Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Boomer Wail: But We Deserve a Lifetime Bull Market!

Longtime correspondent Chuck D. penned a response to my "Fourth Turning" critique of the Baby Boomer generation which I reprint below.

Since many of us are keenly interested in the financial unraveling currently underway around the world, I think it is relevant to note that the screaming, frantic, please-cut-interest-rates-and-save-us financial pundits are typically in their 40s and 50s--Boomers who feel entitled to a never-ending Bull Market--or at least one that lasts their lifetime.

Note to entitlement-obsessed speculating Boomers: though you feel entitled to another 25 years of Bull Market, what you deserve is 25 years of crushing Bear Market. That's what's called "reversion to the mean" and "the Kondratieff cycle."

Here's Chuck D.'s commentary:

"I found your critique of us Baby Boomers spot on. But it’s not surprising it has turned out this way. Someone, I forget whom, once observed that men become the image of the thing they hate. Your list certainly seems to bear that out.

But it's not inconsistent. There is a common idea running through the contradictions. It's all about me, my self gratification, and the "me bubble" that I live in. First we found it gratifying to rail against our parent’s generation and how they messed things up. How much better we could do! And then there was that part about free love and getting stoned. While it maybe didn't make the world better place, boy, it sure was fun to do it!

Then as we got enmeshed in the real world of making a living and having kids, we decided that, gosh, maybe the old folks did know something after all and the conveniences of modern life actually were pretty nice to have around. And since I've got the money (or can get it with a credit card or loan), and I would enjoy life more if I had what ever it is I think I want or need, hey, go for it!

A few examples will suffice. Like you, I could go on but you will get the point. I have arbitrarily picked your first bullet about religion to start with because my first two examples where the initial ones I thought of.


If I remember correctly, a book whose author and title I can't recall came out a couple of years ago arguing that God wants us to be rich and enjoy the trappings of our modern lifestyle. We don't need to feel guilty about it.
I am involved with an local organization that recently brought to town a national caliber Christian a cappella singing group. As part of the fundraising the organization approached a number of churches in the community. I contacted one of them which happens to be the current Baby-Boomer-hot-church-to-go-to about helping to sponsor this event. They seemed to be a natural choice since they are a by-the-book 'modern' church with the rapidly growing Boomer membership to prove it. The requested sponsorship was $250. A phone call, a follow-up letter and a copy of a CD produced following response. When I made the phone call, the lady I spoke with grilled me with the justification that “I used to be in marketing and I want to make sure I know what we're going to get for our money.” The follow-up letter and CD was an attempt to answer that question. I never got the courtesy of a response even though I asked for one. I also decided they weren't worth chasing for $250.

When confronted with this sort of stuff, I guess I would ask the question that a lot of these folks currently seem to like to ask: "What would Jesus do?” Throw them out of the temple, I wonder?
I haven't seen this anywhere, but I would be really curious to know how the performers and the audience got to the recent Live Earth concerts. I have a hunch that most of the performers didn't forgo their private jets and most of the audience didn't forgo their automobiles to get there. And then there's the fuel that was burned to produce the electricity to have the Internet and cell phone capability standing by to handle all the communications that had to be made to make the events happen. But at least everybody could feel good about themselves because they made a statement about their concern. And gee, it sure was fun to go to it. And I can always talk about it with my friends without having to do anything more and I can still feel good about myself and how concerned I am.

I'm amazed that people and popular culture somehow think that this was a significant and possibly watershed event. Call me a curmudgeon, but I think it's been a while since I have seen such unmitigated, self-righteous claptrap and bullshit.

I am therefore not as optimistic as you seem to be that the Baby Boomers will lead us through The Great Unraveling and tough times we both believe will soon be upon us. Yes, I agree that the Baby Boomers will be called upon to lead. I'm just skeptical that this group who so far has been able to live their entire lives in such self-absorption and self-centeredness because of the extraordinary time they happen to have been born into will suddenly be able to turn outward while everything they took for granted collapses around them. The survivors among them will; that's what survivors do and why they survive.

I think it more likely we will end up this time in the same situation as you suggest history teaches: dictatorship, revolution, or economic collapse. The other issue here is that we are right now clearly a country in economic, political, social, moral and ethical decline. While there are exceptions and anything can happen, history teaches us that nations, cultures, and civilizations that face adversity in that predicament often do not rise to the occasion but instead are consigned to history's dustbin.

The reason for this is that all nations, cultures and civilizations come into being with certain assumptions that shape their economic, political, social, moral and ethical beliefs and structures. When circumstances change and those assumptions are no longer true, those entities who can adapt those assumptions, beliefs and structures to the new reality have a better chance of surviving in a new, changed form. Those whose beliefs and structures are too corrupt, sclerotic, or possessed by vested interests to change do not. Granted this sounds a lot like Social Darwinism, and in a certain sense it is. But looked at on a large enough scale, the human structures of nations, cultures and civilizations that appear to be "unnatural" because they exist outside of nature as human inventions to shield us from the natural world still seem to follow a "natural" cycle of birth, life, and death.

When I look at our present situation, while I hope we will get through it and believe we can with Providence and good fortune, I also deeply fear that this time we will not because we are simply too far gone to do it.

Thank you, Chuck D., for your contribution.


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