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Unformatted text preview: “The Short American Century” and “Urbanization’s Consequences” • 35 Robert Beauregard, “ e Short American Century” and “Urbanization’s Consequences,” from When America Became Suburban , pp. 1–39. Copyright © 2006 University of Minnesota Press. Permission to reprint granted by the publisher. “The Short American Century” and “Urbanization’s Consequences” Robert Beauregard THE SHORT AMERICAN CENTURY F rom the end of World War II in 1945 to the recession of the early 1970s, the United States was the most a ffl uent and the most infl uential of nations. During those years, the United States realized the destiny that Henry R. Luce, one of the country’s most outspoken publishers, had famously foreshadowed in 1941. Luce had urged Americans “to accommodate themselves spiritually and practically to the fact” that “their nation became in the 20th century the most powerful and vital nation in the world.” e mantle of world leadership, he challenged, could no longer be avoided; isolationism would have to be abandoned. e subsequent projection of a U.S. presence promoted democracy, abundance, and American ideals across the globe. e American Century had ostensibly begun. 1 ese years were among the most prosperous in American history. Jobs were plenti- ful and wages were on the rise. Young married couples were confi dent enough of the future to fl ee apartments in the cities for homes with mortgages in the suburbs. ere, they started families in unprecedented numbers. e gains from high productivity and a favorable balance of international trade were spread throughout the economy. e United States was a bountiful society admired throughout the world for its vast array of consumer goods and comfortable way of life. Americans celebrated the wealth of consumer products, their scientifi c achieve- ments, the stability and openness of their government, and the myriad opportunities available to them for personal advancement. e national mood was buoyant; a shared sense of accomplishment nurtured a federal government sure of its ability to overcome all obstacles, whether domestic or foreign. Except for paranoia about communism and the persistent challenge of race relations, Americans were satisfi ed with who they had become and with their prospects for the future. America, they believed, was the envy of the world. roughout what would turn out to be a shorter American Century than Luce had envisioned, the formidable combination of prosperity, democracy, and military strength repelled all challenges to U.S. global supremacy. 2 While the nation was basking in prosperity and international glory, the industrial cities were undergoing precipitous decline. Urban economies were collapsing, and resi- dents were leaving for the suburbs in ever-rising numbers. Once-robust manufacturing fi rms closed their operations or moved to more favorable locations. e ripple e ff ects produced job loss and business closings. Racial tensions, poverty, and physical decay produced job loss and business closings....
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