The Country That Was

From Derek Leebaert’s cold war book, The Fifty-Year Wound, a brief portrait of America in 1963—of the nation, in other words, just before Lyndon Johnson enacted the Great Society:

With unemployment around 4.5 percent, the average hourly wage was $2.14 in an economy in which a family of six could be well fed on $30 a week.  For 10 years, inflation had averaged 1.3 percent.

An amazing 96 percent of Americans believed that their standard of living would keep improving.

Riochet Sunday morning essay assigment:  In no more than 200 words, explain how we went from there to…here.

  1. Israel P.

    I never had the feeling that President Johnson was an ideological Progressive in the FDR-Wilson mold, certainly not the “let’s create more dependents” Progressive that came later and culminated in Obama.

    But that is when the sheer size of the federal government began to get truly out of hand (ie accelerating the growth in the number of government employees) while at the same time creating new dependencies as unintended consequences of Medicare and the various “War on Poverty” programs.

    It made living off other peoples’ money something no longer to be embarrassed by.

  2. Scott R

    Explain? Why?

    “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

  3. sven141

    Fiat currency.

  4. Fricosis Guy

    Lee Harvey Oswald, LBJ, and Richard Nixon.

    Nixon, you say? We conservatives give Nixon too much of a pass re: his role in consolidating the administrative state (EPA, anyone?). He was so statist that imposed wage and price controls. Oh, and he ended convertibility to gold in 1971 per @sven141.

  5. Black Prince

    By allowing…

    Marxist/Leninist ideology [to be] pumped into the soft heads of at least three generations of American students without being challenged or counterbalanced by the basic values of Americanism or American patriotism.

    - Yuri Bezmenov, 1985

  6. Yeah...ok.

    Television

  7. Augustine

    I don’t have to explain because Charles Murray did almost 30 years ago now in Losing Ground and then he did it again last year with Coming Apart.    In short, the welfare state coupled with social revolution created a series of incentives for the poor to avoid work, avoid marriage, and to see themselves not as free people with dignity but as victims whose needs must be provided by a benevolent government.  The rise of the GOA (Generous Outside Agency) then worked to further erode the social fabric and civil society that once held the lives of the poor together and gave it that quiet dignity that once defined “poor, but proud.”  I would also cite Philip Rief’s diagnosis of the “theraputic state” that provides further support for the above. 

  8. raycon and lindacon

    For the children.  A nation which gives it’s future over to her progeny before they become wise with age has destroyed their children’s future.

  9. Rightfromthestart

    I’ve wondered and pondered about this for 45 years.  I’ve written before how I went into the Navy in 1964 in Richie Cunningham’s  Happy days America and got out three years later into Haight- Ashbury America. The world turned upside down in 1965. I felt like a stranger among my own age cohort.

     Things changed so rapidly  that by the early 70′s there were at least two TV shows (Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley) and two movies (Last Picture Show, American Graffiti) and probably several others which featured nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of the late 50′s, a period merely 15 years earlier, as if it were another country. 

     Reasons?  All of the leftist boll weevils exploded out into the culture almost at the same time. It was a leftist coup we never saw coming.  Start with weak kneed college administrators, why didn’t they expel the rioters and occupiers immediately? 

     How about this quote from LBJ  ‘ I’ll have them n*****rs voting Democrat for the next 200 years’  followed by the McGovern wing takeover of the Democrat party a few years later.    

  10. Jimmy Carter

    Walter Cronkite

  11. Leslie Watkins

    Success. As George Will once said, all of our problems derive from success. In the midsixties, the bloom was still opening. It’s fully open now, with decaying glick descending from the tip of each petal toward the compressed center core. It has the look of what it once was, but it’s only a veneer. Ain’t no stopping us now. 

  12. raycon and lindacon

    Yuri Bezmenov was mentioned above.  Here is his explanation of how we got here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlpODYhnPEo

  13. KC Mulville

    Why do I suspect (OK, hope) we’ll have the author for a guest soon? If we do, it’ll be fun. 

    I followed the link to Amazon, because it sounded like an intriguing book. I won’t attempt to comment on the details of his thesis, because I haven’t read the book, but it sounds like an interesting angle on the topic.  According to the [not-always reliable] comments there, Derek Leebaert’s thesis is that the infrastructure of the Cold War may or may not have “won” there, but it certainly set us up for a fall. I’m willing to buy that.

    The problem likely began before the Cold War, though. IMO the chief difference between [the first 150 years] of America versus [what has come since] is the attitude toward government. That changed post-Depression and into World War II.

    In short, I’d argue America had always lacked a distinctive class consciousness. In turn, for that same reason, America distrusted government, precisely because it was composed of people like the rest of us. There was no sense that a representative was an expert or genius. So we didn’t expect much from them. 

  14. Lensman

    It was like a perfect storm, elements of which were building for the previous 50 years. (1) The Progressive Movement took over academia. The trend identified by Wm. F. Buckley in God & Man at Yale (1951) finished its sweep across the country. (2) Kennedy’s assassination (1963) ended anti-communism in the Dem Party. (3) Keynesian economics  justified  government over-spending as an economic stimulus (1965). (4) LBJ’s Great Society (1965) removed the element of shame from welfare programs and introduced the trends that destroyed the Black Family. (5) Cheap birth control and widely available abortion amplified trends that have destroyed the intact family for half of America. (6) The glorification of the popular youth culture (e.g. rock & roll) made perpetual adolescence respectable.

    Summing up: the moral culture that Madison and the other Founders thought essential to our country thriving under our Constitution largely disappeared from what are now called “Blue States.” California is a wreck, instead of the engine of our economic prosperity. It is no accident that Texas is thriving. Its culture looks more like 1962.

  15. Valiuth
    Peter Robinson: 

    With unemployment around 4.5 percent, the average hourly wage was $2.14 in an economy in which a family of six could be well fed on $30 a week.  For 10 years, inflation had averaged 1.3 percent.

    An amazing 96 percent of Americans believed that their standard of living would keep improving.

    Average income in 1964 was around 6000$ per family today it is 52000$. This is 8.66 times higher than it was back then. Are you saying a family of 6 can’t eat well on a weekly budget of 260$? 

    Life today is not worse than it was back 40 some odd years ago. It just isn’t. Conservatives make this argument all the time to combat desires by the left to raise taxes and expand the welfare state. We can’t have our cake and eat it too with this. The average family is wealthier today than it was back in 1963. We have not become poorer despite all of the Great Society programs. I would argue though that too much of this sentimentality is nostalgia. 

    Who would really like to go back to 1963 and live then?

  16. Trajan
    Cattle King: I don’t have to explain because Charles Murray did almost 30 years ago now in Losing Ground and then he did it again last year with Coming Apart.    In short, the welfare state coupled with social revolution created a series of incentives for the poor to avoid work, avoid marriage, and to see themselves not as free people with dignity but as victims whose needs must be provided by a benevolent government.  The rise of the GOA (Generous Outside Agency) then worked to further erode the social fabric and civil society that once held the lives of the poor together and gave it that quiet dignity that once defined “poor, but proud.”  I would also cite Philip Rief’s diagnosis of the “theraputic state” that provides further support for the above.  · 3 hours ago

    Well said- in short the Life of Julia ( soon to be the Life of Julio too), has in affect, taken hold. Is it any accident singles, at or below the national income avg. overwhelmingly voted for Obama? 

    The death of shame, the Protestant work ethic ( see Malangas excellent treatise ) , there is no dignity rich or poor unless the government bestows it.

  17. Sabrdance

    I propose an alternate theory because I’m reading Eisenhower’s farewell address: Technology and Expertise happened.

    The limited government of the pre-war era was predicated on the notion that anyone could do anything.  My uncle says my Grandfather (1890) believed “if all else failed, you could always go west and farm.”  And he did.  A different uncle (1940) believed that you could always enlist in the army and make something of yourself.  And I have argued (based on James Q. Wilson’s Bureaucracy), that pre-war Government was filled with clerks who were all equally replacable.

    None of that is true anymore.  Farming, industry, the military, and even the government functions we believe should belong to DC are all massively technical and require expertise to operate.  As a result, functioning in the modern world also requires massive expertise.

    You can live cheaply, but you can’t work cheaply -an expert could figure out how to replace you easily, and cheap workers and elected officials are the last people in a position to successfully argue against such experts.

    And the benefits of technology and expertise are so obvious, it is hard to even point out their drawbacks.

  18. iDad
    Valiuth

     

    Average income in 1964 was around 6000$ per family today it is 52000$. This is 8.66 times higher than it was back then. Are you saying a family of 6 can’t eat well on a weekly budget of 260$? 

    Life today is not worse than it was back 40 some odd years ago. It just isn’t. Conservatives make this argument all the time to combat desires by the left to raise taxes and expand the welfare state. We can’t have our cake and eat it too with this. The average family is wealthier today than it was back in 1963. We have not become poorer despite all of the Great Society programs. I would argue though that too much of this sentimentality is nostalgia. 

    Who would really like to go back to 1963 and live then? · 22 minutes ago

    Even if the sole measure of well-being was wealth, you fail to consider the certainty that the prosperity you claim is unsustainable.

  19. Trajan
    iDad

    Valiuth

     

    Even if the sole measure of well-being was wealth, you fail to consider the certainty that the prosperity you claim is unsustainable. · 16 minutes ago

    I agree to an extent when it comes to appurtenances etc. However, how much ‘wealthier’ would we be with a regulatory status more equal to 1963 than now?

    My father recently sold his home, he bought it in 1978, he came across his original signing  docs. while packing, the Hud 1 et al , those original signing docs held a total of 18 pages and his signature was required 5 times.

    If you have bought a home in the last 20 years, you’d know that this is as archaic as the magna carta comparatively, whats the count now? 60? 80? I think I signed at least 20 times in 2002,  every single one of those additional pages and signatures represents an added cost, see my point?