The Good Old Days
The term “good old days” has been around for many years. Older people have and still do like to sometimes reflect on how much better their lives were at various times in the past than they are now.
The subjects are varied. They range from how much less things cost back then to how much less crime we had. For the most part, these things are true, but most of these people have not been able to comprehend the fundamental reason why few things have turned to the better and most have gone the other way.
One of the best decades of the 20th century began about 1952 (when the Korean War ended) and lasted until 1964 (when LBJ initiated devastating social programs and escalated the Vietnam War). Times were very good. America was the manufacturing giant of the world. Nearly everything in the stores was made in the USA and was of excellent quality and reasonably priced. Most people held well-paying jobs. People had ample time for vacations and recreation. Crime was low. Welfare programs were minimal, so few people became addicted to them and decayed into deadbeats. Teenage and out of wedlock births were few, even among blacks, and when they did happen, they were severely frowned upon. The vast majority of children had both a mother and a father. Public education was of a much higher caliber than it is today, but its cost was much, much less.
Taxes back then were far lower than they are today. In Montgomery, the sales tax totaled only 3%—2% state and 1% city. Today we shell out 10%. State income taxes were much lower because the tax brackets were about the same as they are today, but a dollar then was worth about ten of today’s dollars. A man who lived near Prattville had a 110 acre farm with a fine house, a barn, and other buildings—a property now worth over a million dollars. In the mid 1950’s, he said to his wife, “It’s time to pay our property taxes. Let’s pick up some of our pecans and sell them.” In about 30 minutes or less, they finished, took them to town, and sold them for enough money to pay the taxes—about $10 or so. And yet, the quality of public services back then was superior to what we have now—in other words, keeping the roads in good shape, protecting us from criminals, and otherwise leaving us alone to pursue our happiness, unmolested.
Traffic fines were also much less: Running a stop sign was $2, a red light $5, speeding $10, and reckless driving $25. The top fine was $100 for “drunk driving” (what we now call DUI). Multiply these figures by 10 to allow for inflation and compare them to today’s fines.
There are a few things in life today that have greatly improved. Almost all of them are the result of developments in technology—communication and weather satellites, high definition television, digital photography, LED lighting, advances in medicine and health care, and perhaps the foremost modern asset of them all, the internet—the greatest educational tool that has ever been devised.
But with the exception of technology, however, life in America and most other parts of the world has gone downhill. The claimed reasons are many—war, hunger, overcrowding, depletion of resources, crime, terrorism, etc.
So what were the factors that caused this severe decline in the quality of life? People blame all kinds of things, but there is one root cause—government. Government is the villain that has spawned the aforementioned war, hunger, overcrowding, depletion of resources, crime, terrorism, etc.
In these earlier days, government at all levels made a much smaller impact onto our lives. The multitudes of oppressive, unconstitutional agencies and programs did not exist in anywhere near the quantities we have today. Health care was 100% private, but it was far more affordable than it is now. Public education was limited to the local communities and therefore far easier for parents to monitor. Draconian regulatory agencies did not exist. Businesses could hire the people they chose without being subjected to mandates to hire certain percentages of “minorities” or meet ridiculous safety regulations. People could live on and use their private property with no fears of goons stepping in and declaring that it was “unsafe” or a “nuisance.”
Most of the government we had then was service oriented. Today it is mostly enforcement oriented, and more and more of that enforcement is for matters that should be left strictly alone. In earlier times, law enforcement targeted criminals—people who actually violated other people. Today it largely targets consensual “crimes” that have no victims and sometimes turns real criminals loose because the jails are full. And finally, American government meddling has spread to other parts of the world and has stirred up a hornets’ nest of unspeakable horror.
Leaving things alone is a thing that all levels of government must learn. Meddling with a “problem”—real or imagined—almost always results in either making the problem worse or making a problem out of something that never was one.
And of course, we see one more reason we must never consent to more taxes. Instead, priority one should be cutting out the parts of government we are better off without.