Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Nostalgia is harmful

From this column by Matt Yglesias:

"A healthy chunk of reactionary politics is just literally nostalgia. But Sargon here is talking about a cover of a Michael Jackson song by a band whose lead singer’s mother was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico."


...But factually speaking, living standards have risen dramatically since the era of that photo, and people who lived like that would be poor today.

And of course actual poor people in the 1950s lived in terrible conditions. The Census says that 35 percent of homes in 1950 lacked complete plumbing facilities; that fell to “only” 16.8 percent of homes by 1960.

In 1950, most homes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia didn’t have complete plumbing. By 1960, the numbers in some of those states were still chillingly high by contemporary standards, but they’d fallen a lot and every state had full plumbing in the majority of homes. To the extent that nostalgia for that era makes sense, it’s that people who lived through it got to experience extremely rapid improvements in living conditions. More recently, things have continued to get better, but they’ve gotten better more slowly.

Also from Kevin Drum: How Do We Compare to the 90s?

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