WSJ columnist Joseph Sternberg doesn’t mince words in the title of his new book: The Theft of the Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole the Millennials’ Economic Future. In a recent interview, he squared off with Vox writer Sean Illing in a debate over Boomer governance and economic dysfunction. (Vox)
- NH: Sternberg, a Millennial columnist for The Wall Street Journal, calls himself a "free-market conservative." But in this book, he agrees with most of his peers that Boomers are responsible for imperiling America's economic future. And he blames, in particular, the hypocritical "centrism" of most Boomer policies (Democratic and Republican) that pretends to deregulate the economy but in fact enables special interests always to come out on top.
- Sternberg concludes: "The middle way, in which we meld the state and the market, isn’t really working. So that leaves us with two options: You can either have more state and less market, or you can have more market and less state." Though he himself prefers the latter option, he acknowledges "that certainly a lot of the energy among Millennial voters seems to be in the more state direction."
- If Sternberg's understated, almost self-effacing defense of "more market" is the best that a Millennial free-market conservative can do, well then, the libertarian camp may be in trouble! In particular, his swearing off of any middle way reinforces one of my steadiest refrains--which is that the Fourth Turning political mood is turning both to populist left and to populist right, but away from the centrist establishment.
- If you want a zestier, no-holds-barred version of this whole down-with-Boomers argument, look instead at Sean Illing's interview of Bruce Gibney, author of Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. (See "Trendspotting: 8/13/2018.") Gibney, a late-wave Gen-Xer, and a Silicon Valley VC, goes after Boomers swinging a 2-by-4. "The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it. They habitually cut their own taxes and borrow money without any concern for future burdens. They’ve spent virtually all our money and assets on themselves and in the process have left a financial disaster for their children."
- Gibney's basic thesis is that Boomers championed an ethic of individualism and irrationalism that allowed them to avoid bearing any responsibility for the community--past or future--and refuse to face the objective consequences of their behavior. Hmm. Sounds about right to me.