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Young people these days

May 5th, 2013

Apparently, a new survey shows that Millennials (more precisely, US high school students interviewed between 2005 and 2007, and therefore born in the early 1990s) are lazy and entitled. More precisely, as textbook worker-consumers are supposed to, they would like nice stuff, but not if they have to work long hours to get it. I’m too bored to link to it, but you can easily find it.

The best that can be said for this kind of thing is that it relieves the monotony of boomer-bashing. Apart from that it is a repeat of the formulaic denunciation of adolescents that has been applied (in my memory) to Gen Y (insofar as this group differs from the Millennials) Gen X (Slackers), Boomers (hippies) and the Silent Generation (the original teenagers). Then there were the Lost Generation and so on back to the (apocryphal, I think) rant often attributed to Socrates. Only those who have the good fortune (?) to come of age in a time of full-scale war miss out on this ritual denunciation.

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  1. May 5th, 2013 at 13:56 | #1

    “… they would like nice stuff, but not if they have to work long hours to get it. I’m too bored to link to it …”

    Is there a conscious and deliberate irony in that juxtaposition, or is it unintentional?

  2. John Quiggin
    May 5th, 2013 at 13:57 | #2

    Conscious and deliberate

  3. Hermit
    May 5th, 2013 at 14:28 | #3

    Perhaps these young people could be described as LTG-ready. To paraphrase Limits to Growth theory you can work your arse off but a variety of negative feedback mechanisms will ensure limited material reward. Ergo why bother?

    At the moment the young can’t afford the homes of baby boomers who will increasingly move to aged care facilities. When house prices plummet despite negligible interest rates they can move in legally. Work 15 hours a week and bum around the rest of the time. It may not be apathy so much as adaptation.

  4. kevin1
    May 5th, 2013 at 14:44 | #4

    My hunch is that the evaporation of institutional support for prejudice of all types means the future is bright here. Yet elsewhere in the world……..

  5. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2013 at 15:05 | #5

    “… they would like nice stuff, but not if they have to work long hours to get it.”

    I think that is an admirable philosophy. It’s always been mine. I’ve always valued personal spare time more than money.

  6. Paul Norton
    May 5th, 2013 at 17:05 | #6

    The basic absurdity of griping about each successive younger generation is that those doing the griping are almost always members of the generation of parents, educators and others responsible for the breeding, upbringing and socialisation of the generation being griped about, yet hardly ever recognise that such griping would, if valid, be an admission of their own failure.

  7. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2013 at 17:17 | #7

    Actually, the baby-boomer generation is an interesting study. They or we (I am one) got all the advantages of the Keynesian Consensus growing up and then took it all away with monetarism and economic liberalism in the 1980s to present. I think a generation which benefited from free tertiary education and then very unnecessarily takes it away from the next generation deserves a lot of criticism.

  8. doug
    May 5th, 2013 at 18:13 | #8

    Hey JQ don’t forget us Generation Joneses! We’re a slack, consumerist bunch too!

  9. John D
    May 5th, 2013 at 18:24 | #9

    @Ikonoclast Yep. I remember paying 60% top tax rate in the 70′s so that Peter Costello could have his free university education. Then the selfish bastard got rid of free university education so he and his selfish mates would have to pay less tax.

  10. Jim Rose
    May 5th, 2013 at 20:03 | #10

    what about the breakdown of familiy life?

    the sociologist william wilson points out that too many boys are raised in single parent households and do not learn that work is a central expectation of adult life. there is a growing literature on wayward sons.

    Wilson’s writings on when works disappears inspired the main story arc of the second season of The Wire.

  11. Agnes
    May 5th, 2013 at 20:27 | #11

    Of course, Jim Rose, as only men work.

  12. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2013 at 22:45 | #12

    @Jim Rose

    Of course, and cooking, shopping, cleaning and looking after babies and small children is not work! It’s just one big holiday isn’t it Jim? I’ve done quite a few paid jobs in my time. As well as that I looked after babies and small children as a stay at home parent for a year. The hardest job of all? Looking after babies.

    It takes a community to bring up a child. If a child is badly brought up, neglected, under-educated and so on it is in fact the whole community that is at fault. Maybe you should be looking at things that destroy community and all values other than the money nexus… like capitalism.

  13. Monkey’s Uncle
    May 6th, 2013 at 00:00 | #13

    @John D
    While it is true that the top tax rate was 60%, you also have to remember that back then there were more tax shelters (such as no capital gains tax, fringe benefits tax etc.), and other taxes such as sales taxes or excise were lower than they are today. So for people who either did not earn enough to put them in the top income tax bracket, or were well off but able to exploit various tax shelters and loopholes, their overall burden of taxation was not particularly high compared to today. Simply looking at the top marginal tax rate is not always a reliable guide to the general tax burden.

    Yet we should feel sorry for those few poor saps who had to pay the 60% top rate in the 1970s and early 1980s, and I would not begrudge them anything now.

  14. May 6th, 2013 at 08:58 | #14

    Ikonoclast (@ #9) wrote:

    . Then [Peter Costello] got rid of free university education so he and his selfish mates would have to pay less tax.

    It was the Hawke ‘Labor’ government which first set in train the course of events that would lead to the commodification of Australian vocational and tertiary education, when they introduced the Higher Eduction ‘Contribution’ Scheme (HECS) in 1986, the year I began my degree as an adult student.

    I supported the boycott of HECS organised by the National Union of Students by not filling out the forms required by HECS.

    The campaign failed as we know, so, nearly three decades later, we are living with the consequences of that and a host of other neoliberal economic ‘reforms’ of Keating, Costello and like-minded people from within the ‘Labor’ and the Liberal/National parties – an Australian Dollar which has ‘floated’ to its currently high exchange rate, privatisation, massively reduced government services, the export of jobs, loss of control of natural resources, support for wars started by the US and its allies including two illegal wars against Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, etc.

  15. May 6th, 2013 at 11:24 | #15

    Apologies, John D (@ #9). I was responding to your post and only indirectly to Ikonoclast (@ #7).

    Ikonoclast (@ #12) wrote:

    … cooking, shopping, cleaning and looking after babies and small children is not work! …

    Economic neoliberalism also exacerbated the underappreciation of these contributions by our mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Consequently much less of this vital work is now performed by them and we instead rely much more on junk food, takeaway meals and unaturally processed food from the supermarket shelves for sustenance. It’s little wonder that we are far less healthy and there is far more obesity.

    For clothing, instead of clothes made by adequtely paid Australian clothing workers and repaired and maintained by our mothers, we have come to rely upon cheap, thow-away imports such as were imported from that factory in Dacca in which the terrible death toll from the building collapse has only recently surpassed 600.

  16. may
    May 6th, 2013 at 12:56 | #16

    Ikonoclast :“… they would like nice stuff, but not if they have to work long hours to get it.”
    I think that is an admirable philosophy. It’s always been mine. I’ve always valued personal spare time more than money.

    when ever i hear same one say “time is money”

    i say to them—”then money is time?”

    and always get a blank look.

    when the basics are met,food,safety,health care, etc then wealth is what you think it is.

    the condition of never having enough time is not only a form of poverty but a condition that refuses to accept that asking for some one to “give me a minute” or taking voluntary labour from some one as a right while denying any reciprocation is a form of bludging.

    if i give time,energy,expertise,goodwill to a community effort and find some 0ne has used that as unpaid labour i tend to get a little p off.

  17. Socrates
    May 6th, 2013 at 13:59 | #17

    People put words into the mouth of poor Socrates on this one:
    [The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.]
    Pretty sure this was from Aristophanes’ the Clouds, which was a caricature of Socrates. There is a much larger passage in one of Plato’s dialogues where there is a quote in the context of undiscplined youth reflecting poorly on the society itself.

    So even if true, it doesn’t mean we should blame the youth :)

  18. Mel
    May 6th, 2013 at 15:52 | #18

    I can’t believe entitled whingers are still complaining about HECS. Very few people went to university until the 1980s so it was easy for government to fund tertiary education out of general revenue. I paid HECS and don’t have a problem with it.

  19. sunshine
    May 6th, 2013 at 20:07 | #19

    I like what people are saying about the value of free time here – A principal I have aspired to so far . Wealth is not proportional to happiness .
    Recent research showed kids never allowed to be bored grow up to be less creative thinkers . Also kids who receive too much praise grow up to be quitters who overestimate their abilities and achievements .
    Its true that its normal for each generation to blame youngsters – but I wonder has any previous generation grown up being told greed is good ?

  20. Will
    May 7th, 2013 at 13:14 | #20

    @Jim Rose

    I believe you have muddled your argument. Given that the LFPR for women is a shade under that of men and the non-cyclical LFPR is only increasing over time your argument as stated is on shaky ground. Having heard this line of attack from regressives before I believe the original argument regarded blaming the ills of society on single-parent households caused by feminism and leftist social engineering. A less biased review might conclude stagnant real wages, the requirement for ever-increasing quantities of education at ever-higher cost (thus requiring longer periods out of the labour force), and the shrinking pool of funding for human services, such as youth services and mental health, might all have something to do with it.

  21. wilful
    May 7th, 2013 at 14:32 | #21

    I too am someone who paid HECS for my entire tertiary education and do not have a problem with it at all. My education cost someone, and it helped me to get a far better paying job, so I don’t complain about it at all. It has been a huge success.

  22. May 8th, 2013 at 01:18 | #22

    I work at a uni, and the current crop of students are *much* better behaved than we were. We made noise and threw paper planes. They don’t. Their mobile phones don’t go off in lectures. They are polite.

    What have we done wrong to produce these monsters?

  23. May 14th, 2013 at 23:41 | #23

    Mr Quiggin,
    The beautiful thing about motorcycles is that they tend to provide a means of culling the lubberly and unhandy, within our society, in short order.
    Just give them a mororcycle each and watch the fun.

    There were other, various ways of achieving the same outcome in the old society.
    Apprenticeships usually had a fair percentage of drop-outs too.
    Not through lack of application – more by attrition.
    Do you understand attrition?

    Give some kid of fifteen or sixteen some angry clunk of machinery and leave him alone with it for an hour or two and as sure as sugar some body parts will be shorn neatly away from his person.

    Take my word for it.
    Various governments have been working long and hard to stop that sort of outrage.
    But in a few more months she’ll be on again.

    Wonderful to see how the new age creeps like the wingnut (Abbott) are intending to support that sort of carnage.

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