How Baby Boomers Became the Most Selfish Generation (2023)

How Baby Boomers Became the Most Selfish Generation (1)

Eddie Adams/AP

Over the past 40 years, the US government has done very little to invest in the future.

Instead of spending money on education, our government has repeatedly chosenlower taxes. Instead of investing in infrastructure, politicians often invest in itclose the queuein budget disputes.

Difficult decisions are postponed again and again, and complex social issues are reduced to something that the ruthless "invisible hand of the market" can fix.

Everything was working against us.And it's all our parents' fault.

The baby boomers who have controlled this country since the 1980s are a selfish, entitled generation. It is not your imagination and it did not appear out of nowhere.

Here's a brief overview of the ideas that made it possible.

But first, a note from economist John Maynard Keynes:

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly believed. Indeed, there are few others who rule the world. Practical people who consider themselves completely free from all spiritual influences are usually the slaves of some dead economist.

Our man Milton

It is the same in this case.

"The dead economist in this case isMilton Friedmanwho convinced a generation that selfishness is the natural state of humanity and that selfishness will ultimately lead to the best possible society, when all the empirical evidence points to the opposite: that humans are capable of prosociality and that prosocial societies are better." .Lynn Stout, the economics professor from Cornell told me in an interview.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Friedman advocated a school of economics called neoclassical theory.

According to this theory, all human action is motivated by selfishness. Accordingly, all people can be motivated to do anything as long as there is an economic incentive to do so. In reality, nobody cares or should care about the welfare of the collective - corporations should only be concerned about their shareholders, not, for example, their employees or customers. Individuals should think only of their own financial performance. In any case, everything is important to them - me, here and now.

However, it took some work to make this ideology mainstream because Americans didn't always think this way.

From the 1920s to the 1960s, businesses had to care for their employees and their communities. And citizens were encouraged to do what was best for their country. Taxes were high, workers were well paid,a middle class was createdbut America has advanced.

How Baby Boomers Became the Most Selfish Generation (2)

Wikimedia Commons

But there were loopholes, and Friedman and his ilk exploited one of the most significant in the 1970s: when the US left the gold standard and the price of oil soared, neoclassical economists blamed regulation for the country's economic ills.

Employee protection has been withdrawn. The unions were dissolved. And serious politicians began to argue that tax cuts for the rich would benefit everyone because the cuts would encourage the rich to spend more money, which would "spill over" to the rest of society.

Former New York Times editor Bill Keller outlined the results of this ideology in:perfect paragraphin 2012:

"In 1962, we laid the foundations of prosperity. About 32 cents of every federal dollar, excluding interest, was spent on investments, only 14 percent on benefits. In the mid-1970s, the border was crossed. Today we spend less than 15 cents on investments and 46 cents on benefits. And it gets worse. By 2030, when the last of us baby boomers hit the Social Security rolls, entitlements will eat up 61 cents of every federal dollar, starving our already underserved investments and leaving us, the study says, with "a less skilled workforce, a lower job creation rate places and infrastructure unsuitable for the economy of the 21st century".

Neoclassical economic theory stands behind all of this. It was behind the draconian budget cuts of the Reagan administration, which also led to tax cuts for the wealthy. It was also behind the Bush tax cuts. It was also the cause of banking deregulation under Clinton, the end of the Glass-Steagall Act, which sowed the seeds of the financial crisis. This is behind the growing wealth gap that has dragged our country politically and economically for decades.

“The neoclassical theory that everyone is behaving selfishly does not lead to peace and prosperity,” Stout told me over the phone. "The way societies thrive is by cultivating awareness."

"Ask not what your country can do for you..."

Of course, this begs the question: what is the American consciousness?

Neoclassical economics developed mainly as an antithesis to communism. We are not communists. We are capitalists. The question is how we want to convey this to society. Are we doing it violently, allowing the market to tear apart the fabric that holds communities together—families, schools, shelter, health?

Or do we do it generously so that future generations can trust that their land will remain intact?

There is a very American way of engaging with capitalism that also ensures that companies take care of their employees and that the government takes care of its citizens. It's called "future preferences" and Bill Clinton mentioned it in hisacceptance speechfor the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in July 1992:

"America has been the greatest nation in history because our people have always believed in two things - that tomorrow can be better than today and that each of us has a personal moral responsibility to make it so...

"Of all the things I disagree with," said George W. Bush, "perhaps what bothers me the most is how he mocks and belittles the American tradition of seeing and seeking a better future." He mocks it by calling it a "vision". "

It was this lack of "vision" that made George H.W. Bush promised not to raise taxes when he ran for president in 1988. Of course, he eventually did. Our economy demanded it, and Bush was a pragmatist, not an ideologue.

Unfortunately, now the ideologues have completely mastered Washington. At the head of the government is Donald Trump, a representative of the baby boomers, who boasted that he does not pay taxes. He has surrounded himself with economic advisers who will again cut taxes for the rich. He wants to appoint an education secretary who doesn't believe in all public schools being viable and competitive, but instead believes that the market dictates which schools should and shouldn't survive (an abdication of our responsibility for the future in its purest form).

Of course, you will have politics that are deeply rooted in selfishness.

How Baby Boomers Became the Most Selfish Generation (3)

Mike Nudelman / Business informant

And now, my friends, we are in danger

Stout called contemporary neoclassical economists "a generation of intellectual slaves."

I call them the people who brainwashed House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In the coming months, Ryan will try to dismantle Obamacare and privatize Medicare. His plan to replace it is to simply give it to the elderlyA $20,000 health care voucher. Of course, for many of the most vulnerable people in our society, this is not enough. And who knows if they will have insurance to help them. The private sector does not prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable in our country.

So why do people think we should leave them to the unyielding hand of the market?

Neoclassical economists believe that the private sector is better off because the incentives are more self-serving. Why not let the private sector take care of everything – even the most basic human needs?

Here's why: Incentive theory doesn't really work when the people being served aren't the ones paying for the service. This is what happens with education (taxpayers pay, but students learn). This is the case with healthcare (insurers pay the most, but patients themselves decide when to see a doctor).

In a selfish system, after all, the needs of the payers are more important than anything else. We have seen this played out brutally with the prison. For-profit prisons were such horrors thatThe Ministry of Justice decided to withdraw them.

For-profit colleges have also been a disaster. last year the Ministry of Defense said it would no longer allow soldiersuse your money to joinUniversity of Phoenix, the nation's largest for-profit university, owned by Apollo Educational Group.

The Trump administration is expected to reverse several such decisions.

"All of our social cues are telling us to be selfish now," Stout said. Baby boomers like this because it means they don't have to consider the needs of others or make sacrifices for anyone outside of their immediate networks.

"And of course the very rich plutocrats support it because it allows them to continue to be very rich plutocrats," he continued.

However, there is hope.

Millennials, the generation older than their parents, grew up seeing this selfishness in action. They watched as the recklessness of the housing boom and bust ravaged our society and forced them to grow up in a world where opportunities are shrinking. They do not benefit from the selfishness of their parents.

And let's hope they don't imitate him.


What are some negative attributes of the boomer generation? ›

They also have destructive tendencies like selfishness, arrogance, and ruthlessness that can result to a outright despotism or factional strife. During a baby boomer's midlife, they often re-evaluate everything that has something to do with their personal life.

What was the baby boomer generation attitude? ›

they're Optimistic

Thanks to factors like relatively high wages, less student debt and a high rate of home ownership, this generation is known for their hopefulness and “anything is possible” attitude.

Why are boomers the silent generation? ›

The “silent generation” are those born from 1925 to 1945 – so called because they were raised during a period of war and economic depression. The “baby boomers” came next from 1945 to 1964, the result of an increase in births following the end of World War II.

Are baby boomers also known as the silent generation and the greatest generation? ›

Generally speaking, the Greatest Generation are the parents of the "Baby Boomers" and are the children of the "Lost Generation" (those who grew up during or came of age during World War I). They preceded what is known as the "Silent Generation," a cohort born between the mid-1920s to the early-to-mid 1940s.

What are two common stereotypes of baby boomers? ›

Generation stereotypes
Traditionalists (1925 to 1945)Baby boomers (1946 to 1960)
• Practical• Optimistic
• Patient, loyal and hardworking• Teamwork and cooperation
• Respectful of authority• Ambitious
• Rule followers• Workaholic
1 more row
Jun 5, 2005

What issues do baby boomers have? ›

As baby boomers age, they must deal with the challenges of aging. That is why healthy living and regular check-ups with your doctor are more important as time goes by. Age is a risk factor for several chronic conditions, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

What are some negative consequences of the baby boom? ›

Baby boomers have been reported to have higher rates of substance abuse than any previous generation (62). Within the next two decades, this group will become the largest group of elderly persons that American society has ever had. As this cohort ages, the number of elderly drug abusers in the population may increase.

What is the baby boomer generation known for? ›

Baby Boomers represent the 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964. They were born during the post World War II baby boom. They rejected and redefined traditional values. They are also the wealthiest, most active and have the most disposable income for food, apparel and retirement programs.

What are the core values of baby boomers? ›

The core values of Baby Boomers include optimism, team orientation, personal gratification, health and wellness, personal growth, youthfulness, work, and involvement. When a workplace environment supports their values Baby Boomers are more satisfied with their jobs.

What makes baby boomers different from other generations? ›

Baby boomers are typically more traditional than millennials in terms of lifestyle. They are more likely to be homeowners and to live in traditional nuclear families. On the other hand, millennials are more likely to put off getting married and having kids later in life.

Which was the most happiest generation? ›

Doing so may reveal why millennials are the happiest generation—like, ever. Their secret? Taking care of themselves.

Are baby boomers the most sensitive? ›

They found that younger generations are less hypersensitive than older generations. This suggests the millennial generation, which includes people who are currently between 23 and 38 years old, is less sensitive than the baby boomer generation, which includes people between the ages of 55 and 73.

What are characteristics of baby boomers? ›

Characteristics of the baby boomers generation
  • Strong and focused work ethic. Baby boomers are typically hard-working individuals who often define themselves by their professional accomplishments. ...
  • Independent. ...
  • Competitive. ...
  • Goal-oriented. ...
  • Resourceful. ...
  • Experienced. ...
  • Self-assured. ...
  • Value relationships.
Jan 16, 2023

What is the opposite of baby boomers? ›

A zoomer is, in the newest use of the word, a member of Generation Z, the generation of people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The zoomers follow the millennials (also known as Generation Y), who follow the Gen Xers, who follow the baby boomers.

What are 3 characteristics of the Silent Generation? ›

Silent Generation characteristics
  • Traditional values. Cultural and social forces emphasized values such as hard work, loyalty and thriftiness when the Silent Generation was coming of age. ...
  • Financial prudence. ...
  • Interpersonal respect. ...
  • Determination. ...
  • Resilience. ...
  • Work ethic. ...
  • Analog sensibilities. ...
  • Self-sacrifice.
Mar 10, 2023

What are 3 ways that baby boomers changed society? ›

Here are some of those things that wouldn't exist without baby boomers, proving we've made the world a better place.
  • We made driving safer. ...
  • We immortalized road trips and travel in general. ...
  • We pioneered rock 'n' roll. ...
  • We invented the internet. ...
  • We created personal computers. ...
  • We ushered in the era of screen time.
Oct 8, 2019

Why do baby boomers refuse to retire? ›

The main reason: many baby boomers are worried about their finances. Nearly two-thirds expressed concern about having enough savings to quit the daily work grind.

Why are baby boomers so hard working? ›


They want to work towards a specific task, and they feel a great sense of accomplishment when they reach their goals. As the first generation to take advantage of the educational opportunities and post-war societal changes, baby boomers have been raised to work hard and be ambitious.

What is the 2030 problem baby boomers? ›

In 10 years, all Baby Boomers will be 65 or older. It is estimated that there are 73 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., and thanks to better healthcare extending lives and record low birth rates, older adults are projected to outnumber young people by 2034.

What is the life expectancy of a baby boomer? ›

What wasn't foreseen was how long Baby Boomers would live. When the first Boomers were born, the average life expectancy was 63 years old. Today, Boomers can expect to live to almost 79 years.

What are the facts about baby boomers retirement? ›

On average, 10,000 baby boomers reach the average retirement age every day. People who were born in the baby boomer generation are now either in retirement or fast approaching their golden years. In fact, roughly 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, and all baby boomers will have passed that age by 2030.

Which is one effect of the baby boom today? ›

Baby boomers hold a large amount of the wealth in the U.S., making them a prime market segment. Baby boomers are gradually retiring, boosting demand for—and investment opportunities in—healthcare, elder care, medical devices, and related industries that cater to that demographic.

What is the work ethic of the boomers? ›

This generation has experienced the benefits of hard work and dedication, which is something they expect from their employer. Baby boomers are willing to work hard and compete to reach company goals to prove that they're the best people for the job they hold.

What are 10 interesting characteristics of the baby boomers? ›

Baby Boomers' Important Characteristics
  • Strong work ethic. Baby boomers aren't afraid to put in a hard day of work. ...
  • Self-Assured. This generation is independent and self-assured. ...
  • Competitive. Baby boomers like competition. ...
  • Goal-centric. ...
  • Resourceful. ...
  • Mentally focused. ...
  • Team oriented. ...
  • Disciplined.
Jan 29, 2016

What is the motto of baby boomers? ›

This generation values to be given individual choices and lives with an optimistic attitude. The most appropriate Boomer motto is: Everything is possible. But who are the Baby Boomers today?

What are baby boomers stereotypes? ›

  • Boomers Don't Care About Younger Generations.
  • Boomers Just Want to Retire.
  • Boomers Lead Inactive Lives.
  • Boomers Are Set in Their Ways.
  • Boomers are Technophobes.

What are two reasons for baby boomers? ›

Most historians say the baby boomer phenomenon most likely involved a combination of factors: people wanting to start the families that they put off during World War II and the Great Depression, and a sense of confidence that the coming era would be safe and prosperous.

Who is the strongest generation? ›

Overall Power, By Generation
GenerationOverall Power Share
Baby Boomers38.6%
Gen X30.4%
Gen Z3.7%
3 more rows
May 6, 2021

What did baby boomers change? ›

What Did Baby Boomers Contribute to Society? The sixties defined the era of social change, and the Baby Boomers led the charge through activism, social change, and freedom. Baby Boomers opened our eyes to social attitudes with a decade of riots, boycotts, antiwar demonstrations, and protests for civil rights.

What is the saddest generation with? ›

Gen Z has been called the 'most depressed generation' with the least positive outlook and diminished emotional and social well-being. They have more unmet social needs than any other generation. The statistics for their behavioural-health issues – mental and substance disorders – are alarming.

Which generation quits the most? ›

For the last two years, it seems everyone has been quitting their jobs. Gen Z, who bore the brunt of early 2020 layoffs and job losses, led the way.

What generation is struggling the most? ›

According to Cigna International Health's 2023 survey of almost 12,000 workers around the world, 91% of 18-to-24-year-olds report being stressed – compared to 84% on average. Research indicates Gen Z are emerging as the most stressed demographic in the workplace, and struggling mightily to cope.

Which state has the most baby boomers? ›

The most populous city in the U.S., New York is the top boomer location, boasting the largest population of baby boomers.

Are baby boomers generous? ›

A new study finds that the average donor is age 64

Boomer generation is a significant force in charitable giving. A new survey of 1,339 donors finds that boomers give the most to charities, accounting for 41 percent of all contributions in 2017.

Why did baby boomers rebel? ›

As they grew older, some baby boomers began to resist this consumerist suburban ethos. They began to fight instead for social, economic and political equality and justice for many disadvantaged groups: African-Americans, young people, women, gays and lesbians, American Indians and Hispanics, for example.

What is a silent boomer? ›

The Silent Generation, also known as the Traditionalist Generation, is the Western demographic cohort following the Greatest Generation and preceding the Baby Boomers. The generation is generally defined as people born from 1928 to 1945.

What are baby boomers called now? ›

Baby Boomers (circa 1946 to 1964) Generation X (circa 1965 to 1980) Millennial Generation (circa 1981 to 1996) Gen Z (post-Millennial) (circa 1997 to 2012)

What is a negative characteristic of the Silent Generation? ›

Many scholars believe that the Silent Generation's low birth rate was due to the uncertainty and difficult conditions of the time, which meant that fewer people felt secure in starting families and raising children. The Silent Generation, as well as the Greatest Generation, were the parents of the Baby Boomers.

What is the Greatest Generation known for? ›

“The Greatest Generation” refers to the generation in the United States that came of age during the Great Depression and later fought in World War II. They are sometimes called the G.I. Generation or the World War II Generation.

What is the difference between Silent Generation and Baby Boomers? ›

The groups are quite different, and not only in size. The silent generation (age 77-94) is often characterized as thrifty, respectful, unassuming, and loyal. Baby boomers (age 58-76) are portrayed as demanding, self-assured, independent, and competitive.

What are the negative points of generation gap? ›

Negative Effects of Generation Gaps

Differences in each generation's approach to work, communication style, and world view can lead to resentment when a person of one generation does not act or speak in a way that is congruent with that of someone from a different generation.

What is the most unhealthy generation? ›

A generation of narcissists

Baby boomers are living longer but not necessarily healthier. The Journal of the American Medical Association study reported lower activity levels, obesity, high cholesterol, and take more medication for diabetes and hypertension than previous generations.

What are the characteristics of the boomer generation? ›

Characteristics of the baby boomers generation
  • Strong and focused work ethic. Baby boomers are typically hard-working individuals who often define themselves by their professional accomplishments. ...
  • Independent. ...
  • Competitive. ...
  • Goal-oriented. ...
  • Resourceful. ...
  • Experienced. ...
  • Self-assured. ...
  • Value relationships.
Jan 16, 2023

What were two effects of the baby boom? ›

The boom also helped accelerate another pattern: disengagement with institutions. Baby boomers were less likely than their parents to attend church, to be married, and to be members of political parties. Their children then continued the trend, being less likely to participate in those same institutions.

Why baby boomers are falling into poverty? ›

Approximately 7 million older people will be living without sufficient income to meet housing, utilities, food, and medical needs. Many more baby boomers may fall into the poverty category in the 2020s because of insufficient retirement planning.

What are three causes of the baby boom? ›

A combination of factors produced this baby boom: soldiers returning home from the war were weary of adventure and wished to settle down into family life with their sweethearts, and GI Bill benefits promised the decent pay, access to good jobs, and affordable housing that made raising a family possible.

What is the root cause of generation gap? ›

Generation gaps are caused by increased life expectancy, rapid changes in society, and the mobility of society. Effects of the generation gap include conflict among family members of different generations and misunderstandings.

How is generation gap destroying family life? ›

Old parents are being sent in the old age homes. Thus, generation gap is destroying the basic human relationship and is obviously a threat to the social stability of family relations. This can be curbed only if both hear the voice of the other carefully and with sympathy by forgetting that both are always gold.

What are 3 examples of a generation gap today? ›

Today's Generation Gaps
  • Attitudes toward different races and groups.
  • Moral values.
  • Religious beliefs.
  • Respect for others.
  • Political views.
  • Work ethic.
Jun 29, 2021

What's the saddest generation? ›

Gen Z has been called the 'most depressed generation' with the least positive outlook and diminished emotional and social well-being. They have more unmet social needs than any other generation. The statistics for their behavioural-health issues – mental and substance disorders – are alarming.

Which generation is the most misunderstood? ›

Why Millennials are the most misunderstood generations. They are frequently dubbed lazy, irresponsible, and party-obsessed but new research has painted a brand new image of the Millennial generation as hardworking, socially aware and financially savvy.

What generation is the smartest? ›

Gen Z is also the smartest and best educated generation. Having an unlimited wealth of information at our disposal has not gone to waste. In America, 57 percent of Gen Z is reported to have enrolled in a two-year or four-year college, compared to 52 percent of Millenials and 43 percent of Gen X.

What are boomers most known for? ›

What Are Baby Boomers Known For?
  • Baby Boomers Value Relationships.
  • Baby Boomers Are Highly Goal Oriented.
  • Baby Boomers Have a Strong Work Ethic.
  • Baby Boomers Are Self Assured.
  • Baby Boomers Are Competitive in Nature.
  • Boomer's Lifestyle Changes and the Women's Movement.

What are Baby Boomers most known for? ›

As the longest-living generation in history, boomers are at the forefront of what's been called a longevity economy, whether they are generating income in the workforce or, in their turn, consuming the taxes of younger generations in the form of their Social Security checks.

What are the core values of Baby Boomers? ›

The core values of Baby Boomers include optimism, team orientation, personal gratification, health and wellness, personal growth, youthfulness, work, and involvement. When a workplace environment supports their values Baby Boomers are more satisfied with their jobs.


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