You can learn a lot about the past by reading fiction that was written in the so-called “old days”.
This is especially true with writers like John D. MacDonald (1916-1986), who were prone to philosophizing through the dialogue and internal musings of their characters.
MacDonald’s pulp fiction novels are filled with the author’s notions on the state of the world at the time he was writing, which can generally be termed the postwar period—after World War II, but before the counterculture of the late 1960s made everyone and everything go nuts.
John D. MacDonald, near as I can tell, was neither a ‘conservative’ nor a ‘liberal’ as a twenty-first century American would define either term. (He may have been a relative liberal for his times—but keep in mind how fundamentally conservative his times were.)
Anyway, there is a line that I like from The Deep Blue Goodbye, one of the Travis McGee novels: “A man with a credit card is in hock to his own image of himself.”
MacDonald was an environmentalist, true; but his ideas on most things seem to have been rather old-fashioned, and what used to be called “common sense”.
If only twenty-first century Americans were more skeptical about debt, as MacDonald was, at both the individual and national levels.