by Gary North
February 23 was my 35th wedding anniversary. When we married, we could have bought a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in the Los Angeles area for about $80,000. That doesn't sound like much, does it? But the purchasing power of the dollar was about five times greater in 1972. According to the Inflation Calculator of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whatever cost $1,000 in 1972 costs $4,843 today.
I bought my first — and only — new car in 1972. It was a 4-door Toyota Corolla. It cost $2,200.
We lived in Irvington, New York. I was the youngest senior staff member of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), which published the monthly magazine, The Freeman. I had been writing for it since February, 1967, which makes this month my 40th anniversary as a FEE author.
As I look back, I think, "Are things better today than in 1972?" The answer is overwhelmingly "yes."
THE BAD OLD DAYS
In 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a potentially deadly Cold War. In that year, the Nixon Administration authorized the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company to sell the USSR the unique ball bearing technology which made possible MIRVed nuclear missiles. That allowed the USSR to multiply ten-fold its nuclear attack capacity against the U.S. That decision made several million dollars for Bryant and cost the U.S. government probably an extra trillion dollars in defense. It was therefore great for the defense industries on both sides of the Iron Curtain. It was not so great for taxpayers.
It still isn't. Most of those Russian missiles either still exist or have been replaced by modern missiles. Government bureaucracies don't fold up and go away just because the problems they were created to deal with have disappeared. There is no sunset law for mushroom clouds.
In August, 1991, the USSR went belly-up. Russian nationalism didn't, but Communist ideology did. From that day on, Marxists in American universities started being laughed at by their left-liberal colleagues. The nation's used book bins filled up with titles like What Marx Really Meant.
In 1972, nobody saw this coming. Well, only one man. Andrei Amalrik, a former Soviet concentration camp resident, in 1969 had written a samizdat-circulated article titled, "Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?" It was published by Harper & Row in the United States in 1970. Nobody in the West believed him. He was sent once again into the gulag because of his book.
In 1972, marginal income tax rates in the United States topped out at 70%. That was down from 91% under Truman and Eisenhower. Kennedy had pushed through the reduction.
Nixon had declared price and wage controls on August 15, 1971, the same Sunday that he unilaterally broke the contract of the Bretton Woods agreement: to deliver gold to foreign central banks at $35/oz. The shortages created by the controls were beginning to be felt across the economy.
The Vietnam war was still in full swing. The death toll kept climbing on both sides.
I still typed on a Hermes 3000, a portable manual typewriter that I had owned for a decade. I did not switch to an electric until I joined the staff of Congressman Ron Paul in 1976, when I got to use an IBM Selectric with an erase tape. Wow! High tech!
Book publication was still limited to companies that could afford to hire Linotype operators. These huge machines used hot lead to create blocks of pages.
My first book, Marx's Religion of Revolution, had been published by a tiny publishing house, Craig Press, in 1968. It sold for $2.75 in paperback. In today's money, that was about $16. Today, I typeset my own books on a $25 software program. I can post them on my website in about 90 seconds. I can sell them or give them away. I can also have them printed, one copy at a time: print on demand. A digital system takes the order on-line, prints the book, collates it, binds it, wraps it, inserts it into a mailer, addresses it, and puts it in a pile for UPS to pick up. What is the total cost for a paperback the size of "Marx's Religion"? Maybe $10, plus postage. I will get a royalty payment sent to me every few months. If I ordered 3,000 copies, I would probably pay $2 each. I don't need a book publisher to publish a book. Neither do you.
In 1972, the three television networks had oligopolistic control over commercial television. There was no satellite TV. There were a few cable systems in the boondocks, but they broadcast mainly network TV.
Print newspapers dominated daily news. The AP and UPI news wires had something approaching a monopoly.
There was no satellite talk radio.
Conservatives could barely afford to buy radio time on local stations — not network radio. They could barely afford to buy television time on non-network TV stations.
There were few computerized data bases, since computer time and programming expenses served as barriers to entry.
There were no microcomputers.
There were no commercial word processors.
There were no spell-check programs.
There was no home schooling network of parents who had pulled their children out of the tax-funded schools. There were no K-12 curriculums for private Protestant day schools, let alone home schools, or if there were, they were baptized versions of secular textbooks that were sold to immigrant church-related parochial schools.
There were no home video recorders.
There were no CDs.
There were legislated price floors everywhere: plane fares, trucking, telephones, legal services, physicians' services. Prices were high.
David Rockefeller had a free ride from the media — untouchable. (Oops. Sorry. That is still true.)
These, I suspect, have not changed much over the last 4,000 years. But each generation must internalize what they were told by their parents. What does change is technology, which provides greater opportunities to foul up — cheaper, faster, and more often.
These lessons are learned in the school of hard knocks. You will learn 80% of them this way. If you could learn 20% of them by hard knocks and 80% by either intuition or imitation, your life would be much more pleasant.
Keep your word. Stay with your spouse. The grass may look greener on the other side of the fence. You will take a severe clipping to get there.
Learn to lie believably. Wives don't look fat. "More to squeeze!" Balding men are really sexier. "Not like teenage boys with acne."
Work out monthly a money budget before you get married. Stick to it thereafter.
Don't argue about money unless you have a budget. Then argue only about the budget: "If you'll cut back here, I'll cut back there."
Give away 10% of your gross income every month.
Save 10% of your after-tax income every month.
Set a monthly time budget if you sense that time is slipping away and you don't know why.
If your in-laws interfere, move.
If something bad for you is addictive in your life, avoid it completely. Set an example for your spouse and your kids.
Say "yes, dear" at least once a day.
Hang up any clothes that you don't put in the hamper.
Establish a division of domestic labor, and then don't criticize your spouse's performance unless you are willing to take 100% responsibility for the task.
Nagging doesn't work with anyone over 15.
If your spouse nags you repeatedly about anything, ask to see an official list of naggable infractions. Then work on all of them until the nagging stops. Set an example.
If the nagging continues, say "yes, dear," and then ignore it.
If you just can't stand it any more, make up your own list and then insist on swapping lists.
It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house (Proverbs 21:9 — see also 25:24).
Turn off the TV after 10 p.m., no matter what. If you must see something, record it and watch it tomorrow or on the weekend.
Talk more often. Listen more often.
Bite your tongue. "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" (James 3:5).
Decide on a joint lifetime project and begin to pursue it together. Don't stop unless you find a more important joint lifetime project. Then switch.
Tell your children they are doing a good job whenever they try to do a good job. The older they are, the less they respond to negative sanctions or threats thereof.
Show them how to budget.
To persuade them against buying a cheap radio, spend whatever you must to buy them a good music system — with no radio.
Tell them not to get a tattoo. "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:28). This may not seem like much of an infraction. It is. It marks them forever as being lower class, even if they aren't.
Tell yourself daily: "Every minute spent with my kids is fleeting. The #1 benefit is the time spent, not the project completed."
Your children will leave. Work very hard on whatever you want them to take with them.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a slogan: "Easy does it."
This applies to marriage.
AA has another slogan: "One day at a time." This also applies to marriage.
If you have learned any other lessons, send them to me.
February 24, 2007
Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com