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Youth

Watch Venezuela, or Egypt, or most any country in strife today and on the edge of revolution. There is something they all share. Young people, who didn’t vote for the leadership that drove the proverbial car into the wall, but who stand to pay the biggest price for the car crash are now waking up to that fact and are taking to the streets demanding a better future. Older people, whose generation made the mistakes that led to the current catastrophes, are clinging to their old and tired and bad ideologies, driven by ego and pride and unable to see the truth: that their ideas were dumb and wrong and that they fucked it up big time. Or, they are unwilling to accept the burden of responsibility and make the necessary amends.
As I’ve written in past posts, my wife Marisol is Venezuelan, and her dad still resides there with his youngest son who is 21. Go read each of their replies to my blog called “Extremes,” from a couple of weeks ago. Junior, who wrote in English, agreed completely with my assessment of the situation there, while Senior, whose reply was in Spanish, expressed his love for me and for America but claimed that I was gravely mistaken and that the “problems” were being caused by a small group who had the financial backing of rich trouble-makers from Florida. How typical!

At dinner the other night we were speaking of Venezuela again and Marisol wondered why the U.S. wasn’t coming in to help. I pointed out to her that most Venezuelans voted for its current leadership and would view U.S. incursion as a hostile act rather than a benevolent one. I said that given that reality if I were making the decision I would tell the Venezuelans that they made their bed and now they get to sleep in it. Basically, “Good luck. “ Then my son Daniel, who is 22, made the observation that while that approach might be appropriate for the older generations, it is the youth that has taken to the streets as they see their futures having been horribly compromised by earlier generations. So, I modified my answer to Marisol. Why don’t we offer green cards to any Venezuelan 25 or younger? Then, to the rest: “Good luck.”

The issue of the generational shift is a profound one globally today, and will lead to many different things, socially, politically, and financially. With the Internet and especially social networking, young people are more, if not always better informed than ever, and understand that the world they’re inheriting from the Baby Boomers is a real mess on every level. The early Arab Spring movements in Egypt and Tunisia were driven primarily by youth. Venezuelan youth are petrified at the prospect of their country becoming the next Cuba, and them waking up 40 years from now driving cars from 2010. When, I wonder, will American youth begin to get nervous and upset? They’re on the wrong end of our massive debt, our pension liabilities and other entitlement programs, and a seemingly deteriorating or at least stagnating economy. When will Chinese youth get upset? Japanese? Italian? (The French youth only seem to get pissed when the work hours threaten to grow, so I’m not sure about them).

I am certain that the bubbling up of tensions related to this issue of sending the bills to the next generation will be a huge story for the next decade. This will surely have a profound, and highly unpredictable impact upon the financial markets. Governments, it would seem, would move to quell any unrest by making preemptive concessions to the young, which will I am sure come at the expense of the retiring Boomers, who are less likely to take to the streets given their advanced age. I’d bet the AARP loses a lot of power over time, and that retirees will hope that GMO-laden food and Obamacare turn out to work well.

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