The centenary of World War I has drawn surprisingly little attention. And this is unfortunate because the Great War offers many opportunities for reflection on statesmanship, the losses of war, and the strategies and tactics of military leaders. One event in 1917 merits particular attention as an occasion to reflect upon the costs of war and national strategy.
When Gary Becker put forward his idea of human capital in 1964, it was to address the effects of knowledge and training on individual economic performance. This idea can and should be extended to gauge the productive capacities of society in general.
Cultural patterns of behavior that become engrained over time, such as norms of punctuality, honesty, sobriety, or what others might call social capital, are just another way of speaking about human capital. When Max Weber described the attributes of character that marked the modern bourgeois, he was in fact emphasizing patterns of beliefs that facilitated the operation of markets by enabling individuals to effectively negotiate their social landscape—to engage in commerce and production over the long run.