Is It the Baby Boomers' Fault?
By Staff News & Analysis - April 01, 2013

Who Destroyed the Economy? The Case Against the Baby Boomers … Retirees and near-retirees are leaving behind a devastated economy for their children … but are we doing anything to fix it? Here, two generations debate who's really to blame for the wreckage. … This is the charge I've leveled against him on a summer day in our Pacific Northwest vision of paradise. I have asked my favorite attorney to represent a very troublesome client, the entire baby-boom generation, in what should be a slam-dunk trial – for me. On behalf of future generations, I am accusing him and all the other parasites his age of breaking the sacred bargain that every American generation will pass a better country on to its children than the one it inherited. –

Dominant Social Theme: The current US economic mess is the fault of the Baby Boomers.

Free-Market Analysis: This article actually appeared about six months ago but is worth examining within the parameters of Western decline given that we are documenting the shrinkage of the US dollar economy, the rise of an alternative, BRIC-based International Monetary Fund, etc. (See lead article, this issue.)

The article (excerpted above) itself touches on some of the points that people might ordinarily associate with an empire's subsidence, and that makes it noteworthy. We've often played around with the concept of blaming a particular generation but have decided Baby Boomers are not to blame as a whole for what is going on in the US. It is much bigger than that.

In fact, it is unfair to individuals who are part of a group to blame a group generally. People are capable of individual human action and should be judged on their merits.

This article is all about the concept of blaming groups – Baby Boomer, etc. – but in the end the author decides that the blame ought to be parceled out more widely than that. Here's the conclusion:


Only later do I notice the knife he's left in my side. We are sitting at the kitchen table. He is joking about regrets ("You raise these kids, and then they turn on you!") when he suddenly becomes serious and offers me a rare piece of fatherly advice. "We didn't stop it. Maybe someday, Max can have the same discussion with you and ask you why you didn't stop it. He'll get the article out. He'll say, 'You knew about it! You knew about it even more than [your parents] did!' "

The knife twists. I am 34 years old. I have some pretty successful friends. How have we sacrificed to balance the budget, to slow climate change, to deliver better opportunity for our children? We haven't. I own an SUV, and I don't compost my trash. We are barreling, generationally, toward higher and higher levels of carbon emissions; a demographer from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research estimated last year that an individual's emissions rise some 50 percent from the time he is in his 30s until the time he retires. Worst of all, we don't seem to care about changing things: Only about a third of registered 25-to-44-year-olds voted in the 2010 election, compared with half of registered baby boomers.

If my father is a leech on the future, then I am becoming one, too.

"Your generation should be thinking about how you'll step up to the plate," my dad says, brown eyes boring into mine. "And you also need to step up to the plate, learning from us about the politics. Just say no to the kind of politics that get in the way of what you perceive are the solution."

He rises to water the saplings behind the cabin ("for the next generation"), and leaves me to stare out through the tall firs. My little boy has come in from playing in the dirt.

"Daddy," he yells.

Parasite, I hear.

So we can see from this rueful conclusion that the son is concluding he is more like the father than not. Both are culpable for what is going on in the US. While we agree somewhat with this conclusion, it is the stirring call to action that makes this article noteworthy.

The author – and his father – seem to conclude that aggressive political participation and an involvement in confronting the threat of global warming are the ways to counter current trends.

How is this possible? Politics are pursued vehemently in the US but only seem to make things worse. And just in the past week, there have been several reports about scientific puzzlement that the earth seems to be cooling rather than warming.

The larger issue here is the same as always. The world and the US in particular cannot be cured by grand plans and overarching intergenerational ambitions. People are ultimately responsible for themselves, their families and their friends and local communities. Beyond that, change is difficult and often misapplied.

Individual human action is the best we can hope for and education of others, one at a time, is the best remedy for the Anxieties of the Age.

After Thoughts

Who said this? … "We must cultivate our own garden."

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