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February 05, 2010


Luis Enrique

I can relieve your guilt ... let's say £500/month by direct debit?


I am a 30 something and I resent you - I was only slightly behind, and I have a clear view of how things have been getting harder in all the respects you mention (and are even harder for the 20 somethings than they were for me).

Why should I need to work twice as hard to earn twice the money to live in a house half the size of my parents? Have you noticed as well, in graduate jobs employers are demanding more in return for less? There is no time to sit and think, your keystrokes are monitored.

However, you make a valid point about 20 somethings: I cannot get them to see this point (well, not the ones I've tried it on). I can't even get anyone to see how few people rising house prices actually benefit and how many they disadvantage. Maybe their age gives them unfounded optimism. Maybe, however, many 20 somethings have parents from a different background - it's my understanding that factory jobs and similar poorly paid work was always extremely hard and unrewarding, providing barely the cash necessary to survive. Maybe in comparison to this, today's options look good. On the other hand (and I think this more likely), maybe they have a great big dollop of status quo bias and sprinkled with an adjusting of their expectations to meet their circumstances. That surely is the explanation that fits the economics text books.

John Terry's Mum

"So why are younger people so quiet?"

It's because we are sick with anxiety.

Tom Freeman

"So why are younger people so quiet?"

Because you NEVER LISTEN. It's not FAIR, you've ruined EVERYTHING. I'm going out.

Trevor Brown

Young people are quiet because they are young and have the riches of time, and so have nothing to envy.

What would you rather?

Contemplating a fast diminishing future or looking forward to 60-80 years in a world where you will be probably be simply cured of cancers and enjoy things the sciedntific discoveries to come?


Why are young people so quiet?

Because they're spending all their days working their arses off to pay off their debts/put a deposit down on a house, and all of their nights ripped to the tits on cheap booze and drugs.


You can't understand why 20-somethings aren't more resentful...???...well...

5 years ago I wrote a play entitled 'Blown away under certain circumstances', which was staged at the ADC theatre in Cambridge. It was a deserved flop, full of shrill speeches, & distinctly untheatrical intellectual exchanges, & most audiences were left bewildered, if a little snarky about it all. **sigh** The play was intended as a satire of political apathy, depicting a society-wide clash of generations that developed into a full-scale revolution, with arguments not dissimilar (if shorter of facts & statistics) to those David Willetts has been making. The babyboomers were demonised as the 'vampire generation', my own as the 'stillborn generation', and all that was unleashed was very Weimar Germany.

Of course, I feel both vindicated by David Willetts' new book, if a little disappointed at its failure to spell out the full implications of his argument. My own thinking at the time (as it still is now) is that much of the cultural space and animating discourse that is often preserved for protest and mass political activism has been subject to the kind of corporate enclosure and cultural over-coding that sees a phenomenon such as X-factor crowding out the attention of talented, practised & innovative musicians & songwriters, stunting a crucial area of cultural vitality & economic dynamism. I would argue something similar happened in the civic sphere, coupled with longer work hours alongside ever-intensified advertising techniques creating a climate of anxiety & despondency among many (otherwise passionate & civic-minded) young people. An ideological shift is a necessity though given the structural changes that are about to come about, & I look forward to seeing your blog, among other thinkers, contributing to that change.

Speaking of which, I must find a copy of your book on managerialism.

Mike Woodhouse

Plenty of grammars around still - my daughter's going to one in September. If you live in Kent, of course.

Why the quiet? I wonder if the youth of today are disengaged, in part because they have, through the social networks they navigate so effortlessly, aligned themselves along different lines, possibly heralding some major changes in the longer-term.

This very conversation would not be possible at all (or would take a very different and much lower bandwidth form) without such advances. And we're only at the beginning - I rather regret that I'm probably already too old to see the real changes come, but my kids may be young enough.


You might not be entirely typical of your generation (as you recognize). I suspect there are many 40 somethings with large mortgages, school fees to pay and not much of a pension pot (their parents were the real beneficiaries of free education, health and a stable job market). This generation will be exposed to any renewed fall in house prices.

In this case, the 20 somethings are entirely rational. Run up debts on holidays, restaurants and generally enjoying themselves. Forget about buying a house (live at home!) or slogging their guts out to simply pay an increasing share in taxes.


In fairness, some of us are deeply pissed off.

But, thing is, you can't just cherry pick the very best bits and ignore the rest. I was born just as the internet came into being, it has permeated my entire life and given me a radically different perspective and experience than anything my parents generation ever had.

Is growing up today harder than it was 50 years ago? I have no idea, how could I. But I doubt it, personally I love the things that technology has enabled for me.

John Terry's Mum

mat sez:

Is this necessarily an improvement?
fine, you can comment on blogs, and (t)witter and find an infinite amount of w*nk fodder, but the internet seems to isolate and distract rather than unite the young folk together (to destroy the system by fair means or foul etc etc)

(also - the internet was invented in the 60s I think, so maybe you're part of the problem generation???)

chris c

I'm very resentful, you bastard.*

I have a student loan account of £16,000 and rising about £500 a year. Every time I think about it, and every time I hear your generation telling the next generations that student loans are the only way of paying for education, despite yours coming free, I get even more resentful.

I'm so resentful I decided to leave the country for a while.

*You're clearly not.

Left Outside

"Why are young people so quiet?"

False consciousness dear!

But seriously. I am those a young people and I don't find myself very resentful.

I don't know why I don't, but I find amongst the (clearly statistically significant) number of people I know that although there's some resentment there's no aptitude or willingness to do much about it. Perhaps you're confusing a lack of resentment with a lack of expressions of resentment?


Isn't it the case that many baby boomers have had to part with a lot of the wealth they built up in order to give their kids a quality of life approaching their own?


Parents are emptying their savings accounts and remortgaging to pay their kids uni fees, subsidise their meagre benefits, provide money for a deposit on a first home, that kind of thing.

I'm 33.


Of course, as you say, you were one of a lucky minority to go to grammar schools. You were also one of a lucky minority to go to university at all, let alone to Oxford. And while the City was booming, unemployment elsewhere was very high.

It's not so much that you were a lucky generation, then, so much as one where luck was very unevenly distributed, and you were one of the ones with a great deal of fortune.

For the top 20% of your generation it was great. But if I were in the majority, I think I'd prefer the days of comprehensives rather than secondary moderns, wide access to university but degrees not being an automatic route to the top jobs, and fewer chances to become a millionaire in the City but more chance of getting a decent job in general.


Rest assured chris, some of us *are* resentful. But there are many other people far worse off than we are. There'd be something distasteful about a middle class, employed graduate (albeit it in a terrible job that I could have got before I did a-levels, let alone a degree) getting all in your face. It should be those at the very bottom of the pile that do that. Sure, in some respects we might be worse off than your generation (in other respects I suspect we are better off). But we are still incredibly lucky.


This is something that's been bothering me. I posted on it here:


Yesterday I was having a coffee with a friend (both of us in our early 40s). He was saying how he's just started sharing an office with 20-somethings. He's embarrassed to tell them where he lives - practically at the foot of the BT Tower. They all live with their Mums in Walthamstow. He was able to buy the flat when he wasn't much older than them. They can only dream of doing such a thing.


I have to echo the second comment "I am a 30 something and I resent you". In particular I and many of my friends missed out on the late 90s boom in house prices and are now faced with the choice of renting for life (thus owning nothing and having to move every 6 months) or living in effectively a bedsit with the sole comfort that at least it's a bedsit of our own.


On the one hand, it seems a little unfair that my father, when he was my age, could afford a detached 3 bed house with space for three kids (I being the first of them) where I would struggle to put together the deposit for a one bed flat, despite having a salary around the median for the UK.

But on the other hand, I'm not sure I'd swap. I was having a conversation about exactly this with a friend who's in her early sixties and a few months back and noted in my diary

"Kate talked for a while about how much easier things were in her day – things like getting interesting work and buying houses etc, and how she wouldn’t trade places with us. She has a point, but interestingly I’m not sure I’d swap. To me, the world just seems so much more interesting these days. Whether its technology which enables the swapping and sharing of ideas (music, writing, photography, whatever) or the breaking down of old social conventions I’d find horribly stifling (perhaps I wouldn’t if I’d grown up with them) or even the way travel is so much cheaper and easier these days, I wouldn’t swap. But then perhaps that’s because today’s world just happens to be shaped for shiftless, rootless, people like me. People for whom a conventional family life, of the kind that, say, [name removed] is embarking on, is not the be all and end all of life. "

Tom Addison

As a 22 year old starting a career, yes I am a bit resentful of some things, but I imagine the older generation are resentful of some of the things we younger people have (our access to pornography in our teenage years, etc).

I certainly feel that the baby boomer generation are the luckiest, "Conscience of a Liberal" by Paul Krugman shows how real incomes for the lower paid were actually higher back then (at least in the USA anyway). And as someone whose two favourite musicians are Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, I'd have loved to have been around back then.

I've been very lucky in life though, and I think it's important to understand and appreciate the role of luck in success. I imagine more talented people than I got rejected for the job I currently have, but I got on well with my interviewer and that was that. My parents are well off, so I left Uni without debt. The only debt I currently have is paying my mum back for my car (at 0% interest rate).

Of course I can't afford a mortgage so am currently in a rented house with friends (dead money), but we have Sky and internet and so are able to watch or stream every single Man United match. How many football matches could you watch on a screen a couple of decades ago? Not nearly as many. I can watch TV shows I've missed on the internet, I can buy books for a couple of quid off Amazon, I can access all sorts of knowledge whenever I want. Would I have known half of the stuff I know now if I'd have grown up in the 70's? No.

However, my main resentment of older generations is that you haven't grown up in a shallow, pretentious, materialistic, image obsessed, sheep-like society. Think Big Brother, think OK magazine, think generic pop music, think chavs on their phones, think tabloids, think men getting plastic surgery, think Jordan being revered by young girls, think anti-intellectualism, think style over substance, think bars in London, think the desire to be rich, think Jade Goody, think dog eat dog, think bloody rap music.

The decider for me though is beer prices. £2.50-£3 a pint I was paying last night. If in real terms it was cheaper back in "the day", then I'm whipping out my Tardis.


Tom, forgive me if I sound patronising but that was a very wise post for a 22-year old. I find the best thing to do with the crappy bits of pop culture is to ignore them. It's surprisingly easy and feels great.

Tom Addison

I forgive you.

But yeah you're right, I do ignore it, I find the best way to do that is to never read a tabloid. Unfortunately though a lot of my mates can't resist them.


You are, but you're an unusual member of that generation because you actually understand your luck. You haven't even counted a lack of major wars in the mix (compared to previous generations, rather than today's young) although admittedly you had to live under the shadow of being atomised - probably not the last generation to have this worry, I fear.


You speculated on housing??

Chris Williams

I'm a member of Chris D's generation (41, comp -> Oxford), although owing to some choices I took in the 80s, my household's on the median income. Such is life, and it's not a bad one. I think, though, that quite a lot of his Panglossian view of the 40something cohort's economic circumstances derives from his own luck at getting a job in the City, and his current sinkyness.

But that's by the by. Why aren't the youth of today annoyed? Because in the 1990s, we stopped teaching them economic history, so they find it difficult to work out what they have to be annoyed about.

Chris Williams

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