Are you better off now than you were 10 years ago? For middle-class Americans, a common answer to this version of Ronald Reagan’s old question is no. Nor are they optimistic about the future. The recession may be over officially, but a lot of smart people are convinced that broad-based improvements in the standard of living are largely a thing of the past.
Before you embrace the idea that today is worse than yesterday and tomorrow won’t be much better, however, consider a common experience:
On a flight across the country, you watch the playoff game on live television, listen to some favorite playlists as you catch up on work, then relax with some video poker.
And blah, blah. This is a common trope among techno-geeks: Technology is making huge improvements in your quality of life, whether you notice it or not, and Moore’s Law is pushing the cost of those improvements ever downwards. Here, Ms. Postrel concentrates on the improvements in entertainment options caused by techno-advances.
But…is life better? Really? In a nation where millions of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, seeing their health insurance plans evaporate or explode, where a third of the nation is collecting unemployment, foods stamps, or some other form of state welfare, where racial enmity is becoming endemic, where our every movement is monitored or controlled by either big government or big business, where most people now believe their children will have worse lives than they did (for the first time in American history), no, I don’t think that being able to get Duck Dynasty on demand really makes all that much of a difference.
I mean, what are we really talking about other than electronic soma as a distraction from a crumbling nation facing a bleak future?