My motivation in writing about political economy is, in some ways, much like Krugman’s. But rather than seeing that moment as primarily the product of policies like unionization, entitlements and high taxes, as is Krugman’s view, I believe that it was primarily the product of circumstance. We had just won a global war, and had limited competition; we had a huge wave of immigration, followed by a multi-decade pause; oil was incredibly cheap; a backlog of technical developments had yet to be exploited and scaled up, and so forth. We can’t go back there, at least not exactly.
Their existence, in the way that Manzi and Krugman remember, was also completely dependent on other forms of inequality: of the ability to move away from social problems, which is harder now; of generations of women whose sole destiny was the kitchen. This produced a world in which most homes were, from the point of view of kids, basically the same: all of them contained a mom who spent most of her time cleaning the place or feeding its occupants, and the size and contents were naturally limited to the amount of stuff that Mom was personally willing to care for. It was a great world for kids. But not everyone was so lucky.
If she had lived in Tiger Mother era, I suspect my mother would have enthusiastically Tiger Mothered me. But it was the era of the Pussycat Mother, so she didn't. For example, I played league baseball at the local park for seven seasons, from age 8 to 14. Neither of my parents ever attended a single one of my games, saying it would put too much pressure on me. Since I mostly struck out and dropped fly balls, that was A-OK with me. (Did I ever mention the time I got picked off first? With two outs in the bottom of the final inning with our team down by a run and the bases loaded? I didn't? Good.)
Today, both parents are supposed to arrive 45 minutes before the baseball game. Otherwise, as we all know from watching Steven Spielberg's Hook, your son's life will be ruined.
(Also, in terms of actually helping people in need of charitable work, we've had this huge swing over the last generation from the charitable work being done by middle-class middle-aged women to their adolescent children trying to look good on college applications. Which demographic do you think was more productive at actually helping people who need help?)
Suddenly, in 1967, things began changing. My inlaws, being dedicated liberal Democrats and union leaders, stuck it out through 1970. But when their kids got mugged on their street for the third time, they finally sold out, long after the other members of their local liberal group of homeowners had sold out, even though they had all promised each other to make this experiment in urban change work by never selling. They lost half their life savings, and didn't have indoor plumbing for their first two years on the farm they bought 63 miles from the opera house. My father-in-law, although he later was elected to three three-year terms as the leader of the Chicago Federation of Musicians union, never voted Democrat again.
It must be the fault of Republicans!