Thursday, May 06, 2010

A Conversation on Us (Kinda)

A comment by our man Victor Davis Hanson started an interesting conversation. Over at his Pajamas Media page, Hanson wrote an entry about a recent biking tour through part of California. Read the whole thing, but the key section said:

A new cohort between 21 and 30 is becoming a lost generation — and with good reason. They don’t seem to be working full-time or have good jobs with secure futures. Instead, from construction to teaching, there are far fewer sustainable careers for young people. But given family ties, they can live at home, postpone marriage, find part-time work, and rely on essentials like rent and food from the old embryo, while using what little is made for discretionary spending — allowing the veneer of middle class opulence to continue.

That is, for a deep recession, there seems to be a lot of young people out on weekdays at about 10 AM at stores, with good clothes and appurtenances, and apparently no substantial incomes. Is this sustainable, this ability to have discretionary spending, while outsourcing housing and food to one’s parents?
That comment triggered a sort of concurring opinion from John Marshall at No Left Turns:

Victor Davis Hanson's excellent post on his recent trip to Palo Alto fuels thought on Obama's racial and age-driven appeals to voters. Not much has been written on the phenomenon of those aged 21-30 who already, unlike their boomer parents, have to contend with a supremely competitive globalized labor market, and who also now face unemployment approaching 20%. Their entry into middle-class life will be delayed as well as marriage and children. Hanson hints that the real casualty will be yet another group divorced from real citizenship as their primary means of support are "outsourced" to their parents and social service agencies while they maintain consumerist trappings with their reduced incomes. This divorce from responsibility will certainly not aid this group in being independent and capable of self-government. Gone are the qualities of their grandparents and great-grand parents utilized in even tougher times.
Julie Ponzi, also at No Left Turns, responded with a long post that started:

With all due respect to the illustrious Mr. Marshall of our blog--to say nothing of the often insightful, witty and perceptive Victor Davis Hanson--I can sum up my feeling about their speculation of a "lost generation"of young people in American politics with one word: poppycock!
Read the whole thing, including the comments.

Marshall replied here, to which Ponzi comments again in the Discussion section.

I think I am closer to the Ponzi side of this issue, probably because I don't feel particularly lost. I have a job and I am trying to live the strenuous life, and not one based on how much expensive stuff (mountain bikes, SUVs, designer workout gear, ready-made gardens, Kindles, etc.) I can buy to help engage the mind and body. And yes, that is a reference to Theodore Roosevelt. Of course.


dcat said...

He writes: "there seems to be a lot of young people out on weekdays at about 10 AM at stores, with good clothes and appurtenances, and apparently no substantial incomes". And of course he knows this because he is out biking at 10:00 on a weekday. I'm seeing either a methodological flaw, cognitive dissonance, or an utter lack of self awareness at work . . .


Tom said...

Clearly the conclusions from limited personal observation are overdrawn. But Hanson is in his fifties, works, and is not living off of his parents, so I don't see the dissonance of the conclusion.

My bigger problem is that I think he's making too much out of what is probably a real phenomenon. So it turns out that young people are aimless. Big deal. Eventually most of them will have to grow up and do grown up things. The XBox will become a smaller part of their lives and they won't go out to clubs as much. They'll raise kids and take care of their homes to at least some degree. It would probably be better if we got them there earlier in life. But they will get there. In the meantime, let's not build our society or our concerns about society around the whims of 18-25 year olds.

Paul said...

FWIW: I read a study a few years ago that concluded that the brain doesn't actually reach "maturity" until age 25-26. Wish I remembered where I saw it so I could cite it.

dcat said...

Tom --
You wrote "But Hanson is in his fifties, works, and is not living off of his parents, so I don't see the dissonance of the conclusion."

But the point is: Who, upon seeing him out in public at 10:00 am would know that? And so why is he so certain about all of these other folks? Lots of days when I don't have to come to campus I'll be out in the middle of the day, or might be in shorts and a t-shirt and will walk out and get the mail. Would I look like one of these types he's talking about? Why does Hanson have the ability to divine someone's life story yet those same people would somehow be unable to assert the same thing about him? How the hell does he know these people are living off their parents?

But yeah, he's also making too much out of his shoddy observations.

I'm in my, let's say "late thirties," and my brain has not reached full maturity yet.