Sears’s lowest-priced no-frost refrigerator-freezer in 1956 had 9.6 cubic feet, in total, of space. It sold for $219.95. (You can find a lovely black-and-white photograph of it on page 1036 of the 1956 Sears catalog.) Home Depot today sells a 10 cubic-foot no-frost refrigerator-freezer for $298.00. (You can find it in color on line here.)
Therefore, the typical American worker in 1956 had to work a total of 219.95/1.89 hours to buy that 9.6 cubic-foot fridge – or a total of 116 hours. (I round to the nearest whole number.) Today, to buy a similar (actually, slightly larger) no-frost refrigerator-freezer, the typical American worker must work a total of 298/19.79 hours – or 15 hours. That is, to buy basic household refrigeration and freezing, today’s worker must spend only 13 percent of the time that his counterpart in 1956 had to spend.
Sears’s lowest-priced 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, was priced, in 1956, at $129.95. (You can find this range on page 1049 of the 1956 Sears catalog.) Home Depot sells a 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, today for $348.00.
The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 129.95/1.89 – or 69 hours – to buy an ordinary kitchen range. His or her counterpart today must work 348.00/19.79 – or 18 – hours to buy the same sized ordinary range.
Sears’s lowest-priced television in 1956 was a black-and-white (of course) 17″ model. (You can find it on page 1018 of the 1956 catalog.) That t.v. set was priced at $114.95. Sears today sells no 17″ t.v. sets. The closest set I could find at Sears was this 19″ color (of course) model, which is priced at $194.00.
The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 114.95/1.89 – or 61 hours – to buy this tiny black-and-white (with no remote!) television set. His or her counterpart today must work 194.00/19.79 – or 10 – hours to buy a slightly larger, high-def, color (with remote!) television set.
Automatic Washing Machines
Sears’s lowest-priced automatic washer – it could handle loads up to a maximum of 8 lbs. – sold in 1956 for $149.95. (You can find it on page 1029 of Sears’s 1956 catalog.) Today, Sears’s lowest-priced washer sells for $299.99. (It’s got 3.4 cubic feet of wash-bin space; I can’t find a maximum “pound-load” for it. Presumably, this 2012 washer isn’t significantly smaller than – and might well be significantly larger than – the low-priced 1956 model.)
The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 149.95/1.89 – or 79 hours – to buy an ‘inexpensive’ new washing machine. His or her counterpart today must work 299.99/19.79 – or 15 – hours to buy an inexpensive new washing machine today.
There will be more on this topic at Cafe Hayek, and, of course, the things you are likely to buy today are actually quite a bit cheaper in usable value than the items Boudreaux was obliged to use for comparison purposes. As an example of this, consider the price per cubic foot of the refrigerator you are actually likely to buy — all the while ignoring all the upgraded features that were unobtainable at any price in 1956.
But, but, but!! What about the difference in quality!?! That’s a valid objection, as the post notes:
In the above I don’t adjust for quality – yet it is certainly true what they say: “They don’t make ’em like they used to.” They make ’em better.
Cry yourself to sleep if you must. But don’t try to snow anyone who can do the math. You are richer than Croesus could ever imagine being, and your self pity is the costliest thing you own.