A Compelling Theory of the Past

So, I came across this article, and as much as I like to be critical of every theory that I read, I can’t find much in this one that I can argue with.


It describes the economic picture following World War II up until the most recent recession and the policies that backed it up.  We went from 30 years of the most explosive and inclusive economic growth the world has ever seen – all underpinned by high taxes for the rich, a strong safety net for the not-so-rich, and massive government investments in infrastructure and research – to 30 years of stagnation and inequality in which the government pulled back on taxes, safety nets, and investment.

It is difficult to argue with recent history.  If this was about centuries-old economic policies, it might be debatable.  But we’re talking the past 60 years here, a time period in which a good majority of us remember vividly.  Conservatives actively argue that we need to get back to the glory days of America, and by that, they mean the economic growth of the mid-20th Century.  But they conveniently overlook the economic and social policies that supported such growth.  It is not as if they have forgotten: the growth of the modern conservative movement occurred in reaction to a strong central government.  As the economy began to change with better technology and globalization, causing middle-class wages to stagnate, government didn’t adapt to the new economy, so conservatives (ignoring the previous 30 years of policy) proclaimed that government was the problem.  I think liberals could also argue that we need to get back to the glory days of the mid-1950s by reinstituting the policies – with some modernizations – that supported that growth.

I’m a moderate at heart, but honestly, I’m finding it more and more difficult to justify anything that is coming out of the conservative movement these days.  There are singular policies that I can support, such as reduced corporate subsidies and ensuring federal funds are not being used for abortion.  However, when I look at the overall conservative political philosophy, I can’t help but cringe.  But I want to be fair about this.  I know many of you are conservatives, and thoughtful ones at that.  I also know many of you are staunch moderates and react against both conservative and liberal talking points.  So, my challenge to all of you is to tell me a different story of the past 60 years.  We all have different opinions about what the role of government is in the economy, so it stands to reason that we have different understandings of what has happened in the past.  I want to know how Robert Reich is wrong.