Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 August 2021
Storm clouds began to threaten the postwar political economy rather quickly. By the late 1960s, war-torn countries had made great strides in revitalizing their economies, while competition was heating up in world markets, challenging the United States’ economic primacy. Then, the price of oil skyrocketed in the 1970s, driving production costs higher. These years came to be dominated by stagflation – a toxic mix of inflation, sluggish economic growth, and high unemployment. On top of that, thanks to dramatic improvements in telecommunications and transportation, consumer demands began to change rapidly, and manufacturers raced to keep up. In 1909, Henry Ford had promised his customers that they could buy a Model T in any color so long as it was black; by 1973, the Ford Mustang came in three body styles, with five engine options, a choice of three transmissions, and more than a dozen colors.