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Thursday, 10 October 2013
Jilted Generation is a book that argues that the young people today are a jilted generation. They have three problems compared to their parents
  • House prices have risen and it now takes much longer to be able to save for a deposit
  • Wages have not increase much over the past few years and jobs are less stable
  • University education is no longer free and the costs have moved from comparable to credit card debt(a few hundred or thousand) to mortgage level debt(tens of thousands)
  • Government debts that will need to be repaid
 This book does contain some facts and figures but mostly it is a sort of glorified political pamphlet, albeit a well written one. It reminds me very much of Chav by Owen Wilson, although the Jilted Generation are perhaps more middle class as they aspire to homes and degrees.

The root cause is the most powerful generations are older. They tend to have accumulated more wealth and are more likely to vote and be in positions of power. This leads to a tendency for institutions to encourage outcomes that benefit the older generations. For example pensions rise whilst working age benefits and university support are cut as pensions are a powerful lobby. Likewise high house prices benefit older home owners as the expense of less powerful younger, renters.

There is undoubtedly truth in all of this, although I suspect that every generation has had its challenges(fighting the world wars was probably no picnic). The previous generation had less chance of going to university - it may have been cheaper but fewer people went for example. Government debt has risen but the cost of servicing the debt payments has fallen as interest rates have collapsed(much has been inflated away).  And whilst jobs are less stable people have more choice in terms of careers options than their parents faced.

I enjoyed this book as it is well-written with great style. The actual economic analysis is not so strong, and the authors fail to really address how they would deal with the problems they raise. They are probably aiming at shifting the terms of political debate so inter-generation rights are considered.

There is a similiar book by David Willett's called The Pinch, which looks at Baby Boomers and how they have advantages over their children's generation. David Willetts is a conservative rather than a radical and so it is a more right wing critique of the same problem, the relationship between generations. I think the two books can probably be read together.