Total Opinion Debate
Is the baby-boomer generation selfish? Yes, says universities minister David Willetts, we lost sight of the way the contract between the generations binds societies together. No, says Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, the overwhelming majority of that generation is still making a valuable contribution to society
David Willetts MP says:
YesMybookThePinch:How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And How They Can Give it Back was published six months ago. The title sums up my argument that those lucky enough to be born between 1945 and 1965 are the biggest and richest generation that Britain has ever known – and that they attained this position at the expense of their children. Today, the baby-boomers are at the peak of their power and wealth. By virtue of their sheer demographic size, they have fashioned the world around them in a way that meets their housing, healthcare and financial needs. Their children, on the other hand, are finding it harder than ever to get on the housing ladder, find a secure job and settle down with a family.
This theme clearly struck a chord. The tables of Waterstone’s have since filled up with other books on the topic, including Francis Beckett’s What did the Baby-Boomers Ever Do For Us? and Jilted Generation: How Britain Has Bankrupted Its Youth by Ed Howker and Shiv Malik. It’s good to be in such company – when I started making the case for the younger generation five years ago, it felt a rather lonely and eccentric battle. We in Britain just did not seem to care as much about unfairness between the generations as between classes or ethnic groups.
“A key reason for writing the book was my belief that people were unaware of just how much it matters which generation you are in”
Many baby-boomers felt I was questioning their motives or implying they were uniquely inconsiderate. Are they – or rather we – a particularly selfish generation? Some people think so. One of the books that followed mine was a manifesto for the last election by Neil Boorman entitled It’s All Their Fault. It states on the front page: “Do your parents love you? Of course they do. But it hasn’t stopped them robbing you blind.” The book argued that the boomers should be voted out of Parliament, with a few honourable exceptions – I survive his cull as a “self-hating boomer”!
A key reason for writing the book was my belief that people were unaware of just how much it matters which generation you are
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12 | Total Politics | October 2010