I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager that one of the most widespread sentiments this Thanksgiving beyond the usual gratitude for loved ones will be, “Thank goodness the year 2020 has only five weeks left in it!”
Between the virus, the prolonged orgies of street violence, and the stressful election and aftermath, Americans are hoping for a fresh start—to move beyond the jarring bizarreness that marred 2020.
It may be more difficult than usual for many Americans to feel grateful this Thanksgiving, but I would humbly suggest that having the spiritual courage to be thankful in trying times is one of the best antidotes for gloom and discouragement.
So, what can Americans be grateful for at Thanksgiving time 2020? The historical example of earlier generations of Americans is helpful and instructive in this regard. The two most common themes that have stood out to me in reading about how Thanksgiving has been observed over the span of our country’s history are the religious and patriotic aspects.
In regard to the former, it’s encouraging to remember how often prayer to the Almighty in times of hardship, trials, and challenges has been followed with triumphs and blessings.
And since Thanksgiving is a national holiday, it behooves us to pause and give thanks for the good fortune and great blessing to be either a natural-born or naturalized citizen of our very special country. I feel a special gratitude that even in this age of “cancel culture” and Antifa thugs, I’m free to speak and write in favor of preserving traditional rights and values, and also to expose the manifold errors of progressivism.
A number of my fellow baby-boomers have expressed deep gratitude for having been born in this great country at a most propitious time—i.e., after World War II. We feel we hit “the sweet spot”—growing up enjoying peace and prosperity while living in neighborhoods where everybody looked after everyone else and nobody bothered to lock cars or houses.
But what about younger Americans—have they lost out? By no means. Despite the barrage of negativity saturating the media, standards of living have risen markedly during their lifetimes. The average poor family today has more square feet of living space and many more amenities than us middle-class boomers had in the 1950s. While problems persist, our country has shown an amazing ability to address and mitigate society’s deepest problems. Despite the naysayers and the cult of negativity, much progress and the trends are all pointing in the right direction.
One indication that standards of living have risen more than simple measures of nominal income have shown is the astounding progress in the production and productivity of the transistors that have powered the digital revolution. Total global production of transistors has increased from one per human being per year in 1965 to over 20 trillion per second by 2017. A transistor today is invisible to the naked eye, yet the smaller they get, the faster they process electronic signals, and therefore the more useful they become.
In terms of cost, “In the latter-1950s, a transistor radio with 5 transistors cost nearly $500 in today’s dollars. Now, for not much more money, you can buy an iPhone that contains hundreds of billions of transistors.
“A pound of rice sells for approximately one dollar and contains about 25,000 grains. For that same dollar you can buy—as part of a memory stick or phone—not 25,000 transistors, but billions. A transistor today is thousands of times cheaper than a grain of rice.” (Hat tip and Thanksgiving thanks to Darrin Qualman for those amazing calculations.)
This indicates how much more value a person can get for a dollar today than when we baby-boomers were young. (And for those who say that there’s no substitute for higher real-dollar incomes, you, too, have reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Real median household income grew almost $6,000 to $68,703 during President Donald Trump’s first three years of office. That’s “more in 2018 than the previous 20 years combined,” according to the Foundation for Economic Education.)
More good news: There are increasingly frequent signs that the pace of progress in bio-technology is accelerating at a dazzling speed, raising the possibility of killer diseases being greatly curtailed, if not eradicated, within a very few years. Further, life expectancy may soon come close to doubling. Of course, if today’s youth live to 150, they’re going to have to totally revamp the Social Security System, because taxpayers won’t be able to support 90 years of retirement, but most would say that that isn’t a bad tradeoff.
We can be grateful that economics has discovered the principles that can make the whole world prosperous. Sadly, the economics profession, dominated as it is by political influences, often mangles economics education, but economic truth is known, and once one knows the truth, he or she sees that economics is not the dismal science it was in less enlightened days, but is, in fact, a cheerful science. When Americans some day rebel against economic quackery and rediscover the principles that made the United States the wealthiest country in the world, future generations of Americans will be affluent beyond our present imagination.
Yes, indeed, there’s much for which all generations of Americans can be thankful on this Thanksgiving Day. Except for a painful detour this year, things have been getting better, and even brighter days lie ahead. There’s much for which we can be grateful.
Thanks be to God “from Whom all blessings flow!”
Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.