1960's and 70's had many of today's themes

I know that for many it seems like our troubles today are unique and worse than recent memory, and for those who are out of work, today is bad, no doubt. But for perspective it can be helpful today to read books and articles from other tough periods in human history. The 60's and 70's for example, were similar to today in many ways: deleveraging economy, over-indebted people and economies, OPEC Oil Crisis, Watergate, Viet Nam, social dis-ease.
Before the 60’s, the late 40's and 1950's were a period of remarkable growth and prosperity in North America. Not having to dig itself out of post-war rubble was an advantage that North America had over Europe and Japan. America was the industrial power best equipped to help the world rebuild after the war. It brought in the GI Bill to offer affordable housing and post-secondary education programs to its war vets. Everyone was buying houses, raising families and spending money. And then after this remarkable period of rejuvenation, came the usual suspects of over-capacity, inflation, over-indebtedness and the down side of up. Peter Bernstein was one of the big picture economic commentators writing about it in real time:
“It may be said that the pride of prosperity is resurgence of our sense of social indignation – social urgency – that poverty, filth, disease, or discrimination should exist anywhere in America or elsewhere. If we can recapture this passion for social justice that carried the nation to greatness in the past, we shall find that the price we must pay is but a small one indeed for the rewards it can bring to us and to our children.”
PETER L. BERNSTEIN, The Price of Prosperity, 1962
People generally get a whole lot humbler after the boom. The world gets scaled back down to a more practical model and we work away at the recovery. This is the normal course; the way our problems have always been solved over time.

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2 Responses to 1960's and 70's had many of today's themes

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, all our problems have NOT been solved over time. Instead, they have been procrastinated into the future. Like the house that is never repaired, a new coat of paint hides the decay. Debt grows and value decays.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Reading this article, I am flooded with a wave of sentiment and optimism (mind you, I am listening to Neil Young's Hey Hey My My, while reading this). The history lesson is great and brings context.
    Of course, it reminds of a quote I recently read. Tom Bradley of Steadyhand ended a blog entry, Five Lessons from the Recession — Relearned (http://steadyhand.com/globe_articles/2009/07/13/five_lessons_from_the_recession/), with a quote from Jeremy Grantham:
    “We will learn an enormous amount in a very short time, quite a bit in the medium term and absolutely nothing in the long term. That would be the historical precedent.”
    — Jeremy Grantham quoted in Barrons
    Reading this, reminded me that, shortly, we will be in the short and medium term for the foreseeable future.
    Thank you.

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