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How We Got Here: The 70’s, The Decade That Brought You Modern Life–For Better or Worse

Author: David Frum
• 2000 • 448 pages

Many, perhaps most, conservatives point to the 1960s as the period that opened the floodgates to the countless social plagues that threaten to drown us. Not so, says David Frum. The ’60s were but a shadow of what was to come. In 1969, he notes, America still valued faith, self-reliance, self-sacrifice, and family loyalty. Then came the 1970s, the decade that truly reinvented America.

Now, in this first ever popular history of that era by a prominent conservative, Frum, contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, lays bare the nation’s most stark social upheaval since the Industrial Revolution. Finally, the book that does for the ’70s what Robert Bork’s “Slouching Toward Gomorrah” did for the ’60s. In this blow-by-blow history of liberalism’s takeover of American culture, David Frum puts almost every major and minor trend of the ’70s under the conservative microscope, from the rise of pop psychology, astrology, cults, sexual promiscuity, drugs, crime, and consumer debt to political mistrust, the death of duty, the triumph of feeling over thinking, and the delights of pleasure and guilt. He traces the demise of the church, the nuclear family, and academic standards, and in a grand synthesis reveals the startling impact of ’70s culture on America today.

Highlights of Frum’s penetrating analysis:

  • The “Sixties Generation,” made over (completely) in the Seventies Pre-’70s Americans – more content, more secure, prouder of their country. What went wrong?
  • Why liberalism triumphed so easily in the 1970s, after its struggles in the previous decade
  • Three major contributors to the social change, each one foisted on us by Big Government
  • How the idea of “entitlement” took hold in the ’70s. The sharp rise in lying and cheating, by ordinary Americans, that followed
  • Disdain for law makes it to the big screen and TV
  • The “anti – work ethic” of the ’60s, replaced by a far greater evil in the ’70s “Letting it all hang out,”
  • Remember our first major food and drug scares? You reap the rewards of these early environmental scams every day
  • The “brave new family,” now blase, yet unheard of in the ’60s
  • Government power play. The winner: strong-arm utopian judges
  • Positive changes since the Sixties? Frum finds them, and some encouraging signs for the coming decades
  • How America at the turn of the 21st century mirrors America at the turn of the last century. It could work to our advantage, if we take Frum’s advice to heart
  • A return to the nostalgic (but not so idyllic) ’50s. Frum finds holes in this oft touted solution

The closing chapter snaps us to attention: “The stability of mid-century was the product of special and in some ways un-American circumstances: war and mobilization for war, the heyday of heavy industry, a depression that convinced normally individualistic Americans to submit to unprecedented direction and regimentation. A carapace of control had been locked upon the country as an emergency measure. But as the emergency dragged on for decade after decade, the carapace chafed and abraded. In the 1970s, the country at last burst through it. Americans did not pause to distinguish between obsolete and unnecessary restrictions and good and wise ones. They smashed them all.”

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