The San Francisco Chronicle commissioned me to do a "big picture" op-ed piece for their Sunday Review, which appeared yesterday. It's here. The bit with the violins:
Our current generation of leaders grew up with cheap gas, "free" freeways, and abundant land for suburbia, with a concept of security formed by the Cold War. For Millennials, the issues are economic insecurity and climate change, and they're telling us, in every way they can, that they are not as interested in cars. They are getting driver's licenses later in life, and buying cars later, if at all. They are part of why the amount of driving in America rose steadily until 2004 and has been flat or declining since then. It's easy for older people to pretend that their kids are like they were at that age, but the Millennials are not like their parents. Their formative experience is different, and so are their priorities.
In 2040, the Millennials will sit in the power-seats of government and business. Sooner or later, the world, and the Bay Area, will be governed according to their priorities. So in the end, it comes back to one of the great human questions that every ruling generation has faced: Can you listen to your adult children, and honor the ways that they differ from you? Can you see the value in smoothing the path toward the world that they will rule? Or do you want only to slam on the brakes, protecting your own habits and assumptions?
It's not an easy question, but it's the real question of all long-range planning. How Bay Area residents answer it will decide the future of their region, and possibly the world.
I would argue it will be sooner than 2040, if one defines Millennials as those born from the mid-1980s onwards. The oldest are aroudn 30, and senior politicians tend to be in their 40s or 50s. I’d expect to see Millennials in power by 2030.
@Tom Local govt might be even quicker, so we can expect more city-state/Fed rift first. Vancouver, Calgary and I’m sure others have young GenX mayors, and loads of GenY on staff.
“It’s not an easy question…” ?!!
Seriously, this is such an easy question to answer if people really do love children as they claim.
This is the question that cuts to the chase. Great writing Jarrett.
Congratulations! Your article is one of the two appeared on the facing page, opposite to the article from President Obama! And yours is my favorite among the two 🙂
Thank you for printing that much of your Chronicle column here. All that the Chronicle shows to non-subscribers is an introductory sentence.
Isn’t this just the way politic administration in general works – the aspirations of any giving cohort are only met with very serious considerations when such cohort is on the 2nd half of their lives.
I think that is the rule rather than the exception. What is the exceptional are circumstances like post-WW2 Europe, when the carnage of war suddenly set aside the “old guard” and gave rise to politicians that had grown with 2 world wars and a major global depressions as their major references in life, something that shaped the following 30 years of European politics until 1973 at the earliest.
Acceptance of women in the military had become stronger since the cultural shifts of the early 1970s, especially after the move to an all-volunteer force. Yet, it took at least 2 decades for a big push in the military to get woman into serious, dangerous and live combat positions in large numbers that don’t make then an ‘oddity’.
While we are at it, isn’t one of the great political stories of this time how the youth generation that brought tectonic shifts to sexuality, pop culture and social norms in the 1960 later swung back towards more conservative policies (especially economic ones)?
Generally speaking, it is not a matter of having a couple of “Gen Xs” or “Millenials” in power that would make a difference. It takes a longer time to the point where the majority of people on top political offices, social leadership positions, academia and especially economically powerful offices (CEOs, high managers, consultants) spouse a certain trend or attitude for it to get a significant shot of getting into laws and effective change, especially if it contradicts with an existing paradigm.