Economics History The Opinionsphere

The Reagan Revolution (cont.)

I’m a bit annoyed at the fact that Krugman’s book – which I have not read – makes almost precisely the same point I’ve been making – but which I thought was mine independently, though inspired a bit by a phrase Stephen Metcalf tossed off in an essay on Tom Cruise:

The ’80s did for money what the ’60s did for sex.

Instead, from that phrase – likely inspired by Metcalf’s reading of Krugman – I reconstructed the view of history Krugman was advancing. I wrote:

This stability of the 1950s and 1960s came at the expense of tamping down certain social and economic forces. The social stability was torn apart by the Civil Rights movement, feminism, free love, and the later radicalisms of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This culture war has been dominating politics since then.

The economic stability of this period was destroyed by the forces of extreme capitalism, greed, deregulation, and other economic radicalisms of the 1970s and early 1980s – as labor unions were undermined, executive compensation grew exponentially, social mobility was impeded, and economic power concentrated in a handful of large corporations.

Lindsey quotes Krugman’s book in his essay:

For a generation after World War II, fear of outrage kept executive salaries in check. Now the outrage is gone. That is, the explosion in executive pay represents a social change…like the sexual revolution of the 1960’s—a relaxation of old strictures, a new permissiveness, but in this case the permissiveness is financial rather than sexual.

History Humor The Opinionsphere

The Twin Radical 20th Century American Revolutions

One of the points I tried to make in this piece this October was the similarity of the radicalism of the 1980s to the radicalism of the 1960s – and how both were responsible for overturning the economic and social stability of the 1950s and early 1960s. But Stephen Metcalf in a review of Tom Cruise’s career for Slate summarized almost my entire point with this:

The ’80s did for money what the ’60s did for sex.

Metcalf goes on:

They told a miraculously tempting lie about the curative powers of disinhibition. It took AIDS, feminism, and sociobiology a while to catch up to our illusions about free love. It has taken cronyism, speculation, and manic overleveraging a while to catch up to our illusions about free money.