When President Carter called us onto the “battlefield of energy,” he was only the latest leader to suppose that peacetime problems can be solved by applying the alleged wartime virtues of unity, productivity, and sacrifice. As early as the 1820s, Americans feared that national idealism was dying along with the generation of Valley Forge. From the 1880s to the early 20th century, preachers, teachers, and politicians tried to revive Civil War heroism as an antidote to Gilded Age gre...
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