How We Got Here: The '70s-The Decade That Brought You Modern Life (For Better or Worse)


418 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-679-30966-7
DDC 306'.0973





Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


David Frum believes that the decade of the 1970s represented a major
watershed in American life. It witnessed the end of the social stability
of the 1950s and 1960s, and impelled dramatic transitions in foreign
policy, economics, and politics.

Desegregation, Vietnam, and “statism,” Frum asserts, ranked as the
chief agents for change. Desegregation, in his view, proved a mixed
blessing. As a result of court-ordered busing, for example, extreme
violence erupted for three years in the city of Boston. Other centres
experienced similar altercations. In 1973, when North Vietnam launched a
new offensive, Frum claims that South Vietnam could have won if only
Nixon’s administration had provided more soldiers, more material, and
more air support. By throttling its ally, he observes, America went from
“defeat to disgrace.” All during the 1950s and 1960s, Republicans
and Democrats alike practised liberal Keynesian economics. This
orthodoxy collapsed, notes the author, when government actions to
control inflation and regulate fuel and energy met with failure. Frum
denounces these measures as “statist” violations of the free market.

Frum’s book raises many questions. Unwise desegregation measures may
have led to some deplorable consequences, but in the long run the
movement boasted positive accomplishments. For over a decade, the United
States had poured half a million troops into Vietnam and had dropped
more bombs than in World War II. All to no avail. Why should one more
battle in 1973 have revised this? Positive government in the interests
of human betterment is anathema to Frum. Diminution of government
regulation has channeled unbridled power into the hands of multinational
corporations whose immediate concern is profit. They control politicians
and much of the media. Did the early generation of revolutionary
Americans overthrow rule by hereditary aristocracy only to surrender to
plutocracy? A gifted writer, Frum always holds the reader’s attention
and stimulates thought even in those who may disagree with him.


Frum, David., “How We Got Here: The '70s-The Decade That Brought You Modern Life (For Better or Worse),” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,