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London Futurists Message Board Books/Media For Futurists › David Willets - The Pinch: How the Baby boomers took their childrens future

David Willets - The Pinch: How the Baby boomers took their childrens future and why they should give it back.

A former member
Post #: 380
Thats what i'm talking about! - I knew this was a good book to post about, get people arguing about what should be done. (have any of you guy's had a chance to read the book yet?)

What the problem is in a nutshell is a breakdown of the intergenerational contract in british families, mainly due to the huge success and predicted extended lifespans of the Baby boomers. As a result most of the Nations capital is locked up in this generation - for example a significant 70% of this generation own their own homes outright or have less than 50k left to pay, have pensions greater than the value of their homes and in some cases (17% estimates) even own second homes.
The next generation's (X and Y) are hugely impoverished as a result most in transient jobs with little or no pension prospects. They cannot buy homes because property prices have risen so high that virtually none can afford it. David Willets estimates that out of the £6.7 Trillion of wealth owned by the different generations £3.5 trillion is locked up by the baby boomers in property and maturing pension plans! In 2004, the UK baby boomers held 80% of the UK's wealth and bought 80% of all top of the range cars, 80% of cruises and 50% of skincare products. Being as this genartion is in control of all the finances and in a lot of cases holding a lot of the jobs in governence its up to this Generation to reach out to the next and improve things.

Now I can think of a few solutions that would help matters -
1. Raise the minimum wage to at least £10 a hour (£12 in london) - This would greatly increase the wealth of the younger generations who are increasingly having to compete with migrant workers for £7 an hour jobs in Central London. It is absolutly rediculous that companys are allowed to offer minimum wage just to ensure profit to their share holders - how is anybody supposed to get on the housing ladder, pay into a pension if they are paying 40% of their wage in rent. British companys should also be not allowed to employ migrant workers for cheaper than british staff and be banned from outsourcing job's overseas. In 1979 the UK's biggest employer was GEC which even though it is now history still has significant assets to pay pensions to its former employees - now the biggest employer is Tesco with the biggest employer of young people being macdonalds. - Yeah McJobs for life with these firms!
2. Inheritance - People should not be allowed to piss away inheritance, Britain is rather unique in how it lets people leave their estates to whomever they like rather than it being passed down to the next generation as in France and the rest of Europe. People should also not be allowed to spend this inheritance by taking out 2nd mortgages to fund scuba holidays because all they do is leave a box of IOU's for their kids.
3. Scrap univerisity fees and spend a lot more on education - Instead of the younger generations leaving eduaction with mammoth debts they can get straight on with earning and buying homes instead of paying off interest for the first 5 years of their working lives. In fact I think that their should be more financial rewards for completing education like the golden hellos that student teachers get.
4. Raise retirement age to 75 (men and women) now this way we can pay for all the things I say by taxing the larger Boomer Generation for another 10 years and we can minimise the pension deficit.
5. Rebuild the Factorys! - Bring back the skilled workforce to this country, instead of outsourcing manufacture we should be training our kids to make it themselves. We need to move away from being a Services led economy to one of producing wealth again - People need to be learning trades again rather than doing bums on seats jobs for financial institutions. This should also of course include the newer trades in the IT/Telecoms sector with more investment being made in training young people to make the machines instead of going abroad.
6. Build the Space Elevator - Britain should build this so we can have the British Solar Empire :) - We can then sell heavy lift capabiltys to other nations and make a hell of a lot of money from mining planetary bodies... :) Ok it sounds like a bit of fun but seriously if Britain made a significant investment in spce instead of Billions on stupid "nuclear detterents" that would create a lot more jobs and wealth and a lot less world paranioa!
Dirk B.
user 9941666
London, GB
Post #: 56
Some sensible ideas.
I have long been in favour of a much larger minimum wage - but only for service industries. Not for jobs that can be shipped abroad. Paying £10 (or even £15) and hour to McEmployees would have major beneficial effects. It's not as if your burger delivery can be shipped from Bangalore. And the state would no longer subsidize sweatshop jobs through family tax credits and the like. Of course, maybe people would eat less burgers - terrible!

On the other hand, all of the pension shit is going to hit the fan around the predicted time of the Singularity (2030-2050), so maybe everyone will have other things to worry about (or cheer about).
London, GB
Post #: 73
The whole pension situation needs a radical rethinking, so well done on coming up with some ideas, Richie - rather than just toeing the Government line using a fatalistic "None of this will work", with no or little explanation, as seems to be favoured by other posters.

It seems right and proper to me than if people have worked hard, been honest and reliably contributed something to society, then they should have a better standard of life than those that haven't made similar efforts. Further, it also seems logical that those closer to retirement would necessarily have larger pension pots than those further away from retirement.

However, in part, generation-Xers need to accept much of the responsibility for their situation, since one of the biggest destroyers of peoples wealth has been the internet - recall just ten years back, it was generation-Xers who were mostly touting the internet as some sort of perpetual money-making machine, and hyping the FTSE-100 to 6,930, a value that still hasn't been exceeded all these years after the crash.

Also, thanks to the internet, we've seen massive globalization of many industries, with just a few monopolistic computer-related companies becoming successes, and very many smaller computer-related companies either hitting the wall or losing most of their shareholder value.

Traditional media are dancing for pennies in a market almost completely controlled by Google, Airlines are operating on virtually non-existent margins and many Travel agents have been put out of business by Expedia, Apple is putting independent record shops out of business on a wholesale basis, whilst Amazon is doling out similar treatment to independent Bookshops. Meanwhile, we are entreated to daily doses of spamvertizing for dubious pharmaceuticals, regularly finding that information we have put on the internet has been plagiarised by Wordpress (with just the Author credit removed) and then plastered with Adturds; plus there's also radical invasion of our privacy, all thanks to the ideas of generation-X geeks telling us that just because it's possible to track everyone in some massive database, then we should do it!

Similarly, we've just seen the biggest economic collapse in living memory. But, who actually are the idiot bankers? I'll bet they're people in their 30s-50s i.e. generation-Xers again - and while a number of factors no doubt contributed to the collapse of the banking system, I would postulate that a failure of collective imagination was again the principal reason as to why none of them foresaw the global economic meltdown that lay ahead.

Thus, the majority of the blame would seem to lie at the door of greedy generation-X Economists and Financiers pursuing an all too trusting view of free market economics, deluding themselves into believing the bravado of Economic experts touting the predictive power and correctness of their models.

Even now we still see deluded people believing in a timetable to computers taking over the world in the next 20 or so years - focusing on pseudo-mathematical approaches - with the result being a misleading perception of the subject as a hard science (like Physics) rather than a social science where uncertainty prevails. Thus, again and again we see faulty theories and a lack of emphasis on the assumptions underpinning the theories consistently leaving generation-Xers blind to risks and ultimately left short-changed.
London, GB
Post #: 74
As to solutions:

1. There needs to be incentives for people to improve themselves; either through academic qualifications, work experience, vocational qualifications, apprenticeships etc. Because if we can all automatically expect £10+ per hour, just for standing behind a counter and asking "Do you want fries with that?" then there's no incentive for anyone to improve, and we'll either see wages of slightly better paid workers reduced to compensate for Government mandated higher wages for dimwits who spent their school years disrupting other people's education, and refusing to learn themselves, or inflation pushing all wages higher, so that in real terms, £10 becomes worth the equivalent of what £7 used to be worth. The only surprising thing here is that people who are capable of earning more than £7 are accepting the £7 jobs, rather than telling any company offering such employment where they can stick it.

2. If your parents have money, it should be their right to piss it away in any fashion they see fit. However, it seems to me that the Boomers, if anything, have been more frugal with their money than generation-X and Yers, since they've gone to all the trouble of investing in property, buying investments and pensions; rather than blowing it all on having the latest gadgets, high fashion clothes and going out drinking to excess every weekend.

This might seem harsh, but as Investment counsellor John Train notes, when talking about 'Old money' - in his experience, typically, a patriarch founds a successful business which he expands and leaves to his son, the son manages the company on a day-to-day basis and generally keeps things ticking along, till he leaves the business to his son, who is used to having the best in life, cares little about the family business and proceeds to sell it so that he can enjoy the proceeds and have a life of leisure.

Billionaires including Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have often cited similar examples as the reason why they intend to leave the bulk of their wealth to charity when they die, so that their offspring have the incentive to be entrepreneurial, rather than just living off trust funds or wrecking the businesses they spent all their lives building up.

3. I'd tend to agree with scrapping university fees and spending more on education, since a well educated population will be able to carry out more advanced jobs than simply flipping burgers, and those burger flippers who want to better themselves should be given every opportunity to improve - the reward being their ability to gain more interesting, better paid, more rewarding careers, and gain more respect from the rest of the population, whom they will undoubtedly end up benefiting. The only proviso being that 'silly' University degrees such as Golf course management, and Equine psychology should be unavailable, except to those daft enough to pay for the courses in full.

4. I feel rather perturbed at the thought of having to work till 75, when previous generations (long before the Boomers) were retiring at earlier ages, all supported by our taxation. As previously mentioned, the idiocy of the Liberal Reforms means that those retiring at the start of the 1900s essentially got a free ride, as the then Government put aside no money as a buffer for those retiring, and simply based the system on the flawed idea that the economy would keep on expanding forever and ever.

5. Reviving UK manufacturing is an excellent idea, but it's been years since Mrs. Thatcher wrecked it, and successive Governments have spent far too much time kissing the backsides of brain dead Bankers, hoping for donations or Directorships, rather than trying to make Britain productive again. So, now we're in a situation where Accountants would be apoplectic if we suggested making things in Britain, when we could easily outsource the manufacturing to China, fly the parts to India for assembly, airlift the completed units to Thailand for painting and then return the lot to Britain for sale - all because that roundabout journey would shave two pence off the wholesale price. But conveniently forgetting that it's almost impossible to monitor the quality of the final goods you're getting from those cheap sources (or ensure they weren't made using forced labour etc.), or to keep your design plans from being sold to your competitors, or prevent floods of low grade counterfeit items pouring into your marketplace and ruining your reputation for quality items.

6. I'm not sure about a Space lift, but it's long been proposed that we escape the prison of gravity, however, I suspect that in order to build our Solar Empire, we first need to increase our own intelligence, so that we can 1) plan the project in the first place 2) design the thing 3) manage its construction and 4) operate it successfully. This would also solve the problem of overcrowding on planet Earth, once were all living to be many 100's of years old...

However, as O'Neill points out, resources can never be transported from Earth, due to the relative cost of simply mining the abundant levels of Aluminium that can be found on the Moon, and then using mass drivers to launch parts to our space colony, for its continuing construction. So, here we have the perfect use for people of any nationality that are not prepared to learn or educate themselves to levels where they can carry out more skilled jobs, but who want to leave behind the mess that is planet Earth.

However, back to present reality, if we are able to pass legislation taxing Boomers without any legitimate basis, then what stops the generations coming after X & Y from adding further taxes for us to pay, when they feel aggrieved that they don't have the standard of living that they would like, without putting in the required effort necessary to achieve success?
A former member
Post #: 385
Easy - not looking to start a intergenerational social war here! (or am I? biggrin)

Heres a video presentation Mr Willets did at the RSA - The Pinch all on his idea.

London, GB
Post #: 77
Having just wasted 41 minutes of my life, and a chunk of my monthly download allowance, I'm going to have to break the bad news to you, Richie...

You've fallen - hook, line and sinker - for a bit of Tory propaganda.

Mr. Willets' Social contract idea is off to very shaky footing to start with, and gets worse. Children and old people are not a burden to modern society. After all, how many people do you know that would describe their children as drains of their resources, rather than bringing joy and laughter into their lives?

Physiologically (and relative to other animals), humans have a large brain mass; and it's this large brain mass that means that in order to be able to exit the womb and for the brain to continue developing, we are effectively born about a year earlier than we should be, and are thus helpless and almost completely dependent upon our parents for a large part of our early lives.

Much of this care, especially in the primitive tribes that Mr. Willets' is so fond of, is provided by the elderly, who have a wealth of life experience, are a store of knowledge, and will have accumulated political power and allegiances over their lifespan, which they are able to utilize and pass on, all the while providing care and support to children, whilst the parents are out hunting and gathering etc.

Meanwhile, in our Western society, people are living longer because of our collective victory over disease, dirt and squalid living conditions. Further, modern generations that came after the Boomers are smaller because women can now regulate their own reproduction, so they choose to have fewer babies, and since they know their progeny now have a better chance of surviving into adulthood, parents can put more investment into their children.

However, I accuse Mr Willets' of promoting inter-generational finger-pointing as a way of diverting attention from the gross inequalities of the past 30 or so years, since:

If houses could be bought relatively cheaply in the past, it was in part because local authorities provided "social housing", the supply of which has now been sold off, with our idiot politicians spending the proceeds not on building more housing, but to give tax cuts to the rich - a disastrous policy that ZaNew Labour has continued after it was elected - mostly because the deregulated banking system helped fuel a massive house-price boom, which is now collapsing.

If Boomers in Britain went to University in the 1960s at taxpayers' expense, it was because only 4% of that cohort attended university, but today the figure is around 40%.

Final salary-linked pensions have virtually disappeared in the UK because Mrs. Thatcher handed pensions to the City where fund Managers made millions from their fees for investing the cash in Unit Trusts, who's Managers made millions from investing in other funds, whose Traders made millions from investing in stocks and shares. Thus, when the market collapsed, so did "funded pensions".

Further, much of Britain’s welfare state has been dismantled and privatised, and Britain’s over-reliance on its financial services sector, rather than industry, has made it particularly vulnerable to the current recession.

So, what has this got to do with demographics? Absolutely nothing!

This is an ideology issue, because most boomers have never belonged to the classes of the rich and privileged. We have the lowest state pension in the advanced world, and many old people find it hard to keep themselves warm; then have to sell their houses to pay the exorbitant costs of nursing home care.

Amazingly, London Weighting (the extra payment made to civil servants and others for working in London) exceeds the basic Pension of the hundreds of thousands of pensioners, who also face the high cost of living in our capital, whilst those whose savings and income are just above the poverty level face crippling council tax costs.

The rich however simply hold their assets in offshore tax havens; which the Tax Justice Network estimates that, annually, these help $250Bn in tax revenue to become lost.

Closer to home, HMRC estimates the tax gap (the result of Tax avoidance and Tax evasion) to be between £11bn and £41bn per year.
A former member
Post #: 389
You've fallen - hook, line and sinker - for a bit of Tory propaganda.

Not the first time :)
London, GB
Post #: 88
I've been giving this collapsing demographic idea some thought, and the more I think about it, the more I keep coming to the conclusion that this is actually a good thing.

The only reason it seems to be a problem is that white guys haven't figured out how to make money from the situation. Capitalists view us all as 'Consumers', so Capitalists want more consumers... The more consumers there are, the scarcer 'things' will be - the scarcer 'things' are, the more you can charge for them. So, Capitalism is certainly not in our interests.

Now, there are plenty of plans to save the world if only we can have absolute power to order everybody about – but a better, less coercive idea would be to ask women to choose to have just one child - that way, the population falls in the next 30-40 years, without epidemics, wars or displaced people. And thus (probably for the first time in history), we have a plan that requires remarkably little input from men.

Think about it, a child born in the Western hemisphere has hundreds of times greater negative impact on the resources of the world than a child from say Bangladesh or Africa.

Yet, if we want to change the world, we'd need to appeal to those women who are educated, aware of the concept of political correctness and socially concerned. In fact, we don't even need to get 100% commitment; if we could get just 10-20% compliance there would almost certainly be an immediate easing of the pressure on planetary resources.

I'm sure many women would love to have more disposable income, more leisure time, and authentic status as a political hero at the forefront of the battle to save the planet.

So, be richer, make your life easier, be a hero – just have one child and help decrease the population.

Dirk B.
user 9941666
London, GB
Post #: 73
Won't work.
Europe's population is dropping, so the powers that be are touting immigration as the answer.
People stupid enough to have just one (or no) children are simply going to be ethnically replaced.
Plus, of course, it rewards societies that have more children because they can export the surplus.
London, GB
Post #: 90
Europe's population is dropping, so the powers that be are touting immigration as the answer.
If Europe's population is decreasing, then on a planetary scale, they are doing their bit to save the world, which could well help speed up the reclamation of the planet. So, unless you're suggesting that other planets might be sending their excess population here, Europe's declining population is a good thing.

The last I heard, ZaNew Labour were encouraging immigration because evidence indicated that immigrants were more likely to vote Labour, and thus it'd help keep Gordon Brown and his ilk in power for a few more years. The plan seems to have backfired though, but I better not say more lest I be labelled a bigot.

People stupid enough to have just one (or no) children are simply going to be ethnically replaced.
Is this part of the Transhuman manifesto? Have a huge family or we'll send the boys round... That sounds rather too much the like the Catholic Church banning prophylactics so that unplanned future generations will expand their oppressive, money grubbing, child abusing, socially backwards religion.

Regardless, having children is a matter of choice, some people want them and some don't. There are advantages to having less children on both a personal and a global scale - However, up until fairly recently, the predominant view was that the masses should have lots and lots of children, so that they could keep the machines running for the Industrial Masters. Latterly though, the Machine operators have been replaced by Data entry clerks, but otherwise there's not much difference in the job description...

Plus, of course, it rewards societies that have more children because they can export the surplus.
You've lost me here; organizations such as Amnesty International, Anti-Slavery International and Human Rights Watch have rightly campaigned to have laws passed which ban human trafficking. And even were this still legal, the suggestion to have less children is a global one... Or is your notion that if people in the West consciously decide to have less children, then people in the rest of the world will decide to have more, in order to make up the shortfall?

It's not a new phenomenon that parents in countries with high child mortality rates, and nothing whatsoever in the way of pension provision tend to have more children (these children have many times less impact on planetary resources). However, fewer of them will survive to adulthood, but those that do will either send the parents money when they get old (in lieu of a pension), bring them a bride price / dowry when they get married, or (in certain cultures) adopt the custom of the last born girl devoting her life to looking after the elderly parents.

None of these choices seem especially appealing to my Western mind, since the only way to continue those sorts of traditions is by stopping people becoming educated and/or allowing manipulative religions to continue to spread lies about how wasting your life in servitude to the masters – now - will allow you a vague promise of something better in a fictional afterlife.
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