The Millennials Have Been Dumped Upon

I’ve recently seen a lot of people kicking the ‘millennials,’ the generation born between roughly 1983 and 2001. The complaints suggest they don’t want to work, they still live in their parents’ basement, they are overly sensitive, they are morbidly self-involved, and they’re zombified with iGadgets. Such commenters prattle on about the virtues of the baby boomers and the so-called “Greatest Generation,” …


I’ve recently seen a lot of people kicking the ‘millennials,’ the generation born between roughly 1983 and 2001. The complaints suggest they don’t want to work, they still live in their parents’ basement, they are overly sensitive, they are morbidly self-involved, and they’re zombified with iGadgets. Such commenters prattle on about the virtues of the baby boomers and the so-called “Greatest Generation,” but they see the millennials as falling far short.

So, let me start by saying this clearly:

The millennials have been wronged. They are living in a putrid mess that the boomers and the Greats left for them.

Casting millions of people into generational groups is silly, of course – in the end we all stand or fall as individuals – but since these groups do move together through time, there’s at least some relevance to this. And the millennials have been wronged.

Are some millennials self-involved zombies? Of course they are. So were plenty of boomers and Greats. If you want to pick a handful of examples out of millions, you can paint any picture you like.

The millennials are struggling to get ahead with thick chains around their ankles and sometimes around their wrists as well. That they are not producing great results is no surprise. And to criticize them for this is cruel, especially when it comes from the same people who helped to forge those chains.

What I Want to Tell the Millennials

I was born during the baby boom years and I’ve spent lots of time in discussions with people born before even World War I. So, beyond my reading, I have a lot of actual human experience to go by. Based upon all of that, I have three things that I’d like to tell all my young millennial friends:

#1: You are by no means inferior to the generations before you.

Great-grandpa started with nothing and finished a wealthy man. You’re stuck working at a coffee shop. Does that mean grandpa was somehow a better man than you? Hell no… you’re practically the same guy!

Great-grandma raised six kids, mended clothes, fed the neighbors during the depression, and was beloved by all. You, on the other hand, hustle your kids off to day care and pray that it isn’t the one where a maniac works… if you can even afford to have children. Does that mean grandma was a better woman than you? Again, no. You’re practically the same woman.

The truth is that you are every bit as talented and capable as your parents and grandparents. What has changed is the ambient, the conditions that surround you. Great-great-grandpa and grandma paid no income tax (federal or local), no sales tax, or a dozen other taxes. When they made money, they pretty much kept it. And it was far, far easier for them to start a business. In multiple ways, your grandparents had it easy compared to you.

#2: You are paying the price for the prosperity of the boomers and Greats.

Here I must repeat that we are all individuals, and that many boomers and Greats are fine human beings. That said, the section title is true: you are paying for their ease of life.

The boomers and Greats prospered by piling up debt. As a result, the entire modern economy is weighed down with it. For example, depending on whose numbers you prefer, total US government debt and obligations is between 70 and 220 trillion dollars, an unconscionable figure. It was the generations before you that dumped that on you. (And I’m not even counting the intentional slavery of student loans.)

Debt affects just about everything. And it is very definitely a chain around your life. And just to illustrate the immorality of this, here’s something George Washington wrote to James Madison:

No generation has a right to contract debts greater than can be paid off during the course of its own existence.

And here’s something Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Taylor:

The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling posterity on a large scale.

Bottom line: You’ve been swindled.

#3: The status quo is choking you and won’t let go.

Your grandparents generally had what Aristotle would call a life that afforded them scope. They faced obstacles, as do we all, but they weren’t hemmed in on every side by regulators and enforcers. Your generation in the West may be the most regulated in all of human history. There are permissions required for every business activity, every profession, and almost every move you make. The control freaks have gorged themselves on the fear and obedience of the populace.

Because of this and other things, the status quo can no longer deliver prosperity… and they’re making you think it’s your fault. It isn’t. The scarcities you face are artificial – most of them would fade away if the lords of the status quo would get out of your way. (They won’t of course; they’ll watch you die before they give up power.)

I Could Go On…

But I won’t. Longer and more detailed arguments don’t really help. The facts here are fairly simple. Those who disagree don’t lack intellectual ability; they lack emotional ability. In particular, they are emotionally unable to consider that the status quo is flawed, failed, and oppositional.

On this point turn a great many things. We often see more and know more than we have strength to admit.

But it’s time to start facing this truth squarely. You don’t owe the status quo a perpetual benefit of the doubt. It’s time to hold yourself above them.

Paul Rosenberg

8 thoughts on “The Millennials Have Been Dumped Upon”

  1. Hey Paul,
    Short comment from someone born in 1962. I don’t recall being part of anything forcing any debt on anyone and I also don’t recall being part of a political system that artificially lowered interest rates, and constantly badgered millennials to get a higher education.
    Who has benefited from this massive debt you speak of? Everyone born prior to millennials? I don’t think so. It sounds like you are saying that government debt and federal reserve funds have somehow improved the lives of pre-millennials while somehow hurting millennials. This idea is absurd.
    Do you distinguish between debt formulated thru voluntary exchange vs debt brought about by politics? No, apparently that’s not relevant.
    Normally I find your articles enlightening, but this off the rails.

  2. Axman, it is an article that goes back and forth from an individual’s perspective to a general (abstract) perspective. And it requires you the reader to do the same. At the same time, it also assumes you are sophisticated and self-assured enough to do so yourself, and at appropriate times as you read it.
    So in a general sense, yes. Everyone born prior to millennials has benefited from this massive debt he speaks of. And they DID shackle them. And, YES, I am in that number. Is Paul accusing me of doing this. Well, yes and no of course.
    I’m born in ’66 buddy, I can relate. I feel both sides of Paul’s logic. You and I are in this transition time. We feel both sides.
    But to be more specific, how is it absurd that spent government money, funded by debt to be paid off by future generations, can improve present lives, while burdening future lives? It’s the exact scam of government debt spending. That is precisely what Washington and Jefferson were saying.
    The general actions (via government) eventually become specifically applied. This too, is the exact scam.
    This is our point (we who are totally anti-statist): let there be NO general actions.
    Maybe when you think about it like that, it’s not so off-the-rails afterall.

  3. Some major differences: American businesses hired Americans instead of outsourcing as many jobs as they can to lower wage workers outside the US. Most everything you could buy was “Made in the USA”. We weren’t running big trade deficits. On a per mile basis people were paying gasoline taxes twice as high as what people pay today. You might want to look at actual tax rates back then than now. When I started working in 1959, the minimum wage was $1 an hour. I could rent an apartment here locally (Muskegon, MI) for $40 a month with heat included. Items that cost a dime back then are a dollar today. We could afford to keep up our infrastructure. We also had a lot “less” regulation than we have today. The doctor of 1959 had an “office nurse” and that was it. So the cost of an office visit was $6.50 since the doctor wasn’t paying salaries to a medical biller, or office staff as today. Our population today is double what it was back then. Jobs that used to be done by high school graduates with some “on the job training” now require associate degrees or even more. Again more “regulation” that increases the cost of everything.

  4. You make good points. However, there’s another side of the coin.
    As a boomer, I avoided student debt by making good money working
    underground in northern mines and living in dreary mining camps during summers
    to pay for another winter of education. My advice: if you can’t afford college,
    don’t go.
    Many Millennials swallowed the ‘good-life’ Kool-Aid and slept-walked into debt-slavery not only with student debt but real estate and auto loans as well. An extreme example is the Alberta oil patch, but I expect the same applies to North Dakota where many young people bought over-priced homes, $60,000 4X4 pick-ups and ‘all the toys’. With the recent lay-offs, dealerships’ yards are full of repossessed vehicles.
    Many young people today have a chip on their shoulder because they can’t ‘start out at the top’. Get a grip on reality!
    Boomers never had a cake-walk because there were so many of us the competition was fierce. For as much as everyone wants to get ahead, the sad fact is that not everyone is capable.

  5. Yes, it’s true that Millenials have been left holding the bag for much of the financial profligacy older generations are responsible for, and that is a shameful legacy to hand to them, but since most of the Millenials are now adults it’s time for them to quit whining about everything, and stop expecting things to be handed to them instead of earning it over time through hard work. I know a lot of Millenials, 2 of my 3 kids are part of the younger cohort of that generation. Millenials are a nice bunch of kids, generally, but they want everything NOW, and with the minimum amount of work if possible. The sense of entitlement is just astounding. Obviously, this is a broad generalization but this is what I am seeing, and I know I’m not alone. But hey, they’re still quite young and have time to step up to the plate. I’m not ready to count them out.

    1. I’m back in university as a non traditional student in my late 30s. I’m right in between the Generation X and Millennials. I consider myself more GenX than anything. I am absolutely shocked at the level of whining and sense of entitlement the current generation in school has. They act like they grew up having everything handed to them on a golden plate and they expect it to continue. I actually read an article in my school newspaper where the author complained that he and his fellow students were “stressed out by the end of the semester”. Not “too stressed,” but “stressed.” Are you kidding me?? LIFE is stress for cripes sake. A lot of them also support Bernie Sanders for president because of, you guessed it, “free education!” And I haven’t heard one describe another of Sander’s platform planks. The Millennials strike me as incredibly self-absorbed, having an exaggerated sense of entitlement, wanting their precious feelings protected from everything, including reality. I’ve never seen anything like it.
      That said, they _are_ generally nice people. Nice _kids_ actually. I wouldn’t call them _adults_, even though they are legally adults. They have a lot of growing up and reality checking to do yet.

  6. All “us versus them” articles are destructive and feed the power of the evil rulers. This is another of them.

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