Talking About Two Different Generations

Recycling Mr. Ramirez's art from five years ago:

Generation Gap

As I said five years ago: "Sorry if that stings a little, kids."

Today, I'd add: "Kids, it's not your fault, and on balance a good thing, that we don't live in times that demand you go off to distant lands and have people try to kill you, while you are trying to kill them."

Still, there may be downsides. Michael Munger points out one of them at AIER: Our Kids Have No Economic Immune Systems. He discusses the "hygiene hypothesis", which contends "humans need environmental adversity for our immune systems to mature and function normally." Could that apply to…

There is some evidence that this “hygiene hypothesis” explains much of the dissatisfaction many young people have with capitalism.  While it’s true that America’s education establishment has been taken over by economically illiterate ideologues, something in the mindset of young people of the past two generations has made them think that capitalism is not (just) immoral, but terrifyingly dangerous.

The odd thing is that our children are the among the richest people who have ever turned 5 years old. Since the mid-1990s, with a stumble in 2007-2012 for the “Great Recession,” median family income rose steadily until the government-mandated shutdown of the economy in March 2020. In fact, so-called Millennials stand to become by far “the richest generation” ever.  Millennials and Gen Z have never known anything except prosperity, in terms of the level of their income, and their access to things — cell phones, the internet, streaming music and movies on demand, improvements in auto safety — that as recently as 1990 could not be had at any price.

This seems paradoxical. The commercial system has delivered, consistently and broadly shared across the population. Yet having to participate in a system where one plans, saves, invests, and designs an individual “pursuit of happiness” is overwhelming the very people who should be grabbing all the new opportunities that the system has revealed to them.

I'm not sure I completely buy Munger's thesis, but it's worth thinking about.

Also of note:

  • Once you've watched The Manchurian Candidate, it's hard to resist deploying this quote. (I should know, I did it myself back in April.)

    We would also have accepted: "Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

    But if you'd like your criticism in slightly less snarky form, Charles C. W. Cooke has you covered, while casting a plague upon sycophants on the Other Side: Nobody Believes That.

    Lest anyone think I’m picking on Biden — or Scarborough — I should note that there is a perfect equivalent of this on the right, in which acolytes of Donald Trump insist that the man is a moral paragon; a devout Christian; a faithful husband; an example to our nation and its children; a constitutional stickler; a man without sin who, like Jesus, has been persecuted for his divinity. I don’t hear this every time Trump’s character is raised — some of Trump’s fans have the good sense to say, “he’s a disaster, but he’s preferable” — but I do hear it more often than I’d expect. And every time I do, I look around for the hidden camera. Surely, it’s a bit? Surely, nobody actually thinks that, right? And, more important, surely nobody expects me to go along with it? When its performative — or defensive — I can grasp its purpose. When it’s sincere, I am utterly baffled. Donald Trump is one of the worst people in America. I can comprehend the argument for voting him nevertheless; I cannot comprehend pretending that he is a good person while doing so.

    And Biden? Biden is senile. Forget “behind closed doors.” Forget “slipping.” The guy is manifestly too old to be president. He slurs. He rambles. He becomes confused about where he is or what he’s doing. He mixes up key details. He makes up stories, and, having done so, he then forgets which lies he’s told before. I can see this. You can see this. The American public can see this, which is why more of them believe that Joe Biden is too old to be president than support Social Security. Robert Hur could see it, too, which is why he concluded that Biden was too old and forgetful to be prosecuted. It stands to reason that, far from being magically improved, Joe Biden is far, far, far worse when he is out of the public eye than he is within it. But even if he’s precisely the same, he is still unfit. When Joe Scarborough insists otherwise — as he does semi-regularly — he is making a fool of himself in exactly the same way as the Trumpies do when they pretend that the only problem with Trump’s conduct in office was that he sent “mean tweets.” Who believes this garbage? Honestly.

    The funny part (for sufficiently small values of "funny") is how we wound up with these guys as the putative major-party nominees for the highest office in the land.

  • As the Firesign Theater foretold: "Everything You Know Is Wrong". Noah Smith wonders: How many of our "facts" about society, health, and the economy are fake?

    Remember the maternal mortality crisis? In 2022 and 2023, a lot of people were wringing their hands about how American mothers were dying at skyrocketing rates. Here’s what the Commonwealth Fund, a health-care-focused think tank that’s generally regarded as one of the top sources of public information on the U.S. health system, told us in 2022:

    The maternal mortality rate in the United States has for many years exceeded that of other high-income countries…The U.S. maternal mortality rate has been on the rise since 2000 and has spiked in recent years.

    And in 2023, the Wall Street Journal declared that U.S. maternal mortality was the highest it had been since 1965. These were only two of many outlets that reported on the trend. Politicians took note. Social media shouters declared one more piece of evidence of America’s rapid decline as a nation.

    There’s just one problem: The U.S. maternal mortality increase was fake. It was a thing that never happened.

    Click over for the depressing details. Including Smith's observation of a more general problem: "[E]xperts will sometimes lie to the public in order to further what they see as the greater good." His further examples, about "falling geographic mobility" and "the teen mental health crisis" are, unfortunately, for paid subscribers only.

  • This may explain why people are shying away from the DEI acronym. Yesterday, I mentioned a couple universities that used non-standard acronyms to tout their wokeness. Could be that "DEI" is (as John Tierney says) too easily thought to stand for "Didn’t Earn It."

    George Orwell despaired at the linguistic atrocities of propagandists, but he did offer one bit of hope in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.” While lamenting that “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” he noted that some abuses of the language were vulnerable to “jeers” from a few critics. “Silly words and expressions have often disappeared,” he wrote, “not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority.”

    So perhaps a jeering minority will rid us of today’s most egregiously indefensible phrase: “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” It’s a textbook example of doublespeak, the term inspired by Orwell’s 1984 dystopia in which the Newspeak language enables citizens to engage in “doublethink”—simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs. The words in DEI sound like admirable goals, but the officials mouthing them are working to do just the opposite, as Florida governor Ron DeSantis observed when he banned DEI initiatives at public universities. What DEI really stands for, DeSantis said, is “Discrimination, Exclusion and Indoctrination.”

    That formulation hasn’t caught on, but another one has: “Didn’t Earn It.” It went viral this spring after Ian Miles Cheong, a conservative journalist, and Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, tweeted it to their 2 million followers on X. Adams, who had fearlessly predicted in 2015—six months before the first Republican primary—that Donald Trump would be elected president because of his skill as a “master persuader,” tweeted another forecast: “Whoever came up with ‘Didn’t Earn It’ as the description of DEI might have saved the world. Normally, the clever alternative names people use to mock the other side’s policy are nothing but grin-worthy. This one could collapse the whole racist system. It’s that strong.”

    Tierney points to one indicator of "Didn't Earn It"'s success: Media Matters has issued a research/study purporting to show it's racist.