Re: Letters, Gordon Kobayashi, Jan. 15.
Glad to hear from another cheerleader in our pursuit for greater democratic participation, and for more youthful tonality in our American experiment. Though Mr. Kobayashi is from Spring Valley and apparently not part of the 25th Congressional District, we here in The Mighty 25th enjoyed recent watershed when we elected a young woman to our congressional seat in 2016. All drama aside, that is a mark of distinction. In The Mighty 25th, we — all of us, old and young, of varied races and genders — democratically, by a majority vote, chose a young woman.
So, yes, Mr. Kobayashi, you are right that we should be encouraging our young people to participate more. Indeed, The Mighty 25th seems to embrace youth. We can support Mr. Kobayashi’s appeal to hope that our young people choose to actively manage our democracy by voting, volunteering, and running for office.
My single observation, however, is that our current young people’s ’60s-style idealism is being tainted by a misconception of equivalency. Young people today face an economic situation very different from that which boomers enjoyed.
During boomers’ rise, their 1960s adolescence and coming of age, the boomers were in essence making and selling and working in earnest to provide all the goods and the services and the technologies that their huge bolus of population demanded. It was a situation of high demand and high supply, to put it economically, and thus everyone supplied everyone else, resulting in vigorous economic growth. The world was around 10 years into the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after World War II, so global demand was high for U.S. goods and technology. This was helped by a former governor of California, Ronald Reagan, and his willful federal largess and willful deficit spending during the 1980s that served to overdrive the opportunity.
The rise of computerization and ever more prominent communications and mathematical power at diminishing cost also served to amplify productivity. Bill Clinton and all boomers reaped the “peace dividend” after the Soviet Union collapsed and delivered four successive surplus years in the late 1990s for the first time in almost 30 years. Not being at war was huge for boomers in so many ways. We’ve been kind of sideways since then, and those are the years that forged our millennials. Once again, “The fire that melts the butter tempers the steel.”
Although today’s youth hold an idealism similar to the boomers of the ’60s, they are lacking in the opportunity that the large work force of boomers provided to foster growth. That COULD mean they face a situation of high demand for goods and services but low supply of innovators and providers and manufacturers, which usually is a pre-inflationary indicator for those on the supply side.
Those who are in a position to supply the goods and services in demand — these young people — could enjoy a different form of plenitude. They may become important/influential/wealthy if they can manage to reap the rewards that go to active participants in the system. Many notable boomers, of which Donald Trump is a member (but maybe not a good example because he was born wealthy), became and remain powerful and influential and personally fulfilled and wealthy from this process.
If our youthful cohort can manage to seize the opportunity, personal fulfillment, leadership and great wealth could recur. A new youthful approach might find a way to deliver this not only to a few fractions of a percent, but to their numbers overall.
In order for this to come to pass, and to avoid stunting captialism’s incentives process, they will have to overcome an urge that humans have that is small and stingy. That urge leads to less idealism, more pragmatism, and self-centered behavior that corrodes the basis of an achieving minority, and is believed to lead to the overall corrosion of the individual will to achieve for the majority of individuals.
It would also help if this youthful cohort could leverage a technology, perhaps AI/deep learning, for a productivity and a cultural grand slam in the way that boomers enjoyed the rise of productivity via inexpensive electronic computation and instantaneous communications. We can hope that our newest generation will indeed supplant and exceed to become the — truly — greatest generation.
Neal Peart, the great drummer for the Canadian rock group Rush, died of brain cancer last week. He wrote the lyrics to “The Trees,” a song that illustrates this predicament, indeed a persistent predicament we face. If unfamiliar with it, give it a listen. Or perhaps a more edgy track by David Byrne of Talking Heads called “The Great Curve” that is about the distribution of wealth under capitalism (you’ll need to read the lyrics as there is a lot is going on in the song itself).
We Americans chose capitalism and keep maintaining this capitalist system, utilizing it as the best choice among alternatives until we craft a more suitable alternative.