Generation Debt a few words

January 12, 2006 at 5:28 am 1 comment

EDIT: Just to make sure this is apparent, the problem analyzed in generation debt does seem to be a pressing problem which needs attention (i.e. lowering tution costs and increasing the education level of the u.s.). When I wrote this awhile back I hadn't really looked at the issue, and I'll probably never read the book to be honest (I got other things on my mind). My point being, I am somewhat distanced now from the article you're reading, I'm not sure it accruately reflects my views and it probably contains inaccuraces and false presumptions.

Economists make up a good deal of my rss feeds these days (and I might add my rss reader searchfox is going under January 20th), but quite often they don't have the kindest things to say about "my generation" to borrow a phrase by The Who. Becker and Posner have bemoaned baby boomer parents that feed their children's bohemian lifestyles (I'm sure they'd love my Dad who wrote to me the other day to learn mandarin and NOT TO WASTE THIS OPPORUNITY BECUASE OF INDOLENCE etc.). Anyway, but a recent row has broken out 1. in the comments section of Danriel Drezner's blog concerning my horrible grammar and 2. concerning Anya Kamenetz's Generation Debt.

The arguement consists of the following: the u.s. sucks right now. The usual high interest rates, incredibly high housing prices in hip-young cities, and the fact that you have to live in hip-young cities to find work there days (observe the difference in unemployment between the bay area and birmingham, al and it might explain why my mom couldn't even make money selling her house in the most desirable area of Birmingham despite a "housing bubble"). But Daniel Gross takes issue with these books becuase he, like many others, also graduated in a post-bubble economy where living was hard. For his benefit Mr. Gross's reason for disliking the generation debt books isn't that their misguided or even portraying the issues inaccurately it's quite simpley becuase:

"So, why are these books—Generation Debt in particular—annoying?

It's not that the authors misdiagnose ills that affect our society. It's just that they lack the perspective to add any great insight. "

Gross is an economist, and he's tired of hearing the same arguements over and over again. The entire row breaking out from the book then seems a little misguided. The American economy is still growing, and we the younger apparently "Y" named generation will probably face the daunting fact of good employment in some ten years time. This seems fairly accurate to me, you have to build. Of all my friends who graduated college around the same time as me, many have found work. A small list running north from new york to south to miami includes an art director and publicist in New York (Elana), a layout and manual designer for a homeland security company (Scott), Scott's girlfriend who managed a photo collection D.C., Kim Howie who is a book designer, Amanda who is a music publicist, Greg who seels Mr. T. merchandise on ebay, going further south after we leave Virginia we hit lesser forms of employment my friend Isaac in Chapel Hill worked in a morgue, hit Atlanta we begin to find 20 somethings in the broadcast business writing code for cable networks, making programs like Adult Swim, and then there's Richard who does sound design for websites and commercials and recently bought a pretty big house, Orlando contains one 3d artist who made models and animations for about 5 years before n-space a nintendo 2nd party developer hired him, Keith who does networking for the school districts, Travis who does music for commercials, Luna who works for an arms contractor, further south one lighting designer for a miami theater, one college administrator, several graphic designers, and one girl who writes scenarios for MMORPGs. I could also include an investment banker, a guy who updates flash websites after the original designer has left, 2 quark xpress dudes and others. Heading towards the west coast in Austin Josh Knowles got a philosophy and managed to become an interface designer, quit his job, and now goes to NYU for it's digital media lab or something, Rich who does sound design for websites, getting towards Cali Julian who does editing in final cut, John Roche who does something involving software, and then people who are all over the place like Fred Noel who works for sprint's DSL biz. All of these people are under 30 many make less than 30 – 40 k a year, but they have interesting work that qualifies them for later movement up the ladder. These people aren't entirely typical for instance for everyone of these dudes I can name 2 – 3 people who still wait tables, work in warehouses, etc. But my point being despite the bubble shattering in the economy awhile back, despite the housing bubble, despite this or that the economy and job creation continues to grow. Yes the u.s. economy is probably going to tank in the near future if the economist is any indicator, but to lament our generation as having especially hard problems seems like a misdemeanor. We don't have it as bad as some. Entrepenruail types have access to more capital than probably any other generation of human beings that walked the earth. The national deficiet, social security, etc are all big issues that need to be fixed, but at least we have the pre-wanring to know we need to save right now. School costs are rising (a possible reason I haven't seen discussed is that school costs all over the world are rising and that foriegn students are also increasingly studying in the U.S. and are more than happy to pay the price tag). Have I even so much as lifted a finger to help out with any of these problems? Hell, no. I'm young and only psuedo-employed in Asia right now. I also might add that if many of Anya's friends are having problems finding even shitty jobs they should consider moving out of New York. In Birmingham I had no problems finding B.S. work on the other hand in Florida it was almost impossible for me to hold down a job waiting tables. Similar movements of the young and creative in the past have turned some areas around. When the 80s boom forced the 70s downtown NYC scene out of their 200 a month manhattan apartments they moved to Seattle. And for the record I don't think the U.S. young-ins have anything to worry about compared to the Japanese younger generation who faces their life as a minority with liberal values in a society that's population is shrinking as benefits dry up for their parents age not to mention their not as likely to be able to fill up cool creative jobs Americans are offered or enjoy the open work environments that U.S. high-tech firms are legendary for. In juxtaposition, Americans problems seem slight and quite possibly more easily solved than the Japanese predicament. You'd think with so much time on our hands we'd figure out a way to deal with retirement, job security, and the problems of rising college rates. Building more schools with solid credentials and lower rates might help off set the price wars that Harvard, Yale, and others waging.

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Google Video is boring The Geography of Thought

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