The Barber (Not) Next Door
By Bryan Caplan
Today I strolled through my childhood neighborhood. Northridge, California. When I passed by the corner house that a barber owned long ago, I imagined the following dialog:
Stagnationist: So the world just keeps getting better and better, eh? Well let me ask you: How many barbers can afford to buy a home in this neighborhood today?
S: Make that zero.
Me: Fair enough.
S:: So isn’t this a perfect example proving that life has gotten worse for the typical American since the Seventies?
Me: Do you remember what this neighborhood was like in the Seventies?
Me: Well, I do. When I was a little kid, there were vast expanses of empty dirt in every direction. This neighborhood had no grass, just tumbleweeds. There were virtually no restaurants. Few shops. The mall was already here, but it was a lot smaller and tackier.
S: Your point?
Me: Barbers could afford to live in this neighborhood back when this neighborhood was in the middle of nowhere. So the right question to ask yourself is: Can barbers still afford to live in the middle of nowhere? Well, can they?
S: I suppose.
Me: Indeed they can. And thanks to developments like the Internet, today’s “middle of nowhere” is far more stimulating than the poshest neighborhoods during the heydey of disco.