Why the Boomers seem to have gotten more conservative

December 28, 2009

aging hippie

Like you, I love a good generation gap story.

So I enjoyed Kai Wright’s big, bold piece in The Root today about how the Baby Boomers started idealistic, sold out, and destroyed Earth and how it’s now up to their children (like Wright and me) to fix it.

But the problem with this fun, familiar let’s-psychoanalyze-a-generation-as-if-it-were-some-dude-from-Milwaukee sort of narrative is that a generation isn’t a single person. It’s many people, some of whom capture the public imagination one year and others the next.

So let me float Mike’s Theory of Generational Aging to explain Wright’s underlying observation: that Boomers seem more conservative now than they used to.

Here it is: People with revolutionary impulses tend to become prominent when they’re young, radical and energetic. People with institutionalist impulses tend to become prominent when they’re old, well-informed and well-connected. Thus every generation appears to grow much more conservative as it ages.

In other words, it’s always the old to lead us to the war. It’s always the young to fall.

– posted by Mike

(photo by DavidDennisPhotos.com under a Creative Commons license)

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Our Health Care System Needs Immediate Reform – The View from the Inside

September 9, 2009

This is the second of three posts on health care reform in the United States. The first post was about which type of experts to trust. The third post will be published on the so-called “public option” after the author has had a chance to review the legislation.

Tonight, Wednesday, September 9, 2009, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to argue for health care reform. But you might not realize why health care reform is so desperately needed in the United States, since your only experience of health care in the US might have been good visits with an excellent physician. The need for health care system reform isn’t about the quality of our doctors and other health care providers: for the most part, they’re highly qualified and good at their jobs. Instead, there are three basic symptoms of ill health in our health care system, and I will investigate the causes of those symptoms in this essay, partly from the view of an insider who worked in health care for six years, partly from the view of someone especially knowledgeable about the health care system from careful study. I argue that because the health of this system has been bad for so long, we must take action as soon as we can to reform it.

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Health Care Reform: Doctors Can’t Be Expert Witnesses

September 8, 2009

This is part one of a three part series on health care reform in the United States. The second part is a primer on how the health care system works and why it’s broken; the third will be about why I think we need a public option as part of any health care reform package. The third part will be published after I’ve had a chance to review legislation relevant to the speech and some of the broader reform efforts.

With President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress this Wednesday, September 9th, 2009, on the subject, health care reform is again a focus of national attention. We’re being asked again to evaluate the president’s claims on the subject in light of the testimony of a great many expert witnesses. Since health care reform became a subject of serious discussion in the 2008 election cycle, we’ve had the occasional opinion from some doctor, for instance, on what he or she thinks should be the way we do health care in the future. Even the American Medical Association, allegedly the body the represents all the doctors in the United States, has made its opinion known on the matter, supporting reform but not a public option. But I don’t think we should treat doctors as our expert witnesses on the subject of large-scale institutional reform in the health care system. Instead, economists are the most suitable expert witnesses when it comes to the health of our health care system and the institutional reform that we should be implementing. After the jump, I’ll try to explain why I think economists* are suitable and medical doctors are not suitable as our experts on the subject of health care reform.

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The little law that would make liberals love sales taxes

May 16, 2009

I don’t know about you, but the unequal distribution of wealth doesn’t actually bother me at all. What bothers me is the unequal distribution of consumption.

In other words, I don’t care about your paycheck. If you’re just going to put it in the bank, knock yourself out; I hear they need the money. I sure know my own employer could use a decent loan right now.

No, the inequality I care about is practical: unequal distribution of yachts, yoga classes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert tickets.

That’s why I support revenue-neutral sales tax reform to include the taxation of services. It’d be the first step towards a fairer, more efficient tax system that penalizes what we don’t need — stuff — instead of what we do need — work.

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Inauguration Day!

January 20, 2009

I have to admit, after such a long election cycle, I was a little “over” Barack Obama, and he hadn’t even been sworn in yet. For the past month, I had been going back and forth, back and forth, about attending the inauguration. I hadn’t been able to score tickets, but they were putting Jumbotrons out on the mall so people could go downtown and watch. I knew crowds would be so bad that the only way I’d get to the mall was to walk the three miles.

Normally not too bad, but the weather was for the mid 20s (which is unbelievably cold for the DC region) and I can’t handle the DC crowds on the 4th of July and this would be much, much worse. Plus, the predictions. 6 hours to wait for metro. Bring your own toilet paper and a sandwich. 4 million people sandwiched downtown. I couldn’t tell if this was the Inauguration or the zombie apocalypse. Barricading myself in the house and watching the whole thing on TV was sounding like a very attractive option.

Then, I remembered that my toes tend to freeze and lose feeling on a regular basis, like just hanging around the house. Spending all day outside in freezing temps? I’d need to find some new socks. And I’d need new mittens, as my gloves wouldn’t cut it.

But, when my grandchildren ask me where  I was that day, did I really want to answer that it was too cold and too much of a hassle, so I watched it on TV while still wearing my pajamas? Lame.

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Nicholas Kristof, president of the galaxy

January 18, 2009

Almost nobody thinks he or she wields power.

Most people think politicians wield power. But tell this to a politician, and they’ll point you to lobbyists, donors, bureaucrats, journalists or (most of all) some other politician.

There is, however, a tiny class of people in this world who are aware that they wield power. And the knowledge all too often destroys them.

I’m speaking, of course, of the New York Times’s 10 op-ed columnists.

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The coming revolution over anti-aging research

December 14, 2008

On Bloggingheads’ Science Saturday, Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Gray argues that eternal life is within reach and attacks those who think it’d be a bad idea.

But here’s something he and interviewer Eliezer Yudkowsky don’t address: on the day eternal life becomes available, it might be a bad idea for everybody over a certain age. Those people would be locked into life at their current age indefinitely, while the rest of the world — their future friends, enemies, bosses and lovers — would become an ever-swelling group of 24-year-olds.

How would society react to this approaching possibility?

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