Generations aren't really important (but class is)

Everything attributed to Millennials was attributed to Gen X and Boomers and, well, everyone, pretty much (every time someone tells you that Millennials aren't interested in working and have no ambition, just think about the alleged "slacker" phenomenon in Generation X).

But a mystic belief in generational determinism or even coherence isn't a harmless delusion. Ascribing wealth inequality to "Boomer hoarding" rather than 1 percenter looting means that we aim our pitchforks at other people who've been screwed over, rather than the screwdriver-wielding plutocrats.

If boomers as a group have done no better than anyone else, can it at least be claimed that it was boomer mismanagement that brought the economy to its present pass? Not really. On Time magazine's list of the twenty-five people who made big contributions to bringing about the global financial crisis, the top three (financier Angelo Mozilo, central banker Alan Greenspan and congressman-turned-lobbyist Phil Gramm) are all silents, as is the emblematic Ponzi figure Bernie Madoff and (strikingly missing from the list) Bill Clinton's treasury secretary Robert Rubin. And that's without even considering the financial deregulation of the 1970s, which set the whole process in motion.

Inevitably, given that they constitute a large share of the adult population, plenty of boomers appear among the bit players on Time's list. Equally, given the preference of Wall Street firms for young hotshots, much of the actual work of designing and selling bogus securities was done by X-ers in their twenties and thirties.

The point here is not that one generation is more or less to blame than another. The people who caused the crisis were mostly born before 1945 because they were of the right age to hold powerful positions in the financial sector in the 1990s. It was their membership of the 1 per cent that matters here.

The generation game
[Josh Quiggin/Inside Story]

(via Crooked Timber)