Let's start with the obvious: A low-end job in the service industry paid a dollar an hour in 1950. A fancy job in insurance or real estate? A buck-fifty an hour. You'd take home $50 a week after taxes. So please don't talk about the good old days of 50-cent steaks when people were getting paid what would now be Tooth Fairy money.
So how does this all average out, once you account for income? We don't have to guess. Punch anything into the cost of living calculator -- the one that uses the exact same formula that the government uses to decide things like tax rates -- and you'll see that the prices of most things have stayed pretty constant over the years. High-end manufactured goods have gotten cheaper. Much cheaper, as manufacturing costs drop.
Thanks, Shenzhen, China!
In 1954, the cost of a high-end Westinghouse color TV, with a massive 15-inch screen, was $1,295. No, not adjusted for inflation. That was the actual price at the time -- half of the yearly income for some families. Everybody writes this off as if it's a constant of the universe ("of course new technology gets exponentially better and cheaper with time!") instead counting it among the benefits of the modern system. Why? This economic system has resulted in handheld devices that can access all of the porn ever created, at a price affordable to the working man, and all we can do is complain about the cost of unlimited data plans?
"Yeah, it's as powerful as a PS3, but it barely fits in my pocket! THESE ARE THE NEW DARK AGES."