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Old 07-26-2014, 07:48 AM   #61
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I'll define "used to be" as 50 years ago, so 1964. Our childhood home was not air-conditioned. Stop right there - - things are much better.
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Old 07-26-2014, 10:30 AM   #62
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I'll define "used to be" as 50 years ago, so 1964. Our childhood home was not air-conditioned. Stop right there - - things are much better.
Mine wasn't either, except for my parents' bedroom and we kids weren't allowed to play in there.

I used to play outside a lot when I was a kid, in the late 50's. Nobody ever worried about me running around the neighborhood with my brothers or friends until after 9PM. I guess we didn't get more than a mile from home, but still, I think that today that would not be considered safe for a young girl in any big city.

Seemed like life was much simpler then. Maybe that was at least partly due to my youth. It was pretty easy to know right from wrong, compared with today's complexities. Many people did not lock cars or even their front door. We weren't always fending off scammers and con artists. We weren't drowning in junk mail, either. It's easy to get nostalgic about those times, but I am happier now so some aspects of life must be improving.
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Old 07-26-2014, 10:44 AM   #63
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WR2 when my parents sold the home I grew up in ~77, the new owners asked for the keys. My parents didn't even know where they were. That house had never been locked in 20 years, despite a few 4 week vacations.

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Old 07-26-2014, 10:56 AM   #64
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WR2 when my parents sold the home I grew up in ~77, the new owners asked for the keys. My parents didn't even know where they were. That house had never been locked in 20 years, despite a few 4 week vacations.
Amazing, isn't it! When we moved from St. Louis to Kailua, Hawaii (which was a far-out suburb and pretty rural back then in the early 1960's), nobody we knew in Hawaii even had locks installed on their exterior doors. So, they not only didn't lock the door, but actually they couldn't even if such a crazy idea occurred to them. Anybody who wanted to just walk inside, could and did. Nobody ever had any bad results from doing that, AFAIK. It's hard to imagine that now.
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Old 07-26-2014, 02:33 PM   #65
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Love the Hawaii story. We were certainly very mobile in our youth and ventured far and wide around town. As 13 and 14 year olds we even started riding our 10 speeds over the Niagara River bridges to go to Niagara Falls and Buffalo NY for the day. I don't even remember being asked for ID. Round trip of 80-140 km depending on where we were heading. Used to like to go watch the Air National Guard planes stationed at the Niagara Falls airport. Love to send one of my kids to try that today. The good news is that we still leave our doors unlocked. I remember Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine, walking into unlocked houses. So funny, but largely true around here. The car sometimes gets locked but often not if it is in our driveway. Much more likely in the mall parking lot but pretty hard not to lock it with remotes these days.
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Old 07-26-2014, 10:29 PM   #66
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Benjamin Fraklin died at age 84.
George Washington died at age 67
Thomas Jefferson died at age 83
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Old 07-27-2014, 12:51 AM   #67
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Benjamin Fraklin died at age 84.
George Washington died at age 67
Thomas Jefferson died at age 83
Not sure I see your point here. Surely you realize they were some of the richest men in the colonies. Most others of the time wouldn't have access to the things they could afford.
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Old 07-27-2014, 12:57 AM   #68
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As a minority whose parents immigrated to the U.S. because, despite of the discrimination and prejudice they saw much more opportunity for their children in the U.S. than in the countries they were born and grew up in, I'd say things are generally better,at least in the U.S. Sometimes people confuse "opportunities" with guarantees".

However, every advance has its down side. I believe one of the "hidden" downsides of our technological and financial growth is that we are more easily isolated from each other. That isolation can easily cause us to generalize about groups that are "different" from us in ethic/income/social ways, either to envy what one perceives they have, or to blame them for what one perceives they do not have.

So... in my view, we live longer, have better medicine, have more financial opportunities (again not guarantees), and more technical toys to play with... but we know less about each other, and what we do know is more likely to come from "experts" who have their own agenda, versus our own experiences and interaction with others. To me, that is where we have lost ground.
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Old 07-27-2014, 06:12 AM   #69
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Not sure I see your point here. Surely you realize they were some of the richest men in the colonies. Most others of the time wouldn't have access to the things they could afford.
And that underscores your point in another way: Your point is that, in colonial times, longevity was enjoyed disproportionately by the rich. The inequity regarding longevity decreased during the middle of the last century, then has regressed back toward the prior higher level of inequity, like so many other things:

Growing disparities in life expectancy | Economic Policy Institute
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Old 07-27-2014, 06:45 AM   #70
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I guess for anyone born after 1946 in the Anglosphere they'd have seen an amazing upturn in technology, wealth and quality of life, my parents would vouch for that. I talk of the UK only but it has been suggested my generation (20's and below), on average, is going to be the first to be worse off than the previous generation since records began - so much for advancement.

The metrics I use are pension age (gone up and is legislated to go up further), wages (absolutely decimated in 2008), property (rising to insane multiples of salary which prices first-time buyers out of the market), job security (huge immigration from E.U and increasing global competition). Its my bleakness on the future outlook which pushes me to aim for FI asap.
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Old 07-27-2014, 08:16 AM   #71
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For all the reasons shared, my vote is that things are immeasurably better across a broad swath of material, medical and civil rights issues. Billions of people are now moving up the curve from subsistence living to something at least stable. Though inconsistent, globally the trend remains toward free market capitalism and some form of representative govt. Wars, while horrific to local civilian populations, no longer seem to involve millions dead as western society seems to have learned to intervene before they truly get out of hand. (We'll see if that holds or if we're no longer willing to carry the freight...). The threat of nuclear war has evolved from a global apocalypse to a regional catastrophe.

I would offer two areas of decline:

1). Society has abandoned parents

As a parent of two kids, I do feel like I want to say "Can I please get some cultural help here?" Sex, narcicism and cynicism are 24x7. I'm not yearning for Leave it to Beaver, but I'm weary of Viagara commercials and Lady gaga. Don't even get me started on rap music...can I get a little Cosby Show or Everbody Loves Raymond action? In many ways we don't celebrate stable families anymore and the hard, non-financial work that makes them a reality. We sometimes glorify the suffering that comes with bad choices. A sad by-product of the Internet is that it's almost a certainty that young kids get exposed to hard core porn while they are shaping their expectations of themselves and their relationships.

2). We've abandoned infrastructure & societal investment

The generations that preceded us built and built and built this country. Both govt and corporations invested in ways that weren't always NPV rational but left us with a spectacular society. The by-product of our consumption culture is that we've drained our cultural and economic capacity to invest in -- or even maintain -- our private and public infrastructure. If we could do a country-wide balance sheet, we'd see that we've writing down our assets to fuel current expenditures. Take a train from Baltimore to NYC and look out the window. I defy you to see something that isn't rusted thru. Private companies that do put out huge capital expenditures get politically crucified for their profits. We don't appreciate our infrastructure anymore. As a pilot friend observed to me after hearing a passenger complain the in-flight wifi was slow: "Dude, you're in a seat 40k feet off the ground going 500mph for $300. Chill."

People born into western, secular cultures are still blessed beyond words but in my opinion the above two trends strike at the roots of the long-term improvements in our societies. Something has to give. It's probably our collective lifestyles.
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Old 07-27-2014, 08:24 AM   #72
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So... in my view, we live longer, have better medicine, have more financial opportunities (again not guarantees), and more technical toys to play with... but we know less about each other, and what we do know is more likely to come from "experts" who have their own agenda, versus our own experiences and interaction with others. To me, that is where we have lost ground.
Could be but on the other hand, I've had the opportunity to spend 3 years with my family working in a Muslim country in the Middle East getting to know the people, religon and culture; to work for extended periods in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Botswana, Mexico, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Malaysia. For my father's and grandfather's generations, unless they were trying to escape these areas, the only way they were likely to see them was if they were part of the military being sent off to kill people in a conflict there. Women and children wouldn't likely have the opportunity to visit under any circumstance. The journey would also be weeks or months and fraught with peril. Worldwide communication is now almost effortless and often free. It's true that we may be less likely to strike up a conversation with the person sitting beside us on the bus but our ability to communicate generally has grown dramatically, as have the topics that are open for discussion.
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:07 AM   #73
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Not sure I see your point here. Surely you realize they were some of the richest men in the colonies. Most others of the time wouldn't have access to the things they could afford.
I think it had less to do with affluence and more to do with Darwin, looking at medicine of the time. We have lots of old cemeteries in the area, one up the road with the oldest stone being form 1760. There is a large marble monument marker from one of the founding families (some who still live in town) listing multiple generations, the oldest of whom died at 63. Then there are those very modest slate stones (the ones you can still read) of people in their 80's and 90's.

Some things are better today some not so, those things which technology does and can improve will continue to be the bright spots. The acceleration of Moore's law who knows where we'll ten years from now.
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Old 07-27-2014, 09:10 AM   #74
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I would offer two areas of decline:

1). Society has abandoned parents

As a parent of two kids, I do feel like I want to say "Can I please get some cultural help here?" Sex, narcicism and cynicism are 24x7. I'm not yearning for Leave it to Beaver, but I'm weary of Viagara commercials and Lady gaga. Don't even get me started on rap music...can I get a little Cosby Show or Everbody Loves Raymond action? In many ways we don't celebrate stable families anymore and the hard, non-financial work that makes them a reality. We sometimes glorify the suffering that comes with bad choices. A sad by-product of the Internet is that it's almost a certainty that young kids get exposed to hard core porn while they are shaping their expectations of themselves and their relationships.

2). We've abandoned infrastructure & societal investment

The generations that preceded us built and built and built this country. Both govt and corporations invested in ways that weren't always NPV rational but left us with a spectacular society. The by-product of our consumption culture is that we've drained our cultural and economic capacity to invest in -- or even maintain -- our private and public infrastructure. If we could do a country-wide balance sheet, we'd see that we've writing down our assets to fuel current expenditures. Take a train from Baltimore to NYC and look out the window. I defy you to see something that isn't rusted thru. Private companies that do put out huge capital expenditures get politically crucified for their profits. We don't appreciate our infrastructure anymore. As a pilot friend observed to me after hearing a passenger complain the in-flight wifi was slow: "Dude, you're in a seat 40k feet off the ground going 500mph for $300. Chill."

People born into western, secular cultures are still blessed beyond words but in my opinion the above two trends strike at the roots of the long-term improvements in our societies. Something has to give. It's probably our collective lifestyles.
A thoughtful post, thank you.

As a father of four, I don't so much feel that we have been abandoned, more that life and choices have become much more complicated. Madison Avenue and mass media certainly have made it more difficult to pass on positive values to children.

The second area is definitely a concern and as far as the West goes is a great worry. The dependence on foreign oil and the drain on currency has been endured for 50 years. What is likely going to be a much larger problem has been happening for less than 20 years and this is the flow of capital from the West to China in return for what essentially amounts to glass beads. Globalization has allowed the masses to afford incredible luxuries and on a international level has started the long process of income equalization but there will definitely be losers in this process. I recently read William Bernstein's book 'A Splendid Exchange' and then by chance saw the Big History episode on silver and how it shaped the world. The incredible trade imbalance between the West and China in the early 1800s led to the Opium Wars. History may not repeat itself but many say it rhymes. At the moment, it seems very much like all China needs from the West is cash, raw materials and technology (which it seems they don't feel the need to pay much for). The Chinese are patient forward thinkers and planners and some experts say that the memories of the humiliation of the Opium Wars are part of their psyche to this day. Time will tell.
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Old 07-27-2014, 12:03 PM   #75
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A thoughtful post, thank you.

As a father of four, I don't so much feel that we have been abandoned, more that life and choices have become much more complicated. Madison Avenue and mass media certainly have made it more difficult to pass on positive values to children.

The second area is definitely a concern and as far as the West goes is a great worry. The dependence on foreign oil and the drain on currency has been endured for 50 years. What is likely going to be a much larger problem has been happening for less than 20 years and this is the flow of capital from the West to China in return for what essentially amounts to glass beads. Globalization has allowed the masses to afford incredible luxuries and on a international level has started the long process of income equalization but there will definitely be losers in this process. I recently read William Bernstein's book 'A Splendid Exchange' and then by chance saw the Big History episode on silver and how it shaped the world. The incredible trade imbalance between the West and China in the early 1800s led to the Opium Wars. History may not repeat itself but many say it rhymes. At the moment, it seems very much like all China needs from the West is cash, raw materials and technology (which it seems they don't feel the need to pay much for). The Chinese are patient forward thinkers and planners and some experts say that the memories of the humiliation of the Opium Wars are part of their psyche to this day. Time will tell.
Thanks for your response.

Agreed on the China thing. What globalization has provided in terms of cheap goods for us and gains for impoverished people in china and other countries, it has taken in terms of domestic middle class job stability. Combine that with the loss of any sense of self-control in terms of senior mgmt compensation packages and equitable sharing of profits in large companies and you've got a seriously stressed working class. It's one thing to be able to shop at Walmart...it's another thing to build long term stability.

I wonder, however, if that doesn't somehow amount to a cultural receivable building up here and a payable building in china. If we ever got serious about incenting domestic investment and leveling the labor playing field, we could see a domestic labor rebound that would fuel the middle class and china would be in deep yogurt. They have entire cities devoted to making our baubles. What do you with 50M suddenly unemployed people?

It's also interesting that we recently became the largest oil producer again. The winds may be shifting on that score. Japan and China may discover they care more about the strait of Hormuz than we do. Perhaps they'll find something to cooperate on!!
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Old 07-27-2014, 02:09 PM   #76
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Unfortunately, relatively recent history would suggest that what you do with 50 million unemployed people is go to war or at least seriously prepare for it with 1930's Germany and the post-WWII Soviet Union as examples of the former and the latter. This is another reason that the entire situation is so dangerous. And with the products that I see coming out of China, I don't think that the West will be able to count on technological superiority and certainly not numbers.

As far as petroleum production goes, I'm skeptical and would think that we may have to hope for efficiencies and perhaps a few technological breakthroughs in this area. One of the things that I shake my head at is the huge resistance to wind power in my region when it is apparent that China (with it's limited oil reserves) is building gigantic wind farms and produces some of key resources in the manufacture of the turbines.
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:18 PM   #77
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Polio, German measles... So much worse back in the day.

On a lighter note, there were men's fashions from the '70s, that some of us think were worse than what men wear to the office today. Women's fashion just keeps recycling it seems.
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Old 07-27-2014, 04:43 PM   #78
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Having thought about this topic for some time and now reading the thread, it seems that the replies pretty much reinforce what I have always believed about societal change: Those things that can be quantified have improved, sometimes dramatically. Things that are not easily quantified change, but individuals will have different opinions on whether these changes are improvements or not. If we can set a number to something (say life expectancy) and we can then change that number and see it move in a direction that most people think is good, then we can speak of progress, or "things are getting better." However, I can think of several items that are not "better" just in my lifetime.

1) Light pollution - as recently as the 1950's, one used to be able to see the Milky Way even from the center of fairly large cities. Now, it is essentially necessary to live in a rural area- not a small town, but really on a farm or acreage well outside a city.
2) Noise - life is just generally noisier. People are constantly talking into their phones, music is leaking out of their earbuds, you can't walk in a state park without hearing ATV's and when was the last time you went to a restaurant that didn't have "music" playing, one where conversations were carried on in whispers.
3) A more specific example, Television choices. DW and I had cable briefly in the 1980's and we were able to watch opera, theatre, symphony performances, etc. There were actually several channels available, not just one. New Year's Eve options included big band music and the annual Vienna performance of Die Fledermaus. If it weren't for DW's addiction to sports, we wouldn't have cable at all, today. There is no way that TV is better for me today than it was 30 or even 40 years ago. AND I have to pay for all of these choices that I don't want.

As I said, these are personal opinions on societal changes. On almost any quantifiable front, things are better.
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Old 07-27-2014, 05:04 PM   #79
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As a parent this is especially evident. There have always been pedophiles and predators -but now parents won't let their kids (even teens) play outside without supervision. (I'm bucking this trend big time - not quite free-range - but I definitely push my kids out of the nest regularly.) I remember walking to school from Kinder on, w/out a parent. Since I live in the same house I grew up in it's easy to compare to my own childhood. I considered when to allow my kids to walk to the same school I attended... peer pressure from other parents (and fear of much more aggressive drivers) had me wait till the boys reached 4th grade before I let them walk to school without a parent. Even at that age other parents (and a teacher) told me I was abusive.

We're more aware of crime, etc, because of the 24 hour news cycle... but the bad stuff has always been there. Now we live in fear. The world is largely the same (as far as people.).
When I was in 9th grade my neighbor was raped and killed by a pedophile. He was walking a few blocks from his house in a quiet suburb. Tuffy was 11 when he died.

That was in the mid 80's so it did happen even back then. Parents are letting the creeps win I think by overprotecting their kids out of their own fear. They are much more likely to die with their kids in the family car.
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Old 07-27-2014, 05:45 PM   #80
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Benjamin Fraklin died at age 84.
George Washington died at age 67
Thomas Jefferson died at age 83
Survivor bias here, had they died in childhood or early adulthood we never would have heard of them.

Its also worth noting that one of Franklin's sons died in childhoood, as did four of Jefferson's legitimate children and two of Washington's step-kids.
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