Tuesday , 21 May 2024

"The Pinch: How Baby-Boomers Took Their Children's Future and Why They Should Give it Back" – A Book by David Willetts

Oh the shame of being a baby boomer. What a bunch of shysters we seem to be. We are the most selfish, greedy, job- hogging, pension-grabbing bunch of egomaniacs history has ever seen. Here we are, cackling to ourselves in our overpriced homes and exploiting our political power to shaft the younger generation.

We use our demographic throw-weight to skew the welfare system in our favour and above all we are squandering the natural resources of the planet. You know that Goya picture of the giant eating a naked human being? That’s us, all right – Saturn devouring his children. Words: 759

In further edited excerpts from the original book review* Boris Johnson (www.Telegraph.co.uk) goes on to say:

Or at least, that is the portrait presented by David Willetts in his new book, “The Pinch-How Baby-Boomers Took Their Children’s Future and Why They Should Give it Back”, which has been received with rapture by one and all… but I think he is wrong; or at least that he tells only a tiny fraction of the story.

No, I don’t think we baby boomers have anything much to feel guilty for. I don’t think we have treated the next generation badly. We haven’t ripped off our kids. Indeed, by comparison with our grandparents I would say we baby boomers have been, if anything, excessively tender-minded and absorbed in the upbringing of our little ones. There is every chance, moreover, that by our exertions we will leave a world considerably improved on the world we found.

We are so much richer, as a society, that an unemployed man on benefit now receives more – in real terms – than the average working wage in Macmillan’s Britain. London’s air is far cleaner, and so is the Thames; and a car travelling at top speed emits less pollution than a parked car in the 1970s, mainly because cars no longer leak. Now the question is: will baby-boomer selfishness really call a halt to this progress? Are we really likely to see an interruption of the process by which human beings have been able to become, on the whole, richer, taller, healthier, more able to take holidays and pursue hobbies and – in important respects – happier?

When British pioneers helped the birth of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978, the Vatican warned that it was “an event that can have very grave consequences for humanity”. As things turned out, it was an event that had very wonderful and joyous consequences for millions of people. Whatever the economic difficulties of today, it is the baby-boomer technology that is delivering and will deliver incredible improvements in the standard of life of the next generation. Who gave us email and eBay? Who gave us Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, iPod, Prozac, BlackBerry and spreadable butter you can keep in the fridge? It was the baby boomers. Who is responsible for the tolerance and openness that has helped to break down sexism, racism and homophobia? The baby boomers, that’s who. Who ensured that you can read this article either on Finnish newsprint or with electronic technology sourced from around the world? It was us baby boomers, and our doctrines of liberal market economics.

Of course David Willetts is right to draw attention to the financial and environmental problems of the world. Yes, we still face the challenge of pollution – but then someone once predicted that horse-drawn traffic was growing at such a rate that by 1950 London’s streets would be under 10ft of manure. Where is that dung today?

Ever since Hesiod, ever since Isaiah, human beings have loved to listen to prophets of doom and they have loved to believe that theirs is a uniquely fallen and selfish generation. I don’t believe it of the baby boomers, and in any case I am sure the next generation is well up to the challenge.

Forget the prophets of doom – I’m proud to be a baby boomer. The world is a happier place thanks to my generation, and the next will look after itself.


Editor’s Note:
– The above article consists of reformatted edited excerpts from the original for the sake of brevity, clarity and to ensure a fast and easy read. The author’s views and conclusions are unaltered.
Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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