Alex Tabarrok on “The Lost Eden of Childhood. Not Lost. Not Eden.” Great comments, too. The more I learn about economic history, the more skeptical I am of nostalgic reminisces for “a simpler time” and complaints about “kids these years.” A couple of thoughts:
1. The “simpler time” for which you yearn was not so simple and probably not as good as you remember it. I had a friend once who said it would have been nice to live in the 1800s, when things were so much simpler. Yes, they were so simple that you would probably have the ennobling pleasure of watching one of your children die of a disease we can treat very easily today, and you would have been lucky to make it to age 40.
2. I’m especially skeptical of claims about idyllic childhood. You’re looking back at a process that ultimately produced your present circumstances, for better or for worse, while helping your own kids (or observing kids around you) deal with unique problems in real time.
3. I’m more skeptical of claims about how much better the world was in “the good old days.” I recall reading once something to the effect of “when I was growing up, you never heard about teen pregnancy or child abuse or [litany of modern transgressions].” Indeed, you probably didn’t, because you were a kid and because there are some things (like teen pregnancy) that adults don’t talk about in front of kids. This is where statistics are necessary and nostalgia can be most misleading.