Sunday, November 26, 2006

American Raj: how it felt

David Seaton's News Links
Among the very few conservative American political commentators that can be read with fruition and without retching is the ever civil and always civilized George Will. In today's Washington Post he gives a very good description of how America of the 1950s felt. This was when the USA was really and truly the world's only superpower. When did it end? It felt like it ended when Kennedy got shot, but it probably ended on August 15, 1971 when Nixon took the dollar off gold. Few countries have declined so fast, without losing a world war. Those who lived the period will recognize the accompanying illustration, and those born in a less innocent era may think there is even a porno reference. Times change. DS
Abstract: In 1951, when the average American ate 50 percent more than the average European, Americans(...) controlled two-thirds of the world's productive capacity, owned 80 percent of the world's electrical goods, and produced more than 40 percent of its electricity, 60 percent of its oil and 66 percent of its steel. America's 5 percent of the world's population had more wealth than the other 95 percent, and Americans made almost all of what they consumed: 99.93 percent of new cars sold in this country in 1954 were U.S. brands. By the end of the '50s, GM was a bigger economic entity than Belgium, and Los Angeles had more cars than did Asia -- cars for a gadget-smitten people, cars with Strato-Streak engines, Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic transmissions and Torsion-Aire suspensions. The 1958 Lincoln Continental was 19 feet long. And before television arrived (in 1950, 40 percent of Americans had never seen a television program; by May 1953 Boston had more televisions than bathtubs) America made almost a million comic books a month. Consider what was new or not invented then: ballpoint pens, contact lenses, credit cards, power steering, long-playing records, dishwashers, garbage disposals. And remember words now no longer heard: icebox, dime store, bobby socks, panty raid, canasta (a card game). In 1951 a Tennessee youth was arrested on suspicion of narcotics possession. The brown powder was a new product -- instant coffee.(...) The '50s did have worries. When a contestant on a TV game show said his wife's astrological sign was Cancer, the cigarette company sponsoring the show had the segment refilmed and her sign changed to Aries. You could get 14 years in an Indiana prison for instigating anyone under age 21 to "commit masturbation." And to get a New York fishing license, you had to swear a loyalty oath. READ IT ALL

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