Skip to comments.If you think the sky is falling, check out the prophecies of the 1970s
Posted on 04/10/2014 5:09:51 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
Forty years is roughly the length of a working lifetimeand long enough for history to have taken some unexpected turns. And to have proved that long-term forecasts based on extrapolations of existing trends usually end up wide of the mark.
The list of failed prophecies from the 1970s is rather long. The conventional wisdom of the time was more than usually unreliable.
Example: the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report in 1972, predicting that the world was running out of oil and other natural resources. For a while that seemed right, as the 1973 and 1979 OPEC oil price hikes led to gas lines in the United States.
But in the longer run, as the Club came to recognize, engineers and entrepreneurs found more oil and other natural resources and figured out how to get them to market. Capitalism works, and in ways planners dont expect.
Another common assumption in the early 1970s was that Britain was a fusty, antiquated country that had to join the modern, up-to-date Common Market (now the European Union). Europe's war-devastated economies had actually grown faster than Britain's in the quarter-century after World War II.
Fast forward to today. It is Europe that looks out of date, with zero economic growth and economies smothered by sclerotic regulation, overlarge welfare states and the poorly conceived euro.
Britain got rid of much of that under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. And thanks to Gordon Brown, it wisely avoided the euro. Now it's growing solidly while the continent lags.
A third bit of conventional wisdom from the 1970s is that Asia generally and China in particular could never grow because of the burden of overpopulation.
But Asias state-led capitalism and Deng Xiaopings adoption of that model in 1978 has made Asia the growth capital of the world. Hundreds of millions have risen from poverty.
As for the population bomb, the biggest problem for Asia and China today is low birth rates and a contracting work force. These stopped growth in Japan and may do so elsewhere.
A final thing taken for granted in the 1970s was the enduring strength of the Soviet Union. It was, after all, ramping up its military even as America was recoiling from defeat in Vietnam.
Many seers predicted that the Soviet and Western models would converge, and that Soviet living standards would approach Americas.
It turned out that the very few leaders who predicted the demise of the Soviet Union--Ronald Reagan, Daniel Patrick Moynihan--got it right. America, once it got the will, could outclass the Soviet military, and economic stagnation and ethnic tensions brought down the "evil empire."
There are common threads running through these mistaken projections. One is the extrapolation of recent trends far into the future. History doesnt proceed like a straight line on a graph; sometimes the lines bend.
Another is the assumption that progress means ever-larger states and increasing superintendence by international elites.
But much unpredicted progress has occurred when nations freed markets from the grip of centralized states and private sectors produced innovation that the supposed experts failed to anticipate.
A third common thread builds on the insight of economist Herbert Stein, who said that anything that could not go on forever would some day stop.
This prompts a question: Which of the widely accepted prophecies of today will seem as invalid today as the Club of Rome report? I have my own nominations, made with some confidence since actuarial tables tell me I will not be here in 40 years.
One is that the Chinese Communist regime will remain in place. Remember that it seemed on the verge of tottering in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Its lasted 25 years since, thanks largely to robust economic growth.
But certain dates in history1789, 1917, 1991tell us that sudden upheaval is possible when a regimes legitimacy seems exhausted.
And will todays conventional wisdom that the planet faces inevitable warming seem as risible in 2054 as the Club of Romes prediction of exhausted resources seems today?
We are told that the science is settled, when it is in the nature of science never to be settled, but always to be subject to verification and revision. I think were in for more of that.
Finally, those widely shared views that Americas best days are over. Thats never been a good bet and I suspect it never will be.
Is it “In The Year 2525” yet?
It’s always something.
The media had some hard left politics to push in the late 1960s and the 1970s, according to them mankind was teetering on the last moments of life, except for the soviet Union and Red China, they were no threat to us according to the media.
Not much has changed for the media.
What about the coming ice age and the coming heat wave
Except in the eyes of liberal elitists who want us all to work into our eighties so as not to burden society. Only problem is there are no friggin jobs for the people who want to work.
But the leftists are smarter today than they were 40 years ago.
Immediately after Reagan brought down the Soviet Union, the media switched gears and said that he did nothing, that they were already collapsing and we all knew that.
It sure is funny that we can't find those 1970s stories and news though.
“The Population Bomb” by Paul Erlich
Predicted global freezing, famine, etc.
Catastrophism and particularly the ideas that something big is about to happen sells. For some reason a lot of us have fun with the idea that Yellowstone will blow, killing all or most of us. While it is certainly true that such things happen, the possibility that it will in our brief lifetimes is very small. One of the hardest things to mentally grasp is just how very long a million years are.
I remember being taught in that era in elementary school that we would be starving and out of crude oil by the time I was 18. I thought it was a load of poop then as a 7 year old. But they were trying to scare the crap out of a bunch of kids. Not sure why. They were a bunch of 70’s era libs (I went to a Montessori style private school full of crepe’s and croissant artsy types bent on saving the world).
Oh that’s all called “climate change” now.
As someone maybe I think said, “the climate, she be a changin’...”
Can’t beat it with a hockey stick!
Can’t believe they didn’t mention the coming Ice Age the scientists were worried about back then.
First, a great post. I find it more instructive to analyze predictions gone bad, rather than validating new ones.
Besides global warming:
1. Death of the Republican Party and the right.
2. The power of big media controls the political discourse.
3. Japan, Italy and Greece will disappear.
4. Alternative energy as more than a niche energy supply.
5. Litigation as means of control.
6. Multiple languages spoken throughout America.
I think most of these will not come to pass.
Watched “Plane That Disappeared” on Netflix last night. A vintage film chock-full of leftist BS “predictions.” A fun flick, though, because of the vintage methods and such.
We are a people who swallow fear-mongering hook, line, and sinker. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” wrote the Holy Spirit through King Solomon. That is something that will never change while this creation holds out. Start with that and the rest takes care of itself, albeit with some fear and trembling along the way inasmuch as the Almighty is far more powerful than anything we can cobble up or down, yet fully involved, aware, and sympathetic to our condition. But to live one’s life as if doom is all there is? To run amok with fear and use it to accumulate political power? Screw that and the horse it rides in on.
In the year 1 million and a half,
Humankind is enslaved by giraffes.
Mankind must pay for his misdeeds,
when the tree tops are stripped of their leaves.
>>4. Alternative energy as more than a niche energy supply.
I was involved just enough with alternative energy as an engineering undergraduate in the late 70s to become disenchanted with it. I found it especially dispiriting that we didn’t learn from the Carter-era DoE failures and boondoggles, and that I lived to see much of that nonsense repeated under Obama with Solyndra and many others.
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