Bleg: Generation war

Every generation likes to complain about the one above it.  However, Generation X’s distaste for the Baby Boomers seems intense.

This isn’t a new thing, although the recession helped to intensify it I can remember these sorts of angry debates going on when I was a child (I am Gen Y, so I’m not taking sides here).

Every person I’ve spoken to who is in Gen X seems to believe that baby boomers have taken all their resources and run off with them.  At the same time baby boomer get annoyed because there has been significant improvement in both technology and civil liberties from when they were growing up – and yet Gen X continues to complain that they don’t have enough.

Is this just an example of people whining at each other, as they always do, or does one of the sides have a case here?

  • Nathaniel

    I think Gen X (I am a member of the mid-70’s tail end) does have a point, but I don’t think it is specifically that baby boomers are any more selfish than normal.  What Gen X have seen is a significant increase in inequality – the gouging out of the middle of the income distribution, so there is more distinction between the haves and the have-nots, and the have-nots blame the previous generation as a whole.  I think the forces that drive income and wealth inequality are endogenous (perhaps moreso than in the past) so this trend is likely to continue with Gen Y – the riots in London are evidence for this.  (the irony is of course that many baby boomers and now Gen Xs have moved up the income distribution due to actually working hard, so they feel they are being criticised and punished for that by the next generation)

  • JC

    Anyone born about 1940-60+ grew up in two worlds.. an older more agriculturally based one with religion, Sunday School, roasts on Sunday, stable married parents where there was deep shame to be unemployed, mentally ill, single for too long and so on.
    But he also had choices.. he could go to the freezing works and earn five times as much as an apprentice or clerk, or he could go the freezing works for the big money to start with and then move with little added education into the rapidly expanding technological, manufacturing and services industries where on job training was given.
    Once there, he was settled, stable and needed till at least 1985, and even if he got the shove under Douglas his prior work record stood him in good stead for future employment, albeit perhaps on a lower wage.
    In a way this relates to your above post on wealth concentration and demographics. The 50+ generation are a pretty stable lot who were able to get in on the ground floor of a lot of jobs before they required a degree or the oppressive regulatory syndrome of later years. I might add that a society back then with a median age of 23 was a lot more forgiving of yahoos, drunken behaviour and general mayhem than a society with a median age of 37!

  • JC

    One other thing I could add which could piss me off if I was a younger man.. legislation.
    20 years ago we increased the age of Super entitlement from 60-65.. now the boomers are going to have to hang in there at work even if they want to leave. And the Human Rights Act of similar vintage means you cannot discriminate in employment against the older man (all other things being equal), thus reducing flexibility and renewal.

  • Us Gen Yers are probably lucky in the sense that we have no illusions about what “loyalty” means in the modern economy due to the fact that the economic reforms were firmly embedded by the time we had to worry about education and occupations. Makes it so much easier to bail and leave everyone to their short-sighted mess!