Are there any ways in which the past really was better?

Within your lifetime or beyond. Not just personally, as in “yes, back then I had all my teeth,” but at least some large or small aspect in which a typical person transported back in time would say, “why yes, this is better than what I’m used to in the twenty-first century.”

Small things: I’m not an expert, but I understand that furniture was much more durable and of better quality, often with types of wood that you can’t get anymore.

Bigger things: it may not be a popular opinion, but I think more durable marriages, and not so many fatherless kids around, was one thing that may have partly counterbalanced all the other things that sucked in societies of the past. Maybe not necessarily in terms of individually happy love stories, but a bit more social cohesion on a larger scale at any rate.

I disagree about durable marriages having been a good thing in the past. Many endured because there was simply no way out.

I think that, maybe, it would have been nice to have fewer options in life–and to know about fewer options. Subsistence farming is a hardscrabble existence, but it means that every single person is important and valued, and knows whether they’ve done their job and whether they’ve done it well. I think that would lead to psychologically healthier people.

Second, I think it was better to be outside more and doing more physical work. Also to not be exposed to so many chemical additives and frankenfood.

I wouldn’t trade my current life for life at any time in the past, though. Modern medical care and social advances are far too important.

Statiscally, the last is questionable. It depends on what period in time you are talking about though, but both abandonment (without divorce) and death created fatherless kids, some people believe as many as there are now. Stephanie Koontz has written about this a lot.

I liked a smaller media space. I don’t need to know every detail about a child abduction two thousand miles from where I live. My life was simpler without exposure to that much information.

Grocery store food was better prior to prepackaged everything and we can ship them from Mexico tomato breeds.

It was much easier to “accidentally” maim someone with lawn darts.

Extended families were probably better than our modern fragmented ones.

It was generally harder for non-violent psychopaths in the past to prey on people. Modern communications and mobility means that they can go from victim to victim, never running out and outrunning their reputation. in older, less mobile times eventually everyone they were likely to come into contact with would know that they weren’t to be trusted; in the modern era it’s easy for them to find an endless supply of people who don’t know them.

I don’t know about your somewhat rosy view, to be honest.

I think those were just more repressed times. I believe most if not all, of the same problems existed, they were just taboo and unmentioned. Looking back from here, it loses some of it’s hard edges, but that’s illusion, I’m almost certain. Repression kept people ‘looking the other way’, about oppression.

As long as the marriages weren’t abusive the economic security and emotional stability for the children outweighs IMO.

I think in general art and literature both high-brow and popular were better in the past as opposed to the crap that passes for “high art” today.

It was a lot easier to take an airline flight when I was younger.

Nature was more unspoiled.

The air was cleaner.

Advertising was minimal.

Fewer dangerous chemicals in the environment.

(I would also prefer the modern age for all its problems. Health care, human rights and standard of living where I live is leaps and bounds above what it was even a generation ago.

I’m going to go ahead and guess that you’ve never watched your parents’ terrible relationships drag on way, way longer than they ever should have. That’s a special kind of childhood agony that is arguably as bad as or worse than divorce.

ETA: My answer - tight knit communities, way healthier diet.

I have heard that income inequality in the US has increased during my lifetime (since 1975). I don’t think this is a good thing for social stability.

This may be a selection effect. The cheap crap furniture from then has been long since thrown away, so what we see now of furniture from then is the good, durable stuff. That doesn’t mean the good, durable stuff was typical of furniture from that period, just that it’s what has survived from then to now.

But, even if better quality, durable furniture was typical then, it was probably more expensive relative to wages, which means fewer people could afford it. Nicer stuff on average is not an unmixed blessing. Cheap, poor-quality furniture does serve a purpose. It’s arguable that that’s what most people want. If most people want to replace their furniture every few years, then it’s a waste of money for them to pay extra for furniture that will last much longer than the time they want to keep it, is it not?

I think this may be another selection effect. The crap from back in the day has been deservedly forgotten, what is remembered is the good stuff. That doesn’t necessarily mean there was more good stuff than crap.

At least in the US, a few decades ago, jobs were available for pretty much anyone who wanted one and was willing to work hard. Didn’t get into college or don’t want to go? Just go downtown and find a factory and walk in and ask, or take the train to Colorado and sign up to work in a mine. Work hard and you’ll make enough to live.

It didn’t take as long to learn history.

One can compare the works of artists considered great in their day such as those of the neo-Classicists or the pre-Raphaelites to modern “Pop Art”

The view of the future was rosier.

There were plenty of hack artists back then also. Compare fruit of the same species.

There was less obesity.

Kids were allowed more freedom to go out and play unsupervised than they generally are now.

I remember when there were many fewer telemarketers. I think there was less junk mail, too, but I might just not have been seeing it because I was a kid. Most phone calls and mail we get now are someone trying to sell us something.

This one isn’t an unalloyed blessing, but people were not expected to be reachable by phone or email all the time.

Yes. Parents let children learn the dynamics of human socialization and the physical laws of the universe through unstructured play with random companions.

(Sorry, Anne, I was writing what you said as you were posting. )

Also, people did things because they were the right things to do, not the most profitable or advantageous.

None I can think of. We live in the future, and the future kicks ass.

When was this? The Stone Age? The air is a lot cleaner now than when I was a kid in the 1970’s and that is true in lots of developed countries. Cities were much, much dirtier from the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution through the late 20th century than they are today. That may not be true if you live in China but it is true for most 1st world countries. There are more people now so a lot of nature has been overrun by development but there is also less litter and more conservation on the unspoiled land that is left.