Within the pages of the National Post, a spat has erupted between writers David Cravit, John Moore and Barbara Kay.
In light of the Quebec student protests, Moore attested that
millennials (people born between 1977 and 1995) are facing bleak
prospects due to oldsters greedily emptying the public piggy bank of
entitlements. Cravit, who is vice president of ZoomerMedia, responded
with data showing the Boomer generation is still providing a significant
amount financial assistance to their children. Kay conceded that while
boomers are willing to fight the battle of the ballot box to maintain
their benefits, today’s youth are desperately out of touch with how the
real world operates.
As a millennial, I can say all three make valid points but miss the
mark entirely. Yes, a portion of today’s youth sincerely believe they
are deserving of a good paying job that requires little effort after a
four- to five-year stint at university. And yes, the Boomers have voted
themselves plenty of government pork over the decades for which the tab
must inevitably be paid. Both are guilty of shameless extravagance and
self-delusion. Both show little opposition to feeding at the public
But what is the actual source of this corrupting influence?
Nineteenth century political theorist and former U.S. congressman John
C. Calhoun once wrote, “…the necessary result, then, of the unequal
fiscal action of the government is to divide the community into two
great classes… to divide it into tax-payers and tax-consumers.”
Throughout history, this is precisely how the dynamic between
government and the people has played out. Politicians make careers out
of redistributing wealth. Persistent inflation and the running up of
public debt have proven that governments are incapable of spending
within their means. Retaining elected office hinges too much upon buying
With the post-war boom years came increasing amounts of tax revenues.
This was all too enticing for politicians to pass up. Entitlement
programs were created to ensure a steady supply of votes. Mr. Moore is
correct in alleging that younger generations were thrown to the wolves
for these promised benefits as they had no say in the matter and are now
forced to foot the bill.
At the same time, millennials themselves have been fooled through
years of pervasive government and nanny-state decrees into not only
expecting entitlements but also misunderstanding the value of prudence.
Living standards only rise when the majority of the public produces more
than it consumes. This age-old lesson has been slowly forgotten with
years of the expansionary welfare state and popular economic theories
which favour consumption. When youth are made to believe the most
important rule in all economics is “in the long run we are all dead,” is
it any surprise when financial discretion takes a back seat to
What has had an equally devastating effect on the ability of all
generations to save for the future is that government, by its very
nature, is a net consumer of resources. When Austrian economist Ludwig
von Mises stated that “the total complex of the financial policies of
the federal government, the states, and the municipalities tends toward
capital consumption,” he referred to the fact that government itself
only operates on what it forcefully expropriates from the private
sector. There is little incentive for public officials to spend tax
money diligently when it hasn’t been painstakingly earned through the
sweat of their own labour. Almost a century’s worth of escalating
government spending has decimated whatever saved capital existed before
Rather than exploitation, free markets require social co-operation in
order to function. The so-called “generational war” between millennials
and Baby Boomers is really just a tug-of-war between which generation
is better mobilized to soak one another at the voting booth. It is the
existence of the state which doles out special monetary privileges that
introduces this class conflict.
The real culprit for decaying societal norms and prosperousness is
not one generation or another but the small minority who occupy
political office. Arguing over whether the Boomers are deserving of
entitlement programs or millennials are short-sighted, spoiled brats
only avoids recognition of the true guilty party.
To my fellow millennials, here are a few words of advice. The college
or university degree for which you gave up almost half a decade of
income means little. It is irrelevant how hard you worked or how many
hours you spent with your nose crammed in a textbook to get it. The
decision we must now make is what new path we will take individually to
triumph over adverse circumstances. This means further development of
specialized skills, entrepreneurship and learning life’s lessons through
experience rather than in the classroom.
The bill of goods we were sold was not the same given the previous
generation. Is it fair? No, but neither is life. We may be living in a
world passed down by to us by the Boomers and their profligate
government but we can still choose to give our children a better
opportunity. The key lies in not looking to our neighbour for what we
think we deserve but realizing what it takes to serve our fellow man and
earn our own way.
The cycle of entitlement can end with us.