Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Pinch

Last night I finished reading 'The Pinch: How the baby boomers stole their childrens future and how they can give it back' by the current Universities Minister David Willetts.

The main focus of the book is demographic; chiefly the demographic disruption caused by the baby-boomer generation. An ecxcellent review on the Guardian website captures the key points covered by the book. One of the most intriguing arguements the book puts forward is on the question of social mobility. For Willetts declining social mobility and rising inequality is explained by the discrepancy between individual behaviour and group behaviour. Whilst as individuals the baby-boomers do all that they can to assist their own children (via the bank of mum and dad), as a group they are responsible for monopolising resources and creating the conditions which leave subsequent generations with a rather poorer deal than the one they themselves took advantage of.

As one of the generation who has been hard done by ever since Maggie took my milk away followed by being the first year to have to pay university tuition fees and for whom home ownership is as realistic a dream as owning my own private island much of the book chimed. As a student of Social Policy I was also impressed. However, not all points were backed up with sufficient evidence; Willetts only alludes to the reasons why the baby-boomers have been able to get a good deal from the state via the ballot box not pausing to look at the kind of theories, such as median voter theory, which could explain this.

Overall it is a great text on the consequences of demographics upon the functioning of ther welfare state and poses many questions which will become ever more topical as the first baby-boomers begin drawing their pensions.

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