Are the Boomers Screwing the Millennials?
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
I’m generally not so big in thinking in terms of decades or generations or centuries or hunks of time in general.
Consider the Sixties. Is that decade really characterized by any one thing or mood or result or whatever? If Sixties means Civil Rights, then I smile. And who can deny that rock music steadily got better during the Sixties? But if the Sixties are all about thoughtless sexual promiscuity, the mainstreaming of recreational drugs, and the morphing of the Summer of Love into the Summer of Rape, then I do more than frown. I appreciate various Sixties' efforts to free education as “the art of living” from the imperatives of technological productivity. But the movement away from boring “studies show” courses was too often in the direction of “studies" courses—angry and fake-empowering displays of identity politics (women’s studies etc.).
The Who, one excellent musical product of that decade, got us thinking and talking about “my generation,” which turned out, we found out later, to be a decline away from “the Greatest Generation.”
Is it really true that one generation can screw another? That’s what Joel Kotkin (citing Neal Howe, “a leading generational theorist”) claims. Boomer Americans, in their greed and shortsightedness, have trashed the global economy. And so they're the cause of a world of hurt being piled on Millennial Americans.
Maybe it’s more fair to say that the Boomers were lucky. Their wonder and even peak-earning years were during times of strong and pretty constant economic growth and rising housing prices. But there’s no chance in heck the Millennials are going to get the same kind of breaks.
Certainly the Boomers lack of concern with public and private debt is causing many sober Millennials to face the harsh truth that they’ll be no entitlement programs and pension programs around when they get old enough or unfortunate enough to need them.
The Millenials, of course, borrowed lots of money for college and really astounding amounts for law school. But the jobs aren’t there for those with all that education, and their debt remains. The least that can be said is that they should have gotten better advice about avoiding debt, paying your own way, and so forth from those who mentored them.
Slighted in the extended analysis of the experts is the fact that it might have been selfish and shortsighted for the Boomers not to have more kids. Entitlements, pension plans both public and private, and so forth were Ponzi schemes we thought we could believe in: But it turns out that they depended on both economic growth and population growth.
Although it seems, at first, as if the big problem is not enough jobs, the basic reality is too many old people and not enough young ones. The ratio between the productive young and the unproductive old is tilting rapidly in the direction of the latter. So more of the old know that the safety net of funding and voluntary caregiving that comes from intergenerational dependence and responsibility is increasingly unreliable. They keep working, stuck with being increasingly on their own. They're often hoarding jobs that should be passed on to the new generation. The least we can say is that the Boomers, increasingly lonely and anxious as they age, aren’t ending up as happy as they thought they would be.
It’s between hard and impossible to blame the Boomers for not dying as young or having as many kids as their parents. Maybe the MIllennials are screwed only in this sense: The easy good times enjoyed by their parents couldn’t have lasted forever, and their parents didn’t think enough with them in mind. A kind of relative indifference to the world that extends beyond oneself is hardly the same as screwing. Screwing is much more aggressive or at least passionate.
So the weakness of the Boomers is, roughly speaking, the moral liberation of the Sixties. That easygoing bourgeois bohemianism with scant attention to character formation and personal virtue works well enough when times are good. But it might be that the Boomers haven’t given their kids what they really need—both a moral inheritance a financial one—for when things are bad or at least increasingly uncertain.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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