[This is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary aired on 15 July 2015.]
You’ve all heard of generational groupings like the so-called Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers. Well, the latest are the Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1997. This cohort is now in their young adult years, and they have arrived on the scene with a markedly different worldview and priorities than their predecessors. For openers, none of them lived through or understood the Cold War.
Their view of the United States is not so much tempered by our exceptionalism, patriotism, capitalism, or even our beneficent role serving as the world’s sheriff. They do not see Russia, China, and even Iran as geo-strategic competitors or possible foes of America, but as peer nations on the global scene doing pretty much normal stuff to serve their national interests without seeking hegemony over their neighbors. And for the first time the new demographic cohort contains more self-declared liberals than conservatives – 30% to 28%. Given the recorded sentiments of the so-called Moderates at 40%, I would conclude that during the last decade the country has swung markedly toward the Left.
The Cato Institute has published an informative compendium of recent polls and studies of the Millennials which concludes they are “more liberal, more ethnically and racially diverse, more technology centered, more supportive of government action to solve problems, and the best-educated generation in US history.” - the latter at least when counting the number of issued high school diplomas and college degrees.
Millenials see the US and the world heading toward a global order. While not quite trusting human nature and individualism, Millennials hold that bigger and more comprehensive governments will be able to calm and control man’s animal spirits. In such an environment Millennials see the world as a less threatening place than do their predecessors. And without perceiving sharp outlines of global threats, Millennials don’t see the need for America to project power. Today only 2% of Millenials have served in the military, and to them talk of the Cold War and how the world was then is a turn-off. Their schooling has given them a distinctly counter-image of what it was like when the US and the USSR maintained peace through the threat of mutual assured destruction. But that was then, and this is now.
Today, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, there exist 1,438 academic sustainability programs at 475 colleges which recognize completion with degrees up to and including doctorates. But the question remains - who in the private sector would hire people with such skill sets if they were not under a state mandate to do so? The answer is obvious when the employer is a government agency. And that may explain why so many Millennials are proponents of big and bigger government.
So there we have it dear listener. The new Millennials have been sustainably educated, are established in our midst, and by their growing presence have already tipped the scales to a new future that continues to throw off the ideas and values of the exiting Silent Generation and the soon to exit Boomers. The die is being recast for ‘Peace in Our Time’, while no one remembers what happened in 1938.
My name is Rebane, and I also expand on this and related themes on georgerebane.com where the addended transcript of this commentary is posted with relevant links, and where such issues are debated extensively. However my views are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
[Addendum] By coincidence the 15jul15 WSJ contains a report by former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels on James Pierson’s new book Shattered Consensus: The Rise and Decline of America’s Post-war Political Order. Pierson makes the compelling case that America is on the threshold of a new and dark revolution of the magnitude of three previous ones which shook and determined new directions for our country – “…the Jeffersonian revolution, which ushered in a long period of dominance of a new anti-Federalist party; the Civil War, which vanquished slavery and set off the ascendancy of northern Republicanism; and the New Deal, which dramatically expanded the size and intrusiveness of the federal government in Americans’ lives.”
The consensus, which “assigned the national government responsibility for maintaining full employment and for policing the world in the interests of democracy, trade, and national security”, began to weaken in the 1960s and accelerated in the 1970s. But it has been with the Millenials during Obama’s administration that the actual collapse has started. Pierson argues that such a consensus, which “is required in order for a polity to meet its major challenges, no longer exists in the United States. That being so, the problems will mount to a point where either they will be addressed through a ‘fourth revolution’ or the polity will begin to disintegrate for lack of fundamental agreement.” In these pages we have referred to this epoch as the beginning of the Great Divide.
Pierson asks his readers to question certain aspects of the veered political course taken by our country, for example “how will the contemporary left resolve the original progressive contradiction, which persists today: Affecting to be tribunes of ‘the people’ and advocates for democracy, in practice so-called progressives demonstrate a dismissive impatience with democracy in favor of rule by the diktats of our benevolent betters, namely them.”
He also points out that the “massive programs” envisioned by the progressives all require the rich to get much richer while at the same time allowing an ever greater share of the fruits of their risky labors to be taxed away. Contemplating Pierson’s warnings, we recall that there is no solution to this conundrum in the growth of the government-corporate complex, because the result is inevitably an even larger bureaucracy that cuts the risk/reward feedback paths and mangles the management of the enterprises through usually insane partitions of authority and accountability. And the carefully filled heads of the new Millennials are innocent of such considerations.
[16jul15 update] The comment stream under this post is heartening, especially in the enthusiastic and voluminous participation by our liberal readers. The alert reader will discount the obviously limited scope of their studies as they continue to accuse their ideological opposites of being small in number and uniquely holed up and isolated here in these foothills. Given their information sources, such mistakes are understandable.
One progressive commenter’s contribution stands out as a posterchild proxy for many of the others as he addresses me who might also serve as a proxy for those of my generation and background. For openers, the gentleman is completely unfamiliar with the bespoke literature documenting chapter and verse of free speech on college campuses, and he apparently does not know many current students nor has visited today’s college campuses. He states with some assurance –
“…no George, it's just your antiquated 19th century world view that has proscribed progress, change, and the evolution of society. Slavery was once thought to be an acceptable economic model, no longer. Communism was once thought to be a threat, no longer. Polluting and ransacking the planet's resources for profit was once thought to be the engine of progress, no longer. It's not that the millennials (I have two) are naive, uneducated, or stupid, in fact, it is quite the opposite. They have much broader view of the world because the world has changed, something you and your cohorts don't seem to understand. It is time to pass the baton to those who understand the present and don't dwell in a past that no longer exists. Like it or not.. things they are a changin' and the world view you adhere to is no longer relevant in the 21st century.”
For the reader new to these pages, I am a technologist (with posted vitae), teacher, and entrepreneur (also a grandfather and great-grandfather). In working at the cutting edge of knowledge I and others like me have always been in the minority, have always had our ideas initially rejected by the establishment. But it is people like me and of my generation and professional background who in their life’s work have given us the blessings of the world we now live in. It has been our forward looking ideas and creativity that have provided the technical advances, new systems and services, novel organizational structures, and jobs that propelled this nation into the computer and space ages, and then developed the businesses that understood the technologies and greatly contributed to the country’s wealth during the last half century.
I challenge anyone with a smidgeon of 19th century history under their belt to produce evidence from these pages that characterizes me as having an “antiquated 19th century worldview” – clearly the above commenter does not qualify. And to put a bow on it, I am proud of the prescience that RR and many of its commenters have shown in foretelling the (sad) course of events that have put us on our current national trek to authoritarianism, a path on which our newest adults have been taught that a sustainable future requires “curtailing economic, political, and intellectual liberty (as) the price that must be paid to ensure the welfare of future generations.” This is what the Left considers forward looking 21st century thought?! However tragic, they may actually be right, but they err greatly in the nature of the “welfare” they will bequeath future generations.
In my seventies I am active in a wide range of organizations, I have the good fortune to exchange ideas directly and personally with my political leaders and intellectual fellow travelers, I remain an active and productive developer of new technology, and I am blessed to be in association with, yes, Millennials with whom we have created yet another technology based enterprise that is now a major employer in our area. Did I mention that I also have five grandchildren in college?
So I wonder how in touch are my liberal critics, are they keeping up with what is happening in technology, economics, youth, and the geo-political roilings of the world; and how then are they contributing to its progress? But I do know why they read RR, constantly disparage it, and yet continue to participate in this blog’s extensive debates. Somewhere deep inside they know that the ideas promoted in these pages are real and have a real audience. They know that these ideas comport with human nature and have made this world an acceptable place in which to live and raise families. More importantly they feel that it is these same ideas that will carry the day with a free and informed citizenry, and in doing so will give lie to the worldview they were taught and have cherished through the years. So it is important for them to come and contend, and it is important also for the rest of us to have them do that with the greatest acumen they can muster.
No matter which way the current gale blows, we in the minority – especially in the realm of ideas – continue to express our hope for the future by passing on the values and mores of liberty, individualism, and enterprise. We will not go quietly into the dark night that awaits us all.