Boomers ruin everything for everyone

Different generations throughout history have always liked to insult each other and blame others for their problems. Photo Credit: iStock. 

Listening to talk radio the other day, there was a stream of younger callers who were criticizing the baby boom generation for ruining everything. That generation was blamed for the high cost of housing, massive government debt that would be passed on to subsequent generations, pursuing tax reductions that would benefit them, ignoring “climate change” and other sins that will have to be dealt with by younger generations. All in all, boomers are perceived by many as a destructive generation that is leaving a gigantic mess for future generations to deal with. 

But is that really the truth? Different generations have always blamed those coming before them or after them for their problems, but a real examination of the boomers doesn’t reveal behaviour any different than other generations. Full disclosure – this author is a boomer. Even so, if there was a weight of evidence to hold boomers responsible for so many of these problems I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on that bandwagon. Let’s look at the facts. 

The one truly distinctive characteristic of baby boomers is that there were so many of them. They were born in the wake of World War II when there was a widespread optimism in the developed world after defeating the horrendous regime of Adolf Hitler. Families were encouraged to have children in this positive environment, and there was a baby boom around the world. The parents of baby boomers had lived through the ugliness and abject poverty of the 1930s depression, when families tended to be large but poor. The children of the depression came of age in the 1940s following WWII, and began to have families of their own in large numbers. It just so happened that in proportion to its population, Canada had one of the biggest baby booms in the world.

So what did the boomers do to attract such criticism? As it turns out, nothing special. Boomers bought houses, had families, held down jobs and did other things that are basic activities of all generations. They were also beneficiaries of various technological changes such as the advent of effective birth control, the era of average middle-class people taking recreational drugs and the beginnings of the computer revolution. 

Effective birth control meant many more women could enter the workforce and control their fertility. So many new entrants to the workforce gave a huge boost to productivity. Economic indicators such as housing starts increased drastically as this large population cohort all started buying houses and having families. The impact of a very large age group growing up had a big impact on the economy and society principally because the group was so very sizeable and because so many women were gainfully employed, not because they had any other particular characteristics.  

Recently, the boomers were surpassed by the millennial generation as the largest group in our population mix. Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996 – essentially the children of boomers. As we boomers are starting to die off, our children are taking over dominance in the demographic sweepstakes, which is a pretty predictable course of events. 

Another thing distinguishing we boomers is that we are living much longer than previous generations because of medical advances and better lifestyles. This means we are not vacating our houses as soon as previous generations did, so are upending the housing market by selling off our houses later than before.  However, as demographics is one of the most predictable sciences that exists, the fact that boomers are staying in their houses longer should have been well recognized and accounted for by governments long before now. Governments only have themselves to blame that there are acute housing shortages now, whether because of the federal Liberal government’s decision to ramp up immigration to unsustainable numbers or ignoring the demographic trends that were totally predictable. 

Something many members of the boomer cohort are also doing is passing on their good fortune to their children. Many millennials are benefitting from the appreciation in their parents’ homes by receiving down payments from their parents to allow them to become real estate owners. 

Different generations throughout history have always liked to insult each other and blame others for their problems. We can go back to ancient Greece where the adults of the day complained about the feckless younger generations who they didn’t believe were sufficiently serious about working productively, and were too frivolous and pleasure-seeking. A factual review of baby boomers’ behaviour shows that they didn’t do anything different than any other generation, but their great numbers permitted them to affect markets in ways that no previous generation could. 

Happy Victoria Day, baby boomers! Seems we’re not so bad after all.

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