1972: Post-mortem

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Together, we'll travel back in time to solve one of the greatest mysteries of the modern world: what the fuck happened in 1972?

Bobby Fischer beats Boris Spassky at the Match of the Century, ending Soviet domination in chess. Richard Nixon is Time's Man of the Year. On August 4, one of the largest solar flares ever recorded rips across US infrastructure, knocking out cable and power lines. Sunspots stick around til the 10th.

The Billboard Top 100 singles are loaded: James Brown, Isley Bros, Michael Jackson, Aretha, Sly, Al Green. We even got Don McLean's "American Pie"—which'll serve as our organizing metaphor. McLean thinks he's singing about 1959; he's not, he's introducing us to the post-1972 world:

So, bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
And them good ol' boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin', "This'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die"


Meanwhile, the economy—whether you ask radical left economists or Chicago-school libertarians—undergoes a shift whose effects set the scene for everything we're seeing today:
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We're looking squarely at the start of American decline.

Really though, this is about whether, and how, the post-Sixties era set the tone for the world we live in. The hippies had their own vision—a very different one came to dominate. Anything 1969-1975 fair game. @Padraig, boss, you better come back for this one, holidays are over it's time to get to work.
 
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Some more graphs to whet your pallets

Crude oil prices:
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Income inequality:
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Earnings vs the consumer index:
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> If you look at 40-year periods: From 1932 to 1972 we saw average incomes in the United States go up by 350% after inflation, so we were making four-and-a-half times as much. And this was comparable to the progress in the forty years before that and so on going back in time. 1972 to 2012: It’s gone up by 22%.
 
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As for social transformations, this is also when women's enrollment in college starts skyrocketing, so that today 74 men earn a BA in the US for every 100 women. Not attributing any American decline causality to this—I am a feminist!—but saturating the jobs market with highly credentialed labor is an important part of the economic picture.

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And there is a corresponding surge in childlessness:

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Watergate is a huge part of this picture—American political disillusionment post-JFK.

And the moon-landing program wraps up with its last Apollo mission in '72:

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Big jumps for gender equality even as the old order crumbles. On June 3, Sally Priesand becomes America's first female rabbi. October 25, the first female FBI agents are hired. Title IX is introduced via the Higher Education Amendments of 72, designed to prohibit sex-based discrimination in education orgs that receive federal aid—but it becomes best-known for its use in athletics and sexual assault cases.
 

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Here's another interesting one, originally shared by Anna Khachiyan—years are a little early here, late 60s things really begin changing, but we're in the right ballpark:

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