rate prior to war that did not reflect war information (b). Given this, how do you find the appropriate (b)? Using a recent period prior to the war may include effects of ‘pre-war’ sentiment that are essentially immeasurable. However, on the flipside, using a value from 1492-1510 would not reflect the true economic structure the US.

I also would have appreciated a deeper dive into how they chose the discount rate. From my understanding, risk (political, economical, etc) and uncertainty are supposed to be reflected in the discount rate. I would have guessed a much higher rate then an upper bound of 7%.

John Janda

I thought that the paper took a good approach to trying to accurately determine the economic costs of the war, but like the posters above, I felt that there were too many assumptions that were taken. The authors note that records were maintained quite poorly by the Confederates and that they were forced to make multiple estimates of Confederate expenditures based upon Union numbers. This seems quite illogical to me as it has always been my impression that the Confederates had significantly less spending than the Union. I also would have liked a further explanation about how growth rates were calculated as I find it difficult to predict future growth based upon prior growth. With that said, this is still a great paper. Most of the estimation that is done likely has only a minimal affect upon the results. The paper still does an excellent job of illustrating how the South had significant indirect war costs and that there was a great economic cost to having this war.

Anshul Shah

Some people mentioned how the authors have made perhaps too many assumptions in their cost assessment. I think that for a task this broad, it is necessary to make these kind of assumptions and although the error might be considerably large, the assumptions are clearly stated and justify the final cost assessment.
For example, when taking factors into account such how the South transferred some war costs to soldiers through the draft, there is bound to be a certain amount of error. However when looking at the whole picture, I feel that such assumptions help the reader to see the macro-picture, instead of focusing on the specific numbers.
I also find it interesting that the authors used consumption, not income, as the relevant measure for the cost of the war. Upon further thought, this would make sense because the effects of the war are better seen and interpreted through people's behavior during that time, as opposed to the aggregate income. Income can increase during a war but i would think that it is less associated/affected by the costs when compared to the consumption of the people.

Kevin Chiu

Goldin's and Lewis' article brought a new light into how I viewed the Civil War in America. In school, I was told the basic history of this event but this article evaluated the economic costs of war and came to the conclusion that the Civil War was not economically beneficial to the US. The article mentions a number of things: 1) indirect vs. direct costs 2) higher costs for the South vs. lower costs for the North 3) the death costs of soldiers through the valuation of potential wages earned if they survived.

One thing that really intrigued me was the attempts made to value the deaths of soldiers that fought the Civil War by potential wages. I don't think the article did justice to the "true" costs of the lives of soldiers. I believe there are a lot of other factors that should have been included.

Also, on a more general level, it makes you think about how war is to be looked at in terms of costs and benefits.

Chistina Kiang

Although I was initially hesitant to see Goldin and Lewis attempt at collecting figures for the effects of the Civil War, I must say their research is quite commendable. I was surprised that they recognized and distinguished the differences between direct and indirect costs. However, I also agree that their research was based on many convoluted assumptions. Their empirical measurements are thus admirable but by no means accurate or sufficient. How do you go about collecting research that can’t have numerical figures assigned to them? I feel that we can never attain a number that will satisfactory to everyone and should use Goldin and Lewis’ figures as a very general and broad understanding of our historical happenings.

Brandon Leong

I was pleasantly surprised about this article. Like many other students, I was taught in elementary school all the way to high school that the Civil War was good because it freed our nation for the horrible institution of slavery. Thus, I never took account of the cost of the Civil War, save for the fact that the South was destroyed. Never have I seen such a meticulous approach to accounting the direct and indirect cost of the War. However, although Goldin and Lewis should be commended for their efforts, I like many other students, have issues with many of the assumptions they made. For example, in the scenario in which no war occurred, they based the rate of growth of the economy for 1860 to 1865 on the rate of the economy right before the war. This proposed % could be very much different than what would have actually happened. Although this is a small example, it could vastly change the answers they have for how the war changed the industrialized North. Overall, the paper was vastly informative and Goldin and Lewis should be applauded.

Robert M Lee

Goldin and Lewis present an interesting take on the cost of the civil war using economic analysis. Going beyond conventional measures of direct costs, they also made realistic assumptions based off incomplete data to construct an estimate of indirect costs. Even though the numbers are debatable I was able to agree with the main conclusions such as the South having greater costs then the North from losing their main source of labor, and that overall the civil war was economically costly in the short run.

However, this becomes questionable in the long run. We know that after the civil war, unionization and equality slowly progressed while many steps were taken to make the US the strongest country in the world today. Who really knows what would have happened if the civil war never took place and if the US would be just as well of or even better? In my opinion, if the civil war never took place the country would have continued to be labor-driven and would have been slower to industrialize and become as advanced as it is today. This less attractive, alternative long-run opportunity cost negates the greater short-run economic costs of the civil war leading me to believe that the war DID benefit the union economically…..in the long-run.

Kelly Yang

In the article by Goldin and Lewis, the effects of the Civil War on the United States economy are analyzed. I thought it was interesting that they tried to analyze the war from an economic perspective through opportunity costs of how much the war really cost the US. While their study concludes that the war did not benefit the US economy, readers must consider that the evidence used was not complete and many assumptions about data were forced to be made. The uncertainty in the number of Confederate soldiers, the assumed opportunity costs of soldiers and land and the assumptions on changes in consumption are not definite enough to make the conclusion that the war did not benefit the economy. The study is an interesting perspective but should be carefully considered for its validity.

Timothy Wong

I thought it was interesting how Goldin and Lewis separated the economic costs of the Civil War into the categories direct and indirect. I never really thought about how the Civil War affected the United States indirectly. It’s interesting to see how economics is applied to analyze the economic effects of the war. I would have never thought about how the war affected the economy. When I think about the costs of the war, at first, I only considered expenditures, loss of buildings and homes, and people.
Someone earlier said that an economy drains itself when its in war. This is not always true. Take a look at WWII. One of the reasons why the US pulled itself out of the Great Depression was because of the war.

Tanya Chang

Although I found this article to be interesting in relating the economic patterns of the American Civil War, to the costs incurred, I was skeptical of the accuracy of the assumptions made. While I applaud the authors for their extensive research and analysis, I cannot ignore the fact that many factors may not have been taken into account. The article proposes a direct and indirect approach to calculating the costs of the American Civil War. It further provides further strategies for accommodating certain difficulties, for example the authors “adjusted” its calculations for the South because it failed to pay its troops. However, I believe that even with “adjusted” calculations, and even if the North was very good about maintaining its records, there is still the possibility that errors occurred. For example, missing records, lost records, and miscalculations. Furthermore, I believe that accommodating for the South’s poor records would lead to greater error in the estimation of the costs of the war. There were a lot of assumptions made, which make it difficult to fully agree with the analysis and reasoning of the estimations presented.

Aneesh Kadakia

I thought one of the most critical points Goldin/Lewis make is on the long run benefits the civil war had on the country, especially in my opinion the North. I see it similar to Europe Post-WWII, the Northern "carpetbaggers" seized these opportunities to invest in the south and rebuild it. Even after proposing this hypothesis, the authors conclude the opposite, that the war was conclusively disastrous but I don't really see how they can measure, for example, how slowly the southern economy might have moved without the war. I think a major problem with the Southern economy was the wealthy landowners would have been perfectly content with stagnation since they still held the wealth, and would not have embraced the capitalist arguments as aggressively as in the north. Last point, a major transfer of labor occured with former slaves moving up north to work there after 1865, this definitiely had to have a redistributive effect on the American economy.

Andrew Fong

Although the physical costs of a war may be estimated, the social/economic costs are almost impossible to measure. In Goldin and Lewis' study, they attempt to calculate the direct and indirect costs of the Civil War on the US economy. Although many attempts to estimate the actual cost of the war have been already presented before, the authors' conclusions about the costs of the war are innovative. However, it may be difficult to agree completely with their conclusions based on the credibility of their data and the assumptions made. It is interesting to look at the opportunity costs of the Civil War and what else could have happened in America at the time.

Carson Le

Goldin and Lewis did a thorough job of explaining both their assumptions and calculations, and despite the chance that at least some of these assumptions were false or based on unreliable information, the methodology makes sense. The authors realize they have made assumptions and that their hypothetical situations are in fact hypothetical. These possibilities for error will exist in any attempt to study and recreate a century-old event.

Louis Hacker's thesis that the war helped industrialization by providing capitalists with "the instrumentalities of political power" was interesting to me despite the rebuttals made by other economists. For example, the first evidence given by Cochran against Hacker's idea is that "changes in value added for the period 1839 to 1859 are similar to those for 1869 to 1889." I don't think this is necessarily good evidence against Hacker's point because changes brought about by shifts in political power may not be visible in such short terms. Instead, greater industrialist power may have influenced a small shift in policy trends, the effects of which could potentially take years or decades to see.

Phat Richard Nguyen

I agree with the vast majority of the earlier posts. Goldin’s attempt at quantifying the cost of the Civil War is a bit outside of the boundaries of realism. There were simply too many assumptions made. It seems that Goldin took many of the assumptions as true in order to prove her point that the Civil War did not benefit the north or the south economically. It’s interesting to see how economic research can be done to calculate costs based on historical recorded data. Goldin’s research exemplifies the type of economic research and quantification needed in order to better analyze economic conditions, past and present.

Joseph Chang

I didn't like it.

I enjoy reading what-if scenarios, especially the more pointless ones -- such as how exactly did the British Empire not intervene? And, I like numbers, particularly big numbers.

Nonetheless, probably the very reason that nobody up until that time (although I'm willing to bet that if this article wasn't written in 1972, it would have been by now) summed up all the direct and "indirect" costs of the war is that it just isn't really needed (it would seem fun though, especially getting paid to do it. hey, how much do you think this war cost? lets find out!). Anyways, there's no way the U.S. would've at that point in time gone another thirty years without resolving the secession/states rights/slavery issue without it.

More importantly, even without these very large (and indirect) numbers there was never any doubt that the south as a unique civilization/collection of states was utterly destroyed, conquered, occupied, and then left as a marginalized, backwater region for a century.

Personally, I think the Civil War was truly devastating and I have a hard time imagining America as a war zone with cities being burned and the like. However, I do think that the Civil War happened late enough for the U.S. to win safely and early enough for the country to recover and protect countries in the Western Hemisphere from European influence. Sometimes, when reading American History, it seems too good to be true. Everything just seemed to have happened just right.

Min Park

Although many of the previous comments have stated that the Civil War did not benefit either the North or South due to the mathematical calculations proposed by the authors, I have to disagree. Both the North and the South benefited from the aftermath of the Civil War. The ability for the Union to stay as a whole nation solidified the presence of the country, as if it separated, surely they would have been more vulnerable to attack from foreign nations and more susceptible to economic discrepancies without the South receiving Northern manufactured goods and the North being deprived of Southern agriculture.

Furthermore, I disagree with the mathematical costs that are presented in association to the death of these Civil War soldiers. The authors seem to value each soldier’s death as being equal to a certain dollar amount, and calculating the net present value of each soldier seems more like a problem in my corporate finance class than a respect to those who fought for their beliefs on each side.

However, the article was able to illustrate the indirect costs of the Southern War and the effects of the war on both sides after it concluded. The South had to revolutionize its economy and its style of everyday living during the Reconstruction era. The North did not face such dramatic changes, but had to recover from the economic setbacks from the war.

Robert Chomik

I think Golden and Lewis had a very interesting way to approach the Civil War. Leaving all ethical, moral principles out of their analysis is quite non conventional. I like the fact that they try to put the war in economic terms looking at how much the American people have lost in dollar terms, not just with direct costs but also with forgone potential growth. I think it's very important that the authors are looking at the big picture, taking into account that many times southern soldiers weren't paid enough or not at all. A similar phenomenon took place with buying supplies by the south, paying undervalued sums for goods that were under inflationary pressures. The fact that the authors are taking into account all these indirect costs makes the argument much more valid than simply looking at numerical data.

James Wang

Though many students have taken issue with the assumptions made by Goldin and Lewis, I think the authors made the most logical assumptions that captured the most likely possibilities in the hypothetical realm where no war took place. For example, I don't see much of an alternative to quantify the growth of the hypothetical economy (measured by consumption per capita) through the assumption of a constant growth rate at antebellum levels. If one were to claim that the growth rate would have increased or decreased for any reason, it would be almost impossible to quantify the magnitude of this change, especially over multiple time periods. For Goldin and Lewis to do their analysis, they needed concrete numbers representing the hypothetical economy, and assuming a constant growth rate allows those numbers to be as grounded in reality as possible. The only alternative would be to do no analysis at all.

Alexis Geno

I did find it interesting how the authors were able to put a numerical measure to the cost of war. I also thought it was very interesting that they were able to measure that the Civil War hurt the South more than the North in terms of a monetary value. But in the end, it changed the American economy because it ended slavery.

Like many people mentioned, I don’t think there is any way to really calculate the cost of war. There are so many different factors that we cannot put a numerical measure to such as the effects of a family member’s death and how their death will affect the family financially.

Chung Leung

This may be a trivial point, but it interested me a lot: that the cost of war considered the expected wages of the deceased soldiers. This bears resemblance to calculating the GDP via wages, rather than through expenditures.

As many others have pointed out, applying financial statistic analysis to the costs of war may be an extrapolation of the method to a theme it is not meant to address, but it does offer a coherent answer to the question of whether the war benefited industry.

Another thing to consider is the cost of Reconstruction, considering the ruins the former Confederate States had been reduced to: General Sherman's Atlanta Campaign and March to the Sea, and the collapse of the southern banking and currency. The cotton trade was stalled for the next decade, also another economic cost of the war.

Tanya Malik

In this article, Lewis and Sheriden put forth ideas of exactly how the civil war effected the United States economy as a whole and also as separated units of North and South. Although it is a thorough analysis, and the ideas illustrates are in depth, it took the authors a while to get to their own analysis. The beginning of the article is just ways that others in the past have tried to calculate the effects, which they repeat over and over before getting to their own ideas. It was interesting how the authors introduced two ways to estimate the cost of the war, the direct and indirect calculations. Because the civil war was anything but, the most appropriate way to calculate the damages was to use the indirect estimation process, which is calculating a certain “consumption stream” and what was actually “achieved” and taking their difference. I was, however, skeptical of the calculation of lost of human capital. Although the process of estimation seems legitimate, I still do not know how that can really be calculated.

Regina Lin

The authors take an interesting approach in quantifying the costs of the Civil War. Their breakdown of direct and indirect costs helped us understand their reasons and thought process behind the methodology. They came up with valid assumptions in their approach, such as assuming that the hypothetical consumption was equal to the pre-war consumption, which bostered their arguments. They successfully gave their unique perspective and analyses, but like many others, I feel a bit unsettled. I liked how they mentioned that there are other effects of the war such as political instability political that they didn't elaborate on. However, I feel that there were a lot of post-war effects that were more meaningful to touch on and could make a difference in the war costs. The end of the war gave way to a different political structure that had a material effect on the economy. The war also made way for the industrialization that transformed the nation and had a significant impact on all aspects of a person's life from equality to standard of living. The authors failed to neglect the emotional costs of the lost lives from the war. Casualties were included in the authors' calculations as forgone productivity. Even though pain and suffering is borne at the personal level, this distress caused by the war is a distress to the people who make up our economy/society and is thus a huge cost that unfortunately cannot be quantified.

Stephanie Pai

I found this article very interesting but a bit too mathematical. As stated by Goldin and Lewis, computing the cost of any war is difficult to measure, especially when a war involves the destruction of productive capital, political instability, changes in the composition of the labor force, and loss of human lives. I had thought that the mere adding up of expenditures on the war effort and the value of destroyed physical/productive capital equals the total cost of the war. However, I was wrong. It interests me how economists determine the value of each of these factors that essential get added into the cost of war. Like: What is the cost of political instability? How do you value a human's life? Goldin and Lewis calculated the value of a human's life by computing man's average wage rate. Personally, I think a human's life is more value than what they make. But I also wonder whether the lives of slaves that were killed in battle calculated in the cost of war for the South. During that time, Southerners referred slaves as subhuman, and many of these slaves did not have wages. So how did they calculate those losses?

Guadalupe F. Garcia

In their attempt to see whether the cost of the American Civil War benefitted the U.S. economy, Goldin and Lewis run into several problems. They area left having to make assumptions about the economic growth rate of the North and the South in a warless situation. They also make assumptions about the indirect costs of the war on all persons in the U.S. versus the indirect costs on only the “native” population and their descendants. Ultimately, Goldin and Lewis conclude that the U.S. did not benefit from the American civil war. The costs of the war to both sides of the country were far greater than the benefits from increased industrialization post-war (as theorized by other economists). I agree with this conclusion, although war is known to promote the economy and create jobs, this war was an internal war at a time when industry was not as advanced and actually war placed a burden on the agrarian economy not to mention the number of lives it took.

james kim

As with many of the other students, I am surprised that the authors tried to put a price on human life and measure the cost of deaths in the civil war. I personally think that putting a price on life is ridiculous, but I can understand why they tried to measure the cost of the war from a purely objective standpoint. Although I think that they oversimplified many things, it is interesting to look at the costs of war from an economists point of view.

Eric Regan

I agree with most of the earlier posts that the arguments presented by Goldin and Lewis are hard to find convincing because of the many assumptions they make to reach their conclusions, especially in their attempts to quantify the growth of the economy had there been no Civil War. I find their theory very difficult to grasp because it is like trying to imagine what the world would be like if there had been no World War I or II. The consequences of war dramatically affect so many aspects of a society (political, economic, social, etc.), that simply trying to calculate the costs using several assumptions and estimates is an almost impossible task. While I think the attempts of Goldin and Lewis in using direct and indirect costs to formulate a better measure of the actual effects of the war is original and creative, I wasn't entirely convinced by some of their reasoning. Actually, I found the Beard-Hacker thesis briefly described at the end of the article, which outlines some possible benefits of industrialization that came from the war, to be more interesting and plausible than the theories of Goldin and Lewis.

Yu C Xu

To me the economic cost of American civil war can never be accurately calculated, because there were so many factors that accounts into this great calculation, both direct and indirect, and most of these factors are unpredictable. In the direct cost part, even though we can somehow estimate how much capital would we produce with the lost human and nature resources during the war, but since U.S economy heavily depended on international trading so many external factors could still effect the economy even without the war; but in fact the war did take place and the war had effected not just American economy but also British economy and even global economy at certain level, how could we possibly calculate those factors? Also as the author mentioned in the article that inflation was rapid; the war had lasted four years and during this four years a same amount of goods could worth totally different amount of dollars at different time period; plus back at that time many of the official records weren’t accurate at all, there were scandals within the government of both sides, there could be many errors in reporting and recordings of the costs. In the indirect side the author did not account in the cost of reconstruction in the postwar era, and the politically effect of shifting power from state government into federal government also effected the economy after the war. Most importantly, asking the question of “how did civil war affected American economy?” almost means the same of asking “how did the end of slavery affected American economy?” , because the result of the civil war was the end of slavery and the pass of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendment. Those effects on the economy is another huge process of calculation. This is why we can never accurately calculate the cost of civil war.

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