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Return of the '70s

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By:William Murchison | March 18, 2014

"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." — Ecclesiastes 1:9

This is true even in politics. Maybe especially in politics, where the recycling of bad and good decisions reflects the recycling, according to democratic practice, of bad and good leaders.

As the Russians push their imperial agenda in the Ukraine, and Western leaders wring their hands, the '70s come painfully to mind.

I bring up the '70s — of god-awful memory — as much to nourish hope as to enlarge perspective on current events in the world and the nation along with it.

As the hearing-aid set — of which your servant is a certificate-holding member—will recall, the '70s began with the U.S. in decline, at home and abroad. Inflation and fast-rising energy costs looked uncontrollable. The Nixon administration's response was wage-price controls — an expedient never successful anywhere. A long, bloody, divisive and essentially futile war in Southeast Asia was winding down. It remained only to negotiate our exit costs.

In this environment of American weakness and confusion, enemies pounced. The Iranians seized our embassy in Tehran. The Russians invaded Afghanistan.

The cycle of decline and fall was arrested, and then reversed, in the '80s. Having seen what didn't work in foreign policy — American guilt, American disengagement — America, during the Reagan presidency, re-engaged. And, having done so, won the Cold War. In economic terms, the government stepped back, cut tax rates, eased various regulations and returned to the free marketplace some of its old-time flexibility. Things began working again.

They worked, that is, until "the thing that hath been" cruised back by the crime scene to test the shortness of our memories. Sure enough, around the year 2008, circumstances found the U.S. largely immobilized by the experience of war and the mistakes that seem to go with freedom and prosperity.

Under the guiding hand of Barack Obama, the old policies came back — guilt, disengagement from responsibilities, pessimism as to American ideals and capabilities, resentment of economic success; a variety of mannerisms and anxieties that predict bad decision-making at the top.

Barack Obama, whose approval ratings fell last week to their lowest ever, is, seemingly, the new Jimmy Carter — a man with few ideas other than to embody the reverse of what he sees as having caused our problems. Obama, like Carter, prior to the Afghan invasions, thought he could do something about American bossiness by disengaging from confrontation with other nations. We're not supposed to throw our weight around anymore. We're to act in concert with "the international community," whatever that is. We make noises, draw "red lines," issue warnings.

As in the Carter days, the government thinks it knows more than the citizens when it comes to economics. A government takeover of health care, tighter regulation of coal-fired plants, more government spending (except for defense), neglect of problems with Medicare and Social Security — in this manner we create prosperity. Except when we create less prosperity and more prolonged misery.

The '70s of the last century look more and more like a dress rehearsal for the '10s of the 21st century: the same love of ideology over experience, the same wrong answers. Barack Obama has an evident gift for seeming indecisive in the face of challenge, which makes him look like the same patsy the Russians and the Iranians took Jimmy Carter to be.

The same love of government control that Jimmy Carter displayed keeps the American economy on its backside when the need of the day is to coax the animal spirits of the marketplace back into action.

It's saddening and discouraging to watch the '70s gaily gallivanting among us. There's more to say on that count, nonetheless. We cannot recall the badness of the '70s without recalling the good that flowed from the discovery in the '80s that things had to change. That's the first step: disillusion, and then the itch for hope and change. Didn't someone once tell us about that itch?




Dan Hayes
Rego Park
3/19/2014 04:09 AM

  Regarding your statement: "As the Russians push their imperial agenda in the Ukraine,". With all due respects may I suggest that you review some of the recent posts on this web site that will enable you to arrive at a more balanced and perspicuous judgement on the situation in Ukraine. I specifically refer you the postings of Messrs Trifikovic and Girin.

3/19/2014 08:15 PM

  return of the '70s- some of us should be so fortunate. Invading termites- not invading russians;pouncing dogs and scratching cats-not pouncing enemies(whatever that image conjures up) ; soccer ball control or hand control on the mat- not wage-price controls were for some the pressing issues. A business to start, a familty to raise and the only re-engagement that mattered was to be near kin once again. On a fall day in the field one could, before noon, tire out the shorthairs and limit out on ringnecks ; stripers were plentiful as were attending youth soccer , baseball and wrestling matches. These were real pleasures to be savored- inflation, energy costs, the ebb and flow of the empire's fortunes were and are simply consequences the powerless suffer and endure. On the benefits de-regulation provides , look at the Motor Carrier Act of 1980- all it accomplished was to put more money into the hands of wal-mart and the big-box retail stores and less into the pockets of trucker-who now spend more time behind the wheel and less time at home.

Alphonsus Jr.
Los Angeles
3/21/2014 12:27 AM

  "As the Church goes, so goes the world." This return to the '70s is consistent with the appearance of Pope Francis, that embodiment of the Judas Council (aka, the Second Vatican Council), a revolution whose full devastation began to manifest in the '70s. Kyrie eleison.


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