Those who wish to argue that we are worse off than back in 1955 often point to highly unrepresentative examples. They don’t show towns in Appalachia or the Deep South full of shacks lacking indoor plumbing and electricity. Instead, they find an unrepresentative upper middle class area that has recently become super trendy, and hence unaffordable for the class of people that formerly lived in that area. Such as northwestern Santa Monica.
When I began graduate work at the University of Chicago, my professor (Deirdre McCloskey) began the semester with a long list of forbidden words. I don’t recall the entire list, but do recall that “afford” was one of the forbidden words. This term is so vague as to be almost useless.
When thinking about living standards, don’t think about what you believe people can or cannot “afford”, think about what people actually consume. And in purely material terms, we consume far more than we did back in 1955.
Once heralded as a way to use agency expertise to bring clarity and consistency to the law, the doctrine often is experienced by the public today as a series of sharp vacillations in the law, as one administration succeeds another. Presidents turn increasingly to the administrative state to implement priorities they can’t enact through Congress. Each administration improves on its predecessor’s playbook, becoming swifter and more adept at identifying legal positions it wants to change and issuing rules and decisions to do so.