Summary: We can learn much about modern America by looking at past predictions. Unlike today’s news, we not only can assess their accuracy, but also their reasonableness as forecasts when they were made. We now have 50+ years of predictions from Left and Right, mostly designed to frighten us into obedience. Let’s remember and learn from them. This post looks at a small but entertaining one, typical of its time, about the terrifying America of 2017.
“Priorities must be established, or this might be the end for Earth as we know it.”
— Memo to the President by media magnate Glenn Howard (played by Gene Barry) in “LA 2017”.
Some things never change. That’s a lesson from watching the TV show “L.A. 2017”. Directed by the 24-year old Steven Spielberg, it aired on 15 January 1971 as an episode of The Name of the Game. It described a horrific world 46 years in the future (2017), after pollution had destroyed the Earth’s ecology and forced the remnants of humanity to live underground.
In this version of 2017, Los Angeles has one cow; its milk is a delicacy for the rich. For more about the plot see this.
It was written by Philip Wylie, a science fiction writer with a successful specialty in doomster stories about nuclear war and ecological doom. He novelized it as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. See a review here.
While Hollywood worked to terrify the public into action — it was aired before the second anniversary of Earth Day — real policy experts had been working for decades to end the polluting of America. The key regulations had already been enacted when “LA 2017” was first broadcast, and many more have been enacted since then.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 began the long process of cleaning America’s waters, with major amendments enacted in 1961, 1966, 1970, 1972 (a complete revision), 1977, and 1987. The Clean Air Acts of 1955, 1963, 1967, and 1970 had broken the back of that problem; subsequent amendments in 1977 and 1990 — and Obama’s proposals — have continued this progress. The Environmental Protection Agency opened shop on 2 December 1970, and has accomplished great things in its brief history.
The improvement in America’s environment since 1960 is amazing, a public policy accomplishment we can take pride in — and a rebuttal to those who disregard American history to claim that government seldom (or never) does anything good at home.