At The Money Illusion, Scott Sumner has an interesting post asserting that 1974 was the year everything changed. “Everything” meaning the ideological climate in the developed West, with the long-dominant statist-technocratic consensus collapsing, in favor of a fundamentally anti-statist belief in markets. I’d add that this completed, and complemented, the shift toward bottom-up democracy that had begun in the 1960s – a shift marked, in the US, by civil rights marches and anti-war protests.
I’d always thought of 1979 as the critical date, with Thatcher’s election the key milestone. But Sumner makes a good case for 1974. He treats the oil-price shock as the prime mover, one that pushed governments throughout the West toward deregulation and tax cuts, and away from hands-on management of all manner of economic activity. His argument is convincing not least because in his treatment, the rise of marketism, if we can call it such, is an effect, not a cause. That is, he sees that this shift was the upshot of a pragmatic “try this and see if it solves our problems” process, on the part of ruling elites as well as voters and interest groups, i.e. everyone involved in politics.
What about the cultural sphere? If you overlook the Stooges and early Black Sabbath, you could argue that 1974 marked the beginning of pop music’s reaction against entrenched elites, their long-dominant strategies, and their rote collectivist pronouncements. What was the relationship between punk and politics? I think of punk as fundamentally anti-statist, and libertarian. Of course for many who were in that scene, anti-elitism was a matter of dissatisfaction with elites’ failure to come through on promises to use state-administrative power to achieve standard leftist goals, not a rejection of centralism and the elite-technocratic ideal. But the Ramones hardly fall into that category. And while their (very) occasional forays into overt politics were cringe-inducing, God bless them for standing up for DIY, straight eighths, and everyone for themselves.