Saturday, March 24, 2018

#83 / "Millennial" Means Nothing

John Quiggin, a senior research fellow in economics at the University of Queensland, is seeking to persuade readers of The New York Times that "'Millennial' Means Nothing." Maybe that's true, and I certainly can't disagree with Quiggin when he says:

Dividing society by generation obscures the real and enduring lines of race, class and gender. When, for example, baby boomers are blamed for “ruining America,” the argument lumps together Donald Trump and a 60-year-old black woman who works for minimum wage cleaning one of his hotels.

The pattern of inherited privilege points to yet another reality that the generation game ignores: the decline of social mobility between generations and the rise of what the French economist Thomas Piketty has called a “patrimonial society.” When it comes to wealth and its accompanying privileges, the wealth of the previous generation of one’s own family matter more than whether your birth year falls on one or other side of some arbitrary boundary.

Today’s young people may choose political action aimed at reversing these trends or to let them continue and accelerate. But their choices will be determined by their political judgments and personal commitments, not by a number on a birth certificate.

I am definitely not one who believes that our history is predetermined, so Quiggin's final statement particularly rings true to me. Still, I continue to think that the discussion presented by William Strauss and Neil Howe, in their book, Generations, The History of America's Future, is rather compelling. It is a book I continue to recommend.

As I reported in this blog back in 2015, Strauss and Howe say that their research on past generations leads them to expect a "crisis lasting from 2013 to 2024." They say "the early 2020's appear fateful," and they expect Malloch's "next Great Generation," the Millennials, will have "a chance to demonstrate civic virtue and to triumph over great adversity."

Nothing automatic about that, I know, but I'm hoping that Strauss and Howe are right!

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