A piece I wrote for the Fin on the ‘generation game’ several years back, but omitted to post on my website is finally online. Here’s a couple of paras.
One of the standard ploys in journalism, marketing and political commentary is the generation game. The basic idea is to label a generation ‘X’ or ‘Y’, then dissect its attitudes, culture, and relationship with other generations. The most famous generation, of course, is that of the Baby Boomers, born between the end of World War II and the early 1960s, and their most enduring contribution to the generation gap is the ‘Generation Gap’ between children and their parents.
At first sight, discussion of this kind can carry with it an air of fresh insight, but most of it stales rapidly. Much of what passes for discussion about the merits or otherwise of particular generations is little more than a repetition of unchanging formulas about different age groups ö the moral degeneration of the young, the rigidity and hypocrisy of the old, and so on.
Update 30/8/03 As if to prove my point, today’s Fin (subscription required) runs a particularly silly generation game, with an even sillier lead on the front page. After recycling the the usual cliched half-truths, the article turns to a complete furphy as its main theme. Boomers are blamed for grabbing the old age pension and leaving nothing for the young. In reality, boomers paid taxes during the 1970s and 1980s to finance a universal non-means-tested pension, with access for women at 60 and men at 65. Even when the pension was means-tested, tax concessions for superannuation and easy access to lump sums gave lots of early retirees the chance to double dip.
Now pensions are tested on both income and assets, the women’s age is being raised to 65 (just in time for the first boomers) and there’s talk of pushing the pension age up to 67 after that. Concessions for superannuation, while still generous compared to most other investments, have been scaled back significantly, as has the generosity of employer contributions. On any reasonable assessment, it’s the Depression kids who have done well on this score and the boomers who have paid for schemes whose benefits they will never enjoy.