The Great Boom 1950-2000: How a Generation of Americans Created the World's Most Prosperous Society
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As America's G.I.s returned home from World War II, many of the nation's best minds predicted a new depression—yet exactly the opposite occurred. Jobs were plentiful in retooled factories swamped with orders from pent-up demand. Tens of thousands of families moved out of cities into affordable suburban homes built by William Levitt and his imitators. They bought cars, televisions, and air conditioners by the millions. And they took to the nation's roads and new interstate highways—the largest public works project in world history—where Kemmons Wilson of Holiday Inns, Ray Kroc of McDonalds, and other start-up entrepreneurs soon catered to a mobile populace with food and lodgings for leisure time vacationers.
Americans and their families began to channel savings into new opportunities. Credit cards democratized purchasing power, while early mutual funds found growing numbers of investors to fuel the first postwar bull market in the go-go '60s. At the same time the continuing boom enriched the fabric of social and cultural life. A college education became a must on the highway to upward mobility; high-tech industries arose with astonishing new ways of conducting business electronically; and an unprecedented 49 million families had become investors when the 1981-2000 stock market boom reached 10,000 on the Dow.
The Great Boom is the first major book to portray the great wave of homegrown entrepreneurs as post-war heroes in the complete remaking and revitalizing of America. All that, plus the creation of unprecedented wealth—or themselves, for the nation, for tens of millions of citizens—all in five short drama-filled decades.
the summer of 1979. The old bugaboo of stagflation haunted the Carter people, along with the political frustrations attendant upon the Iranian hostage crisis and the increase in the petroleum price from slightly below $15 a barrel to slightly less than $40—the nation’s drivers were once more plagued by shortages. On the first summer weekend of 1979, half the nation’s filling stations were closed. Paul Volcker, who became chairman of the Federal Reserve Board on August 6, was prepared to use
ambitious went into finance. In 1948, the nation’s graduate schools turned out 2,314 M.B.A.s, and, at the height of the conglomerate movement, the number reached 8,648. This was merely a trickle compared with what was to come. In 1978 the graduates numbered 50,331, rising to 67,527 in 1985. Many of them aimed at careers in finance. During the 1970s, 1 out of 7 Harvard M.B.A.s became investment bankers, traders, and salesmen, with the first of these occupations being preferred. By 1985 the ratio
at $15,000, men’s wrist watches at $1,000—all sell just about as fast as egg beaters, table radios, and pork chops. So it appeared, although the writer obviously exaggerated. What was clearly so, however, was that many thousands of Americans—perhaps hundreds of thousands —were achieving economic and social successes in this period. If it was not the promised land, it would do (in the words of a popular song) until “the real thing” came along. 4 THE CREATION OF WEALTH ON WALL STREET Take a
Texas, half of which were provided by businessmen involved with MCC and SEMATECH. In order to assure a steady stream of well-prepared and motivated students into their classes, these scientists were encouraged to reach out to the high schools. Businessman and sometimes presidential candidate Ross Perot, in one of his less-publicized efforts, made an attempt to refashion high school curricula and recruit promising teachers. By the end of the century it seemed possible that Texas might replace
his name and address, hand it over to the clerk, and then he would receive a receipt, or “acknowledgment,” while the ticket was sent to lottery headquarters and placed in a drum along with the others. The form retained by the customer, however, had no value and need not be surrendered if the number won. Rather, it was considered proof that the purchase had been made for that specific ticket. This was done for the purported purpose of preventing out-of-staters from purchasing tickets, but this