Baby Boomers Indicted

In a previous blogpost, I cited Economist Lyman Stone’s American Enterprise Institute paper, Red, White, and Gray. In a summary published today at the Atlantic, Stone draws some harsh conclusions about my generation:

The political ascendancy of the Boomers brought with it tightening control and stricter regulation, making it harder to succeed in America. This lack of dynamism largely hasn’t hurt Boomers, but the mistakes of the past are fast becoming a crisis for younger Americans. …

Stone focuses on three examples of tightening control: occupational licensure, land-use rules, and demands for more degrees, but adds:

These developments are part of a wider social trend toward increasing control and regulation across all walks of life. … A graph tracking the rise in paperwork needed to start a new business, or the length of census questionnaires, or the length of the federal code, or virtually any measure of administrative or regulatory complexity would show the same basic trend. Sector-specific explanations seem a bit suspect when the trend itself is so general. …

He also notes that:

Young Americans today … are … in bondage to debt—sometimes their own debt, in the form of rapidly growing student loans or personal and credit-card loans. But on a larger scale, the problems of entitlements, pensions, Social Security, Medicare, and federal, state, and local debt are becoming more severe all the time. Already, in places such as Detroit, Illinois, and Puerto Rico, where political rules make flexible solutions hard and the population is aging very quickly, massive debt restructurings loom large. But around the country, the pressures of long-term obligations will grow.

And that:

The odds of a 32-year-old dying have risen by 24 percent in the past five years, even as death rates among older Americans are about stable. Baby Boomers are living longer even as the workers who pay for their pensions are dying from an epidemic of drug overdose, suicide, car accidents, and violence. But, of course, while this sudden increase in working-age death rates is a new concern, the long-run fiscal crunch has been obvious for decades. For virtually the entire period of Boomer political dominance, it has been obvious that long-term obligations needed to be fixed. And yet, the problem has not been fixed. Younger Americans will suffer the consequences. …

He concludes:

Not all of these problems were first caused by the Boomers, but they each worsened on their watch. If leaders in business, education, and politics want to solve these problems, they can. Whether the gerontocracy in charge today wants solutions may be another question altogether.

On behalf of my generation, all I can say is, sorry kids!

Jon Guze / Director of Legal Studies

Jon Guze is the Director of Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over twent...

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