The 20th Century was just a bubble – by Pete Kasperowicz
The last few weeks calls to mind a passage I remember reading to my daughter, from Little House in the Prairie. The little girls would walk a few miles to school by themselves, and then for lunch, they’d unwrap some bread and butter, and drink some water from the well. Then they would walk all the way home.
What a miserable way to live. No wonder they invented all this cool stuff around us.
Now I can wake up, eat a few raspberries from the fridge that we imported from Chile or somewhere, jump in the car, let my GPS alert me to any number of gas stations, stop at one of them and buy a diet cherry Dr. Pepper if I’m thirsty, go to the airport, stand there while a moving sidewalk pushes me and other lazy people to their gate, fly to any city in the world after deciding which one of 20 beverages I’d like to consume while five miles up in the air, and possibly complain if the flight is delayed by 10 minutes or if the airline has the audacity to have me on anything other than a direct flight.
The 20th century was the one where humans, apparently sick of eating bread and butter after walking all day, completely terra-formed the country to serve man. It is as if someone woke up and said, “We will show those little Ingalls girls how to really live.”
So we did it. We created an infrastructure unlike anything seen in the history of the world. You can now pretty much bar hop across America. If you have money in your pocket, you need no provisions. Restaurants, hotels, gas stations, airports, and Internet service.
But was any of this ever affordable? Maybe some of the roads were. But they were followed by bus terminals, expanded sea ports, and the newest modern convenience, the airport.
These incredibly expensive airports were government-funded, although they are seen as a useful public good because they encourage the formation of private companies. That is, they allow airlines, using jet airplanes developed through the help of government subsidies and bought with the help of government subsidies, to set up dozens of air service routes, none of which have ever been profitable in the history jet-powered flight.
And that’s just airports. Along the way, we dabbled in skyscrapers, courthouses, shipping infrastructure, federal health programs, sports complexes, military infrastructure, rail, highway expansion, bridges, and lots of those new, phony “town square” fountains that seem to be popping up everywhere.
The truth is, it was never affordable. We as a nation invented the credit card, ran it up, and now will have to invent the credit hangover. As it turns out, this creation of ours, the comfortable 20th century, was just the product of a huge bubble, as the chart on this page shows.
Note the frenzy of activity beginning around 1950, when the stock market began its cocky climb to 1,000, which it hit by the mid-sixties. Then, fueled on by arrogance and hubris, it soared to nearly 12,000 by the end of the century.
Note the “head and shoulders” pattern forming: the first shoulder was in the 1970s, the giant head is the peak in the last few years, and a new shoulder is forming as we speak.
I predict a decline to pre-bubble stable point of about 100, first hit in about 1917. There is still time to break out those bread recipes, and meet someone with a cow to ensure a steady supply of butter.
Oh yeah, and get some good walking shoes..© Copyright 2011 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed