It’s official — the young will not be better off than their parents and grandparents.
Long, long ago, I used to go out with a girl who was an authentic Rockefeller. Her great-grandfather was John D. Rockefeller. She had no romantic interest in me, nor I in her, but we hung out.
Aside from this woman, I do not know anyone of my generation who is not better off than his great grandparents. Most of the people I know who are millionaires and billionaires (to use Mr. Obama’s favorite phrase) had ancestors who were just working stiffs or farmers or salesmen. Even among the upper middle class, their ancestors rarely — never — were as well off as they were.
Why? Why are we who are now in our sixties, seventies, and eighties so much better off than our forebears?
I humbly offer a few reasons:
1.) We tend to have more education. That means we have a more sophisticated, more powerful machinery inside our skulls, and thus more human capital hitched onto us. It is the same as if we were farmers and owned a powerful tractor instead of a mule.
2.) The society in general has more sophisticated machinery available to all of us, whether in factory, office, shop, or bureaucracy we have machines that allow us to produce more widgets per unit of our time. These would range from immense excavating tools to i-Pads.
3.) The society is (or was until recently) more efficiently organized and operated under better laws that allow people to “be all they can be,” to coin an Army recruiting slogan. When humans were locked in the same jobs as their parents, their skills in other areas lay fallow. Now, people can try their skills wherever they wish and where they are most capable.
There probably are other reasons, such as compound interest, which allows families to grow rich and pass on those riches to their children and grandchildren.
This is a big factor in many lives.
The problem that I see happening, and which has been scaring me for some time now, is that much of this is going into reverse.
Young people now are acquiring far less education than they used to. Immense numbers never finish high school. Many of those who do graduate from high school and go on learn next to nothing in college. (My favorite recent example: a college freshman at a lecture I attended who thought Pearl Harbor was a jewelry store.) This has to take its toll.
Today’s data about scores on the SATs, showing that in some areas they were the lowest they have ever been, are terrifying. Yes, it is largely because so many brown and black people are taking the SATs and we welcome that. But that venture is giving us a window into just how poorly these persons are acquainted with basic education, not to mention higher education. Getting these fine people up to a meaningful level of education will be extremely difficult for many reasons. Keeping the white ones at a high level of achievement also turns out to be extremely challenging.
The advances in computing power and communications which give us so much pleasure are not showing up as meaningful gains in productivity. We do not know why, but it’s happening — or not happening.
The rules of society, especially rules in finance and corporate law, which are meant to increase overall wealth and efficiency, have allowed wholesale looting of the savers and investors of America. This has been a catastrophe for many families. Deregulation has much to recommend it, but when it allows the financial sector to take as much of the nation’s savings as it does, then deregulation acts to intensify class divisions and essentially to rob from the middle class.
On the other side of the coin, excessive environmental regulation hinders the development of resources needed for growth.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?