Oct 312011

Daily Mail: ‘I am part of the most selfish generation in history and we should be ashamed of our legacy,’ says Jeremy Paxman

Speak for yourself, you lucky rich man! (Salary perhaps £1 million per year). See:

London Evening Standard: And now your starter for ten: Just how many Romanians are living over Paxman’s garage?
Guardian: Paxo’s dirty laundry gets a very public airing
Wikipedia: Jeremy Paxman

(I wonder if I earned £1 million over my full career? I’ll do the sums sometime).

I won’t waste much time on his rubbish. But it is worth commenting on some statements in his article:

If anyone attempted to name their children — those born between about 1945 and 1965 — the so-called Baby-Boomers, they might consider calling them The Worst Generation.

This graph shows the relative number of people born each year who were still alive in 2004. (From The myth of the UK baby-boom). See if you can detect a “baby-boom from 1945 to 1965″. Of course not! Statements like that are sloppy analysis. (There was more like a single baby-boom in the USA, and probably some people assume without checking that the same applies to the UK).

Two baby-boom theory

In the UK, there was a “baby-pop” from about 1946 to 1949, then a full “baby-boom” from about 1956 to 1974. (Jeremy Paxman was born in 1951, not in a year of an abnormal number of births).

Earlier this month, a report suggested the young will be 25 per cent worse off than their parents when they reach the age of 65 — the so-called ‘baby bust’ generation, having accumulated £400,000 less by the time they retire.

Why is there an implication that “the young” will retire at 65? Each generation not only lives much longer than the previous one on average, but the various stages get stretched out. In my cohort (born 1947) most people left school at 15, and only about 5% went to university. The “education” stage was shorter on average than it is now. Quite a few have died by now, and the life expectancy for the rest is less than it is for today’s younger people. Their retirement will have to be delayed, on average, because they will have vastly more life ahead of them at 65 than we have. (No doubt the generation after today’s younger people will resent them for living so long and retaining so many resources such as houses!)

This may not be entirely their parents’ fault. But we should certainly take a good share of the blame….

Almost a million young people between 16 and 24 today have no work — for the jobs many might have expected to fill have been exported to China, India or Vietnam.

I’ve cut out a lot between those sentences, but the implication is that somehow “we” created a world in which the young haven’t the job opportunities that we had. And it is true that there is little work down the pits anymore. But this would have happened had any single one of us not been born! If the world would be like it is whatever I had done, even to the extent of not being born, why should I accept any blame for it?

(If he feels so guilty, perhaps he should give his money away, and hand his jobs over to younger people).

We have lived in a world in which medical science made such strides that we could confidently expect to outlive our parents — and be in better health.

Gosh, should we feel guilty about that? Should we also feel guilty that, as a result of medical advances brought about by our generation, younger people will live even longer, and have better health, than us?

The truth is, the Lucky Generation are in authority and have been for years now.

Apparently I failed to get the memo telling me I am in authority! Probably fewer than 1% of us ever had our hands on the levers of power and influence. 99% of us were simply living in a country, and a world, where things were happening that we barely understood and had no control over. (I have never lived in a ward or constituency where my vote made the slightest difference to which candidate won). We took sensible (or not so sensible) opportunities when we could, and some of us succeeded, some failed, and most just muddled through.

The recent disclosure that nearly one million young people are unemployed reveals how difficult it will be for many students to pay off the debts with which we have saddled them.

The vast majority of those students wouldn’t have got to university in 1965! Only about 5% did so. With extra opportunities, there is often an extra cost.

They have already persuaded the Government to make it impossible for employers to get rid of them just because they reach the age of 65, while also ensuring that many Boomers will be able to claim their pension two or three years earlier than anyone entering the workforce now.

(Hm! In effect, I retired at 54, because the company I worked for was failing and I took voluntary redundancy as the least worst option). As I mentioned above, a consequence of living longer is that all the stages of life start and finish later. (Suppose a future generation lives to be 1000. Would it still be sensible to argue about retiring at 65? Or even to talk about a single sequence such as “education, work, retirement”?)

Getting on for a million of this generation have taken themselves off to live in parts of continental Europe where they think the weather is kinder and the fags and booze are cheaper.

That number means, of course, that the vast majority of this generation have not done this! So why taint the rest of us by implication? (If those people typically sold their houses when they moved elsewhere, hasn’t this achieved what some of the “intergenerational lobbyists” are wanting? Isn’t this a good thing?)

It strikes me as more of a wonder the streets aren’t full of demonstrators demanding compulsory euthanasia.

Perhaps (unlike Jeremy Paxman) they have thought this through, and realise that they will potentially live even longer, and don’t want the following generations demanding the same of them!


Further reading

And see these about about Angus Hanton, one of the people behind the Intergenerational Foundation:

 Leave a Reply

Name required. (Spam NEVER gets published before being trashed)

Email required. (Spam NEVER gets published before being trashed)

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>