Scholars sometimes debate whether Generation Y, or Millennials born roughly between 1978 and 2000, are a troubled, entitlement generation or a great, emerging generation. Jean Twenge writes in “The Narcissism Epidemic” that this generation has a problem with narcissism while Strauss and Howe argue in “Millennials Rising” that this is the greatest generation. Perhaps one camp is right, but this generation of which I am part, along with America’s Future Foundation members nationwide, shows libertarian trends.
It’s a tall order to define an entire generation, but Hannah Seligson attempts to do so in Mission: Adulthood: How the 20-Somethings of Today are Transforming Work, Love, and Life (Ebook 2012, 267 pages). Her group of seven profiles brings out interesting themes, but does not provide enough data to generalize about a generation. She finds libertarian trends but doesn’t call them what they are, and doesn’t discuss the underlying ideas.
Since Seligman focuses her interviews on the professional and personal lives of her interviewees, she doesn’t adequately address one of the most important questions about millennials: the ideas behind their voting preferences. She concludes the book by highlighting the generational reaction to the economic downturn by writing, “We haven’t started a movement to bury our heads in the sand and give up. Instead we are occupying Wall Street, starting the next wave of internet companies, challenging workplaces to be flatter and more flexible, finding new ways of delivering clean energy to the developing world, serving our country, and reimagining gender roles.”
Except for occupying Wall Street, those are all libertarian trends (unless “serving our country” is misinterpreted as working for the federal government or advocating its growth). Even occupying Wall Street can have libertarian connotations when it involves opposing cronyism, corporate welfare, and special treatment of corporations by Congress and regulators.
Seligson would probably embrace social libertarianism, but not fiscal. Why is this? One particularly troubling conclusion comes on page 75, when she argues that Obamacare’s provision for parental health insurance through 26 is “not enough,” followed by “where is our bailout? Or at least some affordable housing?” Seligman laments that millennials are dealt a “bum hand” because of the “cost of education ballooning, wages stagnant” and the insolvency of Social Security. Yet she doesn’t question how federal involvement in education, wages, and Social Security are to blame for the “bum hand” we are dealt.
Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch argue in “Declaration of Independents” how trends show the electorate moving toward libertarian ideas through their preference of less government intervention and more individual liberty. Millennials know this as well as any other generation through their interactions with the DMV, post office, and poor performance of Congress. Yet Seligson doesn’t adequately address it in her book.
Altogether this book adds to the dialogue about millennials because it highlights personal stories about how traditional notions of “adulthood” are changing. Adulthood as defined by man/woman marriage, male breadwinner, and kids and a mortgage by 30 is changing. No one contests that. I think more work needs to be done by the liberty movement to convert the changing norms into an embrace of the ideas of liberty, especially among people who are socially libertarian but haven’t made the connection with fiscal libertarianism.
Roger Custer is executive director of America’s Future Foundation. Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire