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In its entire history, was the 1950's the absolute best for America economically ?


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Showing 1-23 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 7, 2012 9:05:22 AM PDT
The 1950's seem to have a general reputation as being THE best decade for America ever in terms of economics -- the one where the most "boats were lifted" for our citizens.

Is this truly accurate ? Or is there a decade or era that is being overlooked and was actually better ?

Posted on May 7, 2012 9:37:17 AM PDT
Smallchief says:
The period 1945 to 1973 (source: Wikipedia) seems to have been the "Golden Age" of American prosperity. I'd say the period from about 1961 to 1969 was, economically speaking, even better than the 1950s. Steady economic growth, low unemployment, economic progress for both poor and rich. Part of the economic good times was fueled by the wartime spending for the Vietnam War.

We also, during the post-war years had the rather inflated idea that America had a superior culture and economic system and that was the reason we were, by far, the world's richest country. Actually, though we were certainly productive, it wasn't our system or our culture that made us dominant; it was the fact that we had no competition after WW II. The rest of the world was in ruins. By the 1960s, however, we began to see Volkwagens and Datsuns on our streets, signalling the decline of American economic dominance. We had gotten a little lazy and complacent.

Posted on May 7, 2012 10:53:14 AM PDT
Smallchief,

Good, thoughtful post. I would also imagine that, between the years you mention of 1961 (and with the Vietnam war draft beginning in 1964) and 1969 (and with the Vietnam war ending in 1975), taking a significant portion of 18-to-35 year olds out of the workforce to serve in the military is going to result in low unemployment as well !

Posted on May 7, 2012 11:35:56 AM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
Three important events happened around 1973-1974:

The Oil Embargo--the first signs of our vulnerability;

Roe vs. Wade--millions of unborn future citizens required the importation of cheap foreign laborers;

American Psychiatric Association dropped homosexuality as a mental illness--so began decades of cultural rancor over a new civil rights and a big change to the US military.

A lot of other things happened too but these three are, in my estimation, of considerable force against 'Life, as we knew it.'

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 11:54:15 AM PDT
Smallchief says:
Yes, the military seems to be the largest and most durable economic stimulus program of the U.S. Keynes rules!

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 3:57:15 PM PDT
reply to Robert Bykowski's post:

absolutely

1950s was the peak for the usa
and is when usa jumped the shark

its all be downhill since then

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2012 10:53:08 AM PDT
John M. Lane says:
In reply to the original post, there might be some truth to the 1950s being a "golden age" of sorts for the US. I recall some negative aspects, however.

Communist espionage in the US, for example, obtained the secrets of the atomic bomb for Stalin. For me, this involved watching teachers take loyalty oaths and all of us being instructed in how to act if the Communists launched a nuclear attack via strategic bomber or ICBM. That latter was the dark side of Sputnik.

If the Soviets could launch a satellite into earth orbit, they could launch a nuclear warhead into the US. That's something you don't see Beaver Cleaver doing, picking his route home from school so that he knows where defilade is in case of a blinding flash.

We also "lost' Hungary and Cuba and fought monolithic Communism to a stalemate in Korea. I always thought that World War III would start in Berlin, though.

I recall getting on buses that had color lines on them. The Ku Klux Klan was still strong down South. US citizens were still discriminated against legally because of the color of their skin. The 50's, in other words, weren't perfect.

Posted on May 8, 2012 3:37:28 PM PDT
further elaboration

while the 50s were the best for the usa

the ronnie reagan years were the only ones where i felt safe, happy, contented, and had hope

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2012 3:49:37 PM PDT
John

Plus there was a large percentage of working and middle class marriages under the auspices of the shotgun.

Posted on May 8, 2012 6:17:38 PM PDT
patrick says:
not sure you really needed economic performance to prosper in the 1950s, ditto countries like Australia and Canada...economic performance is probably something you only need when you have competition.
Everybody who wanted a job could find 6 of them with whatever skills or no skills in one mornings outing with a newspaper, local companies made cars, white goods and by EARLY late 50s early 60s at least TV sets, and people just bought them...

imported goods? what were they, really...where they did exist, they mostly came from other comparable countries anyway, if someone bought something not made locally chances are it came from USA or UK...
maybe possibly apart from Mercedes, only a few weirdos bought Japanese or European cars, noone trusted Japanese goods because of either poor past reputation or fresh in memory war grudges..
Everything was naive but great...here and there maybe someone wrote a Sunday newspaper column on page 32 or academic paper or book predicting that one day all of this would change , and not necessarily for the better.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2012 8:19:37 PM PDT
John M. Lane says:
I had hope in the 50s, whomper. I knew we were all on the same side. I knew what it meant to be an American and I knew we'd win if it came to a fight.

It was right after WW II and everybody's fathers, uncles, older brothers had served in the war effort. In a way, it seemed like more of the same to me.

We had bomb shelters and survival plans. I knew that if I could survive the initial blast, the rest was do-able. I heard that civil defense authorities in Nagasaki, for example, cut their casualties down by more than 1/2 compared to Hiroshima simply by advising people to duck when they became aware of a bright flash. If you stood around looking for it, the blast would hit you with flying debris.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2012 9:26:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 8, 2012 9:29:18 PM PDT
patrick says:
whether they knew it or not, and I guess they couldnt know, the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki had incentive to survive the attacks if not too severely injured...because they were in a highly limited nuclear war only, with very low power weapons.

the people contemplating global nuclear exchanges maybe from the late 50s till end of Cold War, had no such reason to expect a dawn after.

they were pretty much wasting their time ducking and covering, even if it did initially duck immediate death or critical injury and prolong their lives.
Then what?
I always considered it mostly a gimmick to shore up morale, or more likely staunch panic, to instil some sense that even if nuclear war came that there was something people could do to protect themselves from it...but to some extent, its actually valid advice at least for initial survival, eh?

Posted on May 8, 2012 10:45:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 8, 2012 10:46:46 PM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
We were trained to withstand a battlefield nuke (tactical) by throwing ourselves on the ground, helmet towards the blast, on stomach with weapon underneath and arms down side. This of course if nuke wasn't too close. Then there were covering up drills and the atropine for other nasty attacks.

Posted on May 9, 2012 1:41:47 AM PDT
patrick says:
oh, yes...I was thinking more of the civilian urban attack scenario..

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2012 6:38:55 PM PDT
Adios Amigos says:
Smallchief says:Actually, though we were certainly productive, it wasn't our system or our culture that made us dominant; it was the fact that we had no competition after WW II. The rest of the world was in ruins.
===============

true

the nation still hasn't figured that out today.

Posted on May 9, 2012 9:02:33 PM PDT
Captain says:
According to the administration, things are pretty great right now.

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2012 1:28:11 AM PDT
John M. Lane:

Some of the nasty things you set in the 1950s actually occurred in the mid to late 40s.

For instance, the Soviets had started their own full-scale nuclear bomb project in 1942. Highly valuable information on the American program provided by Soviet spies working on the Manhattan Project (primarily, but not exclusively, Klaus Fuchs) helped them accelerate their program and avoid some dangerous and costly steps that the Americans had undertaken. They then exploded their first bomb in August 1949.

Fuchs himself was arrested in early 1950, but not before providing the Soviets with even more valuable information through the late Forties that helped significantly with their development of the hydrogen bomb, first tested in 1953. he was quickly tried and sentenced to 14 years in a British prison (he was a British subject by then) but served less than ten.

The Soviets had occupied Hungary at the end of 1945. When a fairly democratic election in 1946 resulted in a clear rebuke of the Communist Party (they received a mere 17%), the Soviets refused to recognize Hungarians' democratic rights and insisted on a coalition government, with the Communists prominently represented.
One of the cabinet posts the Communists acquired was the Ministry of the Interior. In 1947, the Red Minister of the Interior started arresting key members of the two largest parties in the ruling coalition. They were imprisoned and tortured, then removed from power. By 1948, the Communists had fully seized power and outlawed all other political parties.

However, the Fifties did feature a big political boondoggle in that country. in early 1956, Matyas Rakosi, the brutal, petty, arrogant and rather incompetent Communist Party leader was removed by his Soviet patrons, who had become first embarrassed and then exasperated with him. He was replaced by Imre Nagy, whom the Soviets considered rather reliable, as he had first joined the Communist Party of Russia back at the end of WWI.

However, Nagy had changed his thinking greatly during the years of the Rakosi-led regime. Though still a Marxist, he allowed the formation of competing political parties, announced significant economic and social reforms, and capped it off by announcing Hungary's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and its intention to become a "neutral" country.

This latter happened on November 1. Three days later, the Soviets sent 150,000 additional troops and 2,500 tanks streaming into the Magyar state. Despite pleas to the West and neutral countries for assistance, the Hungarians were left to fend for themselves. Though there were a lot of fierce street battles, the Hungarian patriots were no match for those Soviet troops and tanks. The uprising was brutally put down, Nagy himself was arrested by the Soviets as he emerged from the Yugoslav Embassy (having been first promised free passage to a third country) and executed.
In one sense, the West did lose Hungary in 1956, but only because they were not able to help it out of the Soviet Union's clutches.

Posted on May 10, 2012 1:53:22 AM PDT
Mark Twain says:
The '50s were great, if you were white, male, able-bodied and straight. For everyone else, they were a living hell.

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2012 2:07:28 AM PDT
Adios Amigos says:
Richard A. Lord, aka Richard Lord says:
John M. Lane:

Some of the nasty things you set in the 1950s actually occurred in the mid to late 40s.

For instance, the Soviets had started their own full-scale nuclear bomb project in 1942. Highly valuable information on the American program provided by Soviet spies working on the Manhattan Project

====================

it amazes me that spies have been able to infiltrate our most sensitive and secure secret projects.

Posted on May 10, 2012 5:44:07 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2012 5:45:58 AM PDT
B. A. Dilger says:
A personal note: the latter part of the 50's were great for me because my father was a forest ranger and we lived in a forest. As a very young child I wandered through the woods with my "lassie" as guide and protector. Eden soon was lost when the financial pressure of raising a family to gain upward mobility was required. This was possible in those days, when one parent could earn enough to support five (and more) while the other parent managed the household. These days of two-income households, requiring two cars and nursery/day care raise the costs of living considerably. Instead of some surcease from economic pressures, liberation of the sexes has brought increased running on a treadmill for families.

Posted on May 12, 2012 7:50:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 12, 2012 7:52:33 PM PDT
B.A. Dilger says: " Instead of some surcease from economic pressures, liberation of the sexes has brought increased running on a treadmill for families."

That seems to be the undeniable quandry. On the one hand, you don't want to deny either sex the opportunity to have personal fulfillment through a career of their choosing. But on the other hand, we remember when each sex fulfilling a role within the family structure (so to speak) also brought less psychological stress to the table, and it was financially feasible to maintain things that way. It's an unresolvable conflict.

The 1960's was the best for music, the realization of civil rights and more opportunities for women and minorities. But in every other way, it appears that the 1950's ruled.

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2012 1:34:01 AM PDT
patrick says:
theres undoubtedly a right to work or seek work, or if not we are right into Talliban country, sure, but I do think that so far as families go, where two incomes are now deemed to be just as essential as one used to be, if people were not addicted to CRAP, 2 cars or even a third a truck or SUV to tow another item of CRAP, enormous houses (where families got smaller , homes got bigger as someone pointed out) which then have to be filled with CRAP,needless to say children demanding never ending streams of more CRAP,everyone running amok with credit cards wracking this garbage up,
we then actually wouldnt need these two substantial incomes to support our usually small families.
The bulk of this crap surely is imported, its actual manufacture has no economic employment benefit locally except in distribution, warehousing and retailing it, if demand for it fell the huge trade deficits of nations like US would also shrink, If (presumably) more women were thus able to stay home their job places would no doubt in many cases be filled by now unemployed or underemployed men..
Apart from the benefits of having lots of CRAP its hard to see a downside..
the feminists wouldnt like it, of course, if the participation of females in the workplace fell, it would all be a patriarchal chauvinist conspiracy , other than that, its hard to see a downside.

In reply to an earlier post on May 27, 2012 1:48:29 PM PDT
I haven't researched this, but what about the 1980s and 1990s before the .com bust? I know that tax revenues to the government doubled during the 80's, though taxes were cut. This would seem to indicate a certain high level of prosperity and the stock market skyrocketed in the 90's, but given the bust this might not be a good indicator.

James Rada, Jr.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  12
Total posts:  23
Initial post:  May 7, 2012
Latest post:  May 27, 2012

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