November 28, 2012
NO ONE HAS IT HARDER THAN THEIR FATHER DID:
The Future: Back to the Past (DON BOUDREAUX on NOVEMBER 26, 2012, Cafe Hayek)
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 28, 2012 3:47 PMLately, I've encountered with unusual frequency claims that the 1950s were a glorious economic time for America's middle-class - a time so glorious, what with strong labor unions and high (above 90%!) marginal income-tax rates and all, that we middle-class Americans of today should look back with longing and envy on those marvelous years of six decades ago.So on Saturday I bought on eBay this Fall/Winter 1956 Sears catalog. [...]So let's ask: how long did a typical American worker have to toil in 1956 to buy a particular sort of good compared to how long a similarly typical American worker today must toil to buy that same (or similar) sort of good? Here are four familiar items: refrigerator-freezers; kitchen ranges; televisions; and automatic washers.Sears's lowest-priced no-frost refrigerator-freezer in 1956 had 9.6 cubic feet, in total, of space. It sold for $219.95 (in 1956-dollar prices). (You can find a lovely black-and-white photograph of this mid-'50s fridge on page 1036 of the 1956 Sears catalog.) Home Depot today sells a 10 cubic-foot no-frost refrigerator-freezer for $298.00 (in 2012-dollar prices). (You can find it in color on line here.)Therefore, the typical American worker in 1956 had to work a total of 219.95/1.89 hours to buy that 9.6 cubic-foot fridge - or a total of 116 hours. (I round to the nearest whole number.) Today, to buy a similar no-frost refrigerator-freezer, the typical American worker must work a total of 298.00/19.79 hours - or 15 hours. That is, to buy basic household refrigeration and freezing, today's worker must spend only 13 percent of the time that his counterpart in 1956 had to spend.