February 10, 2015

Were the Nineties the Best Decade Ever?

Kurt Andersen makes a pretty good case:

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The Best Decade Ever? The 1990s, Obviously

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By the end of the decade, in fact, there was so much good news — a federal budget surplus, dramatic reductions in violent crime (the murder rate in the United States declined by 41 percent) and in deaths from H.I.V./AIDS — that each astounding new achievement didn’t quite register as miraculous. After all, the decade had begun with a fantastically joyful and previously unimaginable development: The Soviet empire collapsed, global nuclear Armageddon ceased to be a thing that worried anyone very much, and the nations of Eastern Europe were mostly unchained.

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  1. I dunno, Gordon. That era may have been the zenith of your career as a City Councillor. But it is extremely debatable that it was a golden age for the city as a whole.

  2. Post Expo 86, post Gulf War I and pre 9/11 – oh, the innocence! – sounds pretty good to me. And the economic stats are unrivalled. Also, Vancouver housing prices hadn’t gone into the stratosphere, yet (decent-sized downtown condos for less than $200k, for example). City planning wise, downtown Vancouver was well on its way to international renown, doing so without jacking up densities and heights beyond well-established and understood policy.

    OTOH, Gastown was a tourist trap, still waiting to be “discovered.” Now, it is seriously under threat by the development industry. A victim of its own success.

  3. How selective… We’re celebrating the “normal” China that massacred its students in Tiananmen, and the sketchy Dayton Peace Accord that still leaves Bosnia a mess, while glossing over the cruelties of the war, the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo? South Africa was inspirational, though what’s followed hasn’t been especially. The fall of the Iron Curtain was amazing, but the upheavals in Russia led to Putin (not to mention the Chechen wars). Then there was Rwanda. And Somalia. As a 40-year old, the world events I felt most profoundly and emotionally were in the early-90s, and I sure don’t remember them as portrayed here. My dad and I cried when the Berlin Wall fell in ’89, but I was glued to the tv hearing the reports from China, Rwanda and Bosnia. It’s when I learned that you have to close yourself off to the suffering in the world if you want to live a happy life.

  4. The 1990s in BC is well known as the Lost Decade, an era of horrible governace (rotating premiers), and immense corruption to the core.

    Electorally, in 1991, after being shut out for 16 years (Barrett lost 3 times), Mike Harcourt gets in during a period when the centre-right is going through major change (Bill Vander Zalm rides out the end of Social Credit, while Gordon Wilson morphs a new ‘Liberal’ party back – for the first time since 1975 – with 17 seats). The troubles begin.

    Bingogate; the New Dinosaur Party is charged with skimming millions of dollars from charities over two decades. And not one party insider had the integrity to stop it. The Premier resigns in disgrace and Stupich – the NDP’s henchman for the scheme – had over 60 criminal charges of theft, fraud and forgery. The volunteer sector reels.

    Cut to 1996: the Gordon Campbell Liberals win 42% of popular vote (versus 40% for the NDP), but through distribution, Glen Clark squeaks in, and the entitlement unleashes. Massive downloading (without fund-sharing) to local governments, particularly with environmental regulation.

    Glen Clark gives a casino license to an illegal gambling operation in Burnaby, a strip club frequented by Hells Angels. In exchange, he gets decks built at his home in Vancouver and a vacation property in the Okanagan. Then, a wonk named Adrian Dix forges (and backdates) a memo claiming Glen knew nothing. Dix couldn’t even do that right; it was so sloppy that the attempt to derail a RCMP criminal investigation was immediately identified as fraudulent. The RCMP raid Glen’s house, he is charged with crimes, and resigns. Dix denies and denies, until he is put under oath in a formal investigation, then realizes he should probably confess. Years later, claims it was a mistake of youth when the New Dinosaurs later reward him with … leadership. Brilliant politics.

    The Lost Decade ends: in 2001 – after two consecutive terms – the Dinosaurs were deemed so toxic by BC citizens that they almost extincted the party, and we almost became a one-party province like Alberta. The Nearly Dead Party was left with two miserable seats, the worst defeat of a provincial government in modern Canadian history.

    The frightening thing was that in the 2013 election, the New Dinosaurs had as many candidates from horrible 1990s as the BC Liberals had from the more recent Gordon Campbell era.

    1. I thank the BC NDP for their 90s policies and games. The property market became so depressed that in 2000 I figured that their game was almost up and bought a house.

      Even if the market were to crash by 60% I’m still ahead. Thanks Glen.

  5. Remember, aside from a few bar fights, this is the only time in human history that there has been peace in every corner of the world (save for one country). Really think about how amazing it is that you are alive, and witnessing the first time ever that humans have not fought each other. It’s truly an amazing time to be alive.

    We live in a world where peace is the norm.

  6. “And the economic stats are unrivalled.”

    Actually, the 1990’s ranks as the worst post-WWII decade (economically) in Canada by most measures (and one of the worst ever), which was painfully obvious to anyone looking for a job for most of the decade. B.C. was the leading performer in Canada during the decade (contra G.S. above) so maybe that colours perceptions here, but if you lived in Ontario at the time like I did, the only really good thing about the 1990’s was that it ended.

    Politically, people were so angry that the country almost split into two, and the entire political landscape fractured. Ontario had dismal, corrupt government under Mike Harris & co. while Quebec hardly fared better.

    But from a U.S. perspective, especially for people too young to remember the post WWII era (Happy Days) I could see how the 90’s looks pretty good in retrospect.

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