Inflation is an iron law of economics. But not everything rises in price over time: One facet of “rising standards of living” is the fact that over time, lots of things actually get cheaper, thanks, in part, to rising productivity and competition.
That point is neatly summarized in this chart created by WalletPop and Mint.com:
As you can see, the things that have gotten cheaper aren’t restricted to luxury goods and tech items that are now cheaper to make–they include staples such as milk, aspirin, and airfare.
Obviously, each of these has gotten cheaper for different reasons, and many of these are driven by changing business practices: For example, Nike long ago gave up charging an insane price premium for top-end basketball shoes, and chose instead to address a broader urban market with a lower price point.
As that example suggests, what lies behind many of the prices are business strategies: Starbucks, for example, has made it’s basic coffee cheaper on the theory that it’s better to bring more people through the doors, so that they might purchase higher margin items. In recessionary times, lower prices are often the best tool that businesses have to fight off ugly sales results.