The Clash of Generations

Thomas Friedman is “connecting the dots” in his New York Times column piece over the weekend, The Clash of Generations.    The Global Macro Monitor posted a similar piece, Connecting the Dots: The Coming War Between Generations,  back in March.

During the Egyptian revolt and as concerns over public pensions in the U.S. really started to increase,  we wrote

It is also time to connect some dots.  What we are witnessing in the Middle East where the young, who have little or no political voice and a not so bright future are throwing off their autocratic gerontocracies at an incredible pace.   Something similar will manifest here and the rest of the aging west, though probably in different way, when younger generations realize the consequences of being saddled with a massive debt and declining public services as the tax revenues are diverted to debt service and retirement benefits.   Not to mention the world full of carbon they have inherited.

They to, like their Facebook brethren in the Middle East, will revolt and throw off the gerontocracy that will control the political system as baby boomers age, which over taxes them to pay the debt used to finance the excessive consumption and current retirement benefits of their parents and/or grandparents generation.It doesn’t take a C.I.A. analyst with a Ph.D. to realize the potential for political blowback when one generation is rendered into servitude due to the excesses of another.   Or does it?

Here’s Friedman in his Clash of Generations,

Indeed, if there is one sentiment that unites the crises in Europe and America it is a powerful sense of “baby boomers behaving badly” — a powerful sense that the generation that came of age in the last 50 years, my generation, will be remembered most for the incredible bounty and freedom it received from its parents and the incredible debt burden and constraints it left on its kids.

It is no wonder that young Greeks reacted so harshly when their deputy prime minister, Theodoros Pangalos, referring to all the European Union loans and subsidies that propelled the Greek credit binge after 1981, said, “We ate it together” — meaning the people and the politicians. That was true of the baby boomer generation of Greeks, now in their 50s and 60s, and the baby boomer politicians. But those just coming of age today will never get a bite. They will just get a bill. And they know it…

I was struck by one big similarity between what I heard in Tahrir Square in Cairo in February and what one hears in Syntagma Square today. It’s the word “justice.” You hear it more than “freedom.” That is because there is a deep sense of theft in both countries, a sense that the way capitalism played out in Egypt and Greece in the last decade was in its most crony-esque, rigged and corrupt deformation, letting some people get fantastically rich simply because of their proximity to power. So there is a hunger not just for freedom, but for justice. Or, as Rothkopf puts it, “not just for accounting, but for accountability.”

How long before the young realize they’ve had their future stolen from them by the baby boomers?   The answer to this question will determine your  our defined benefit pension,  social security and medicare benefits.  Reality meets us at sunset.  Stay tuned.

This entry was posted in Black Swan Watch, Bonds, Demographics, Egypt, Fiscal Policy, Geopolitical and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Clash of Generations

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