Fortune is a tide that rises and falls, and while we never fully understand the laws that govern its movement, we know beyond doubt that it always moves.
By most of the metrics commonly used to measure economic activity, our younger generations are less fortunate today than their elders were at the same age. There are a few dissidents who disagree. They point out that our parents did not have iPhones and flat screen televisions, and that technology has brought to the commoner many luxuries that would have been reserved for royalty in times past.
But prosperity in the minds of most people is something relative to their neighbors. In any event, young Americans today will work longer for a dollar which has significantly less buying power than the one their parents spent. They will retire at an older age, if they have not already been replaced by a robot.
Like most questions of significance, there is not a simple answer for what appears to be a lowering tide of fortune for successive generations of Americans. A partial explanation can be found in the nature of water itself, which always seeks its own level. Some of the affluence that was concentrated between American shores during the last several generations is beginning to seep into the economies of other nations. We are, after all, a closed system with finite resources.
Another part of the answer may be found in the cultural differences between generations. Older Americans had a world view which included experience of depression, war and hardship. They were willing to sacrifice short term gratification to achieve long term goals.
Younger Americans, while just as intelligent and resourceful as any generation, have been “better fed” by parents who wanted to give them everything. They are immersed in constant connectivity to media which exists for the singular purpose of creating desire in the minds of its consumers. We have grown up expecting a constant progression of “new and improved,” faster, better. As a society, we are addicted to instant gratification, and as they say here in the mountains, a fat dog won’t hunt.
Science, technology and innovation continue to resist the tide. But we are cursed with another problem that our parents did not have. We have a bloated and parasitic government, a hyper-intrusive oligarchy which has matched our advancing technical innovation with ever more sophisticated methods of manipulation, control and theft.
With a sophistication which rivals that of Joseph Goebbels, our current “two party” political system has artfully deceived us away from any awareness of truth and divided us from any possible consensus. We see our fellow Americans through arbitrary and distorted filters of red and blue while we are encouraged to hold in contempt anyone who might think or vote differently.
Water seeks its own level. Distracted for at least 30 years, we have allowed prosperity in the United States to be channeled into government/corporate reservoirs like water behind a dam. Meanwhile around the world, the tide has turned in favor of people who are hungrier than we are, and willing to sacrifice to be better fed. We don’t know when the dam will break. We don’t know when the next high or low tide will occur. We do need to be equally prepared for drought and flood.