Behind all the shouting, all the protests, and the polarization is a more fundamental problem, one that dogs every society, sooner or later: there may not be enough to go around.
I hope everyone’s enjoying The Next 12 Months series. And if you’re not, how about we take a break and talk about something else for a moment?
The other day, a TikTok video released by a young woman who goes by the handle “chailynt,” who appears to be a member of Generation ‘Z’ - the ‘Zoomer’ Generation - went off on a tangent concerning the cost of living. Initially, I found it more noise than substance, but it certainly sparked spirited debate over what life has become in America, especially for the young.
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Listen to what she has to say:
The thing is, she makes a lot of sense. The cost of living is high. The number of affordable places to live in the country is dwindling. I think everyone except the Biden administration gets that. Wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. People are working long, if not longer, hours for diminishing returns. None of this is news. I’ve talked about it here on my Substack.
The (Not-So) Good Ol’ Days
What drew a lot of attention was her assertion that things were better 20 years ago and that it was much easier to get ahead in life. As many respondents asserted, this wasn’t true, not entirely.
Twenty years ago, my wife and I were married with two incomes, and for some months, we had to give up meals to pay the utility bill and to be able to afford formula for our baby. I shopped at Goodwill. I had to devise creative excuses to not go on trips with colleagues because I didn't want them to know I couldn't afford it. I have no sympathy for this kid. She just presumes the rest of us never struggled. Life isn't fair and is often hard when you start out.
Memories are short and without data, it’s difficult to substantiate what life was like 20 years ago. What I do know for certain, however, is that young people needed roommates back then just as much as they need them today. Again, I can’t tell you how prevalent single-living was back then, I just know that people sharing residences early in life was very much the norm. I did it myself. In fact, I personally know of nobody who moved out of their parents’ place and went straight to living in their own place. I’m sure it happened, but I just don’t know anyone who did. The young woman in the video also appears to be a Wal-mart employee; retail workers couldn’t afford to live on their own back then and most certainly not today.
It’s Not All Your Imagination
Perspective doesn’t hurt; I hope someone was able to convince the young woman that no, we weren’t living in some golden economic age back then. That said, it doesn’t invalidate the overall point, which is that life has gotten much more expensive. 20 years ago, the average household spent 23% of its income on rent. That number is now over 30%. Conventional wisdom used to hold that if you spend over 30% of your income on rent or a mortgage, it was probably too expensive for you.
By the way, how expensive is housing today? In 2022, the median price of a home was $440,300. In 1972, it was $189,500 in 2022 dollars. Now, it’s important not to take these numbers at face value. Figures like inflation and median income are snapshots in time, requiring context in order to comprehend their significance. For example, in 2022, the median household income was $74,580, which, in 1972, comes out to $10,652.28 in today’s dollars. Obviously, nobody on an annual salary of $10,000 is going to afford even a $189,000 home.
But instead of looking backward, let’s look forward. At the end of 1972, $29,200 was the median sell price of a home in non-adjusted dollars. In 2022, that comes out to $204,438.42. All of a sudden, home prices seem a bit more reasonable, don’t they?
Likewise, the median household income in non-adjusted dollars was $9,000 in 1972. That comes out to $63,011.84 in 2022. By simply changing the direction of conversion, we went from a household earning $10,000 not being able to afford a $189,000 home to a household earning $63,000 possibly being able to afford a $204,000 home.
The bottom line is, life has gotten far more expensive and the cost of goods and services is outpacing our earnings. This isn’t perception; it’s reality. It’s something to behold; in terms of purchasing power, Americans are earning only around a $1,000 more than they did 50 years ago.
No Capital, No Gain
Home ownership is, ultimately, the most real form of wealth many of us will ever have. But it’s becoming increasingly untenable. I myself have almost entirely given up on the idea and have made peace with it. For homes to become affordable again, a catastrophic market crash would need to occur, and we’d have bigger problems by that point, making it doubtful anyone would be able to afford the lower prices, anyway.
Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to not be able to own property. After all, it’s not as common throughout the developed world as you might think. Europe has high home ownership rates, but much of it’s concentrated in the East and the former communist bloc, ironic, given private ownership was antithetical to Marxist ideologies. While ownership rates are high in places like Italy and the Netherlands, they’re also much lower in places like Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, countries which are often touted as far better-developed than even the U.S.
How high are ownership rates in the U.S., anyway? This is one area where life was probably easier 20 years ago. After hitting a peak of 69% in 2004, it underwent a prolonged decline, followed by a recovery during the Trump administration, followed by yet another decline since 2020, and currently sits between 65 to 66%. These aren’t bad numbers, not by a long shot, but we’re exactly where we were back in 1980. The implication seems to be that at least a third of the population at any given time will not own property. With housing costs going up, the proportion who own property will go down anyway. Top it off with the fact home ownership has always been an older person’s game, today’s young people (18 - 39) need to come to terms with the fact their car will likely be the most valuable property they own.
So, what exactly is the problem here? If nothing has changed in 44 years and if a certain percentage of the population will never own property anyway, why the concern? The problem is that we’re still riding atop the wave of the largess created during the generation or two following the end of World War II. A tremendous amount of momentum was built up in a short amount of time, but without more fuel, that momentum will eventually fade. Nobody knows when and I’ve largely given up trying to predict (remember, the economy was supposed to collapse every year for the past three years), but nothing lasts forever, either. It’s just a question of whether it’s going to happen in our lifetimes or not.
What’s that fuel? Capital. By all official measures, the economy is rip-roaring, a point the Biden administration has attempted to emphasize to no avail. What’s driving this growth? Predominantly consumer spending. There’s nothing profound about this; consumer spending has driven the American economy for a few generations now. For now and into the foreseeable future, consumption will be what drives the economy.
In the political realm, how the economy performs in the short term matters most. But we’re really not talking politics at the moment. We’re talking whether the American economic model is even sustainable for the foreseeable future. Barring unforeseen events, which I’ve always argued are nearly impossible to prepare for, the answer is yes - the American economic model is here to stay.
However, it won’t be a smooth ride. If the young woman thinks life is expensive now (it is), she and others of her generation will be even more demoralized by the end of the decade. Let’s go over why that is. The answer lies not in politics, but in demographics.
Amateurs Talk Politics, Pros Talk Demographics
Before going any further, one needs to understand how demographics shapes economics. For that, we turn to Mr. Demographics 101 himself, Peter Zeihan, arguably the best in business on that topic. Watch this short video from the end of 2022 to learn what the three general demographic models are and what impact they have on the economy:
If you didn’t watch the video, the three basic demographic models are the pyramid, inverted pyramid, and the “chimney.” The standard pyramid has a large number of young people, consumption rates are high along with inflation, and import-oriented. The inverted pyramid, as you might imagine, has a large number of old people, relatively smaller number of younger people, less consumption, but are capital-rich, highly productive, and rely on exports. The chimney is more balanced - no age group is disproportionate in size to any other, you have as many consumers as you have producers, there’s a fair amount of capital, and so the system is, over the long term, very stable, even as inflation and recession occasionally rear their ugly heads.
The chimney has been the demographic model of the U.S. for at least the last generation. Even before, the age structure was very balanced; when there was an excess number of young people (think the decade or two following WWII), the population pyramid was never bottom-heavy since at least 1950. It’s not the only reason, but certainly one of the bigger reasons why the American economy has proven so resilient. As of 2024, we still appear to be in overall great shape demographically:
But don’t tell certain people, many of them on my side of the discourse, that America’s demographics are healthy. There seems to be quite a few who think the country is headed for a demographic crash, despite there being no data to corroborate this. Yes, America’s total fertility rate is below replacement. However, not only do we still have time to recover, even if we don’t, the consequences will likely manifest very late in our lifetimes, if at all, for it to really matter. I know that’s kind of a cynical way of looking at things, but there’s just nothing to suggest this country is going to become like Germany, Italy, Japan, or worse, South Korea, any time soon.
That said, the U.S. is still headed for a demographic crisis within our lifetimes. Over the next generation, Baby Boomers will completely depart the workforce and, unfortunately, the oldest of them will begin to pass on. As they do, they won’t just leave a void in the workforce, but they’ll also leave a void in capital. There simply weren’t enough Gen. Xers born to fill their shoes.
In a subsequent video, Zeihan explains the demographic change the U.S. will face as soon as later this decade:
Again, if you didn’t watch the video, the gist of it is: Baby Boomers, who’d been awash in capital, will go from basically funding the economy to expending capital due to aging and playing less of an active role in the economy. I’ve already pointed out Xers cannot pick up the slack left by the Boomers. Meanwhile, America has a massive number of Millennials and Zoomers, who are predominantly consumers. Their consumption not only drives up demand, but they also rely heavily on borrowing and credit, not to mention they need access to capital. What do you think this leads to?
If you said “inflation,” you’re correct! Don’t get too wrapped up in the Biden administration’s streak of Consumer Price Index victories showing inflation has slowed; it’ll pick back up before you know it. I often talk about how inflation will be chronic about 10 years from now; I’ve just now explained why. I’m not ready to make more drastic predictions like hyperinflation (another thing we were supposed to have experienced by now), but there’s just no way for life to not get much, much more expensive.
Zeihan, however, thinks the U.S. will manage to get through it, once the Millennials reach middle age en masse. This points to around 2040 as being the time when the country comes out of the storm, at least with respect to the economy. But this is under the assumption Millennials will be capital-rich by then. In other words, as long as nothing changes, no major upheavals and revolutions occur, Millennials should be able to help the economy recover 15 to 20 years from now. Does that sound too optimistic a scenario?
I think Zeihan is largely correct. Still, I think there exists more doubt than not whether Millennials will possess the necessary capital to help rebuild the economy when we reach that point. Maybe the sheer mass of the generation will help things, but when you factor in everything else - chronic inflation, increasing political instability, disorder, world events - you can’t help but conclude Zeihan is positing a best-case scenario. And nobody should blame him for it. His detractors forget: you cannot make projections based on wild card, black swan events which, by their very definition, are unpredictable. All projections are correct until they’re not.
My prediction is that sometime between now and the mid-2030s, the U.S. will undergo a serious economic crisis. I don’t know if it’ll be a depression, but it’ll be another 2007 to 2009 Great Recession-type event. I’m not sure how the U.S. has managed to avoid even a mild recession all this time; maybe the shutdown-induced recession of 2020 reset the cycle. This is why I’m going with such a long timeline; if it hasn’t happened by now, there’s no reason to expect it will any time soon.
But the economy won’t keep going like this forever. Maybe when the next serious bout of inflation occurs, it’ll force a slow-down in consumer activity, triggering the recession. Perhaps the real estate bubble finally bursts; how high can prices go, anyway, until nobody’s buying homes? And the superpower collapse I keep mentioning will absolutely alter the economic situation of the U.S. It won’t lead to a collapse - it’s simply too big a market - but the country won’t be as sure of a bet as it was during the superpower days. Did I mention inflation will be chronic?
But just as the good times come to an end, so will the bad times. I think by the 2040s, hard times will have created many strong men, and they, like Peter Zeihan suggests, will lead us back to good times. It’s just a question of how much damage will have been done and I think the damage will be substantial. There will be many losers and I feel safe in saying the next round of good times won’t be like the good times of yore. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
In the next generation or so, I think the U.S. will re-define the game as we know it. Despite having a healthy age structure, it’ll behave more like a pyramidal society - high consumption, high inflation, import-oriented. Once Millennials come to the rescue with capital (assuming they possess it in sufficient quantities), we’ll go back to growing, inflation will come back under control, and America just might become the world’s economic powerhouse again. Still, there’s a lot of time to pass between now and then.
None of this ought to be controversial. There’s just no getting around the data. In Business Insider, Aki Ito did a great job explaining where we’ve been and how we ended up where we are today:
It may seem like ancient history today, but the baby boom that followed the Second World War spurred a massive shift in the US labor market. As the boomers came of age, the economy was suddenly flush with millions of new workers looking for jobs. The working-age population jumped by 17% in the 1960s and by another 19% in the following decade. If you were looking to hire, times were good.
But the boomers, unlike their parents, didn't have many babies themselves. The pill and the legalization of abortion sent fertility rates cratering — from 3.7 babies per woman in 1960 to 1.8 babies a decade and a half later. For a few decades, an influx of women and immigrants into the workforce kept the labor pool expanding. But by 2000, the rising supply of female workers reached its peak. And after Donald Trump took office, immigration took a nosedive. That meant there were no new workers left to hire, just as the first of the baby boomers were starting to retire.
According to this chart, the labor shortage has been going on for some time now. Notice the big drop-off between 1992 and 2011:
The labor shortage is already here. The rate of decline has slowed and, a quarter-century from now, isn’t likely to be much worse than it is currently, based on current projections. But there’s nothing to suggest it’s going to get any better. Unless the U.S. decides to import millions from abroad, a decision with profound consequences and more downside than upside at this point, the economy will need to regress. You cannot grow forever.
The Misguided Expectation Of Growth
To tie this all together, I think the 500 lbs. gorilla in the room that even folks like Zeihan aren’t willing to come to terms with is this: America took never-ending growth for granted. Nearly every decision made was with the expectation of uninterrupted growth in mind, even as reality often reminded us that everything eventually runs up against natural limits. I think immigration is the best example of this “growth at all costs” mentality, but there are others.
This expectation of growth goes beyond economics. It’s at the heart of the very crisis we find ourselves in today. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into it any further, though I’ll instead direct you to an essay I penned on this Substack in 2022.
I’ll also implore you to watch this video by Jake Orthwein from 2021 when you have time. It’s probably one of the most important things you’ll ever watch:
Let’s go back to the young woman on TikTok. She’s venting, but that’s not all it is. Her grievances aren’t new, but they’re the long-term byproduct of a society that long ago tapped out. We’ve been running on momentum ever since and whatever growth we’ve had, Americans haven’t been the ones benefiting. This is a topic bigger than we realize and there’s no way I can do it justice in a single blog post. Behind all the shouting, all the protests, and the polarization is a more fundamental problem, one that dogs every society, sooner or later: there may not be enough to go around.
Earlier, I said this wasn’t about politics, but at the same time, it is. As economic reality changes, so will the way we govern ourselves. The culture wars aren’t the only reason democracy is falling out of favor.
Most people are failing her vibe check, because she's a young woman fiming a TikTok in her car
But she accurately diagnoses the diminishing returns for a generation entering the workforce and facing the consequences of pandemic inflation and mass immigration
Like the last girl who went viral, exhausted by how her commute cannibalised her social life and dating prospects, this woman doesn't want to waste her youth working in an industry due to be imminently replaced by automation
She wants what past generations had: a wage which allows her to own a property, see friends and family, and (according to the survey data) have children of her own
Sensible demands indefinitely defered to pay for promises made well before we were born to afford Boomers free healthcare and pensions
(Pensions paid into well below the level of inflation they are claimed at.) We face the highest tax burden since the Second World War; artificially driven demand for scarce housing stock; and sclerotic wages which never rise at the same rate the government conducts quantitative easing
The most common living arrangement for 18-35s is at home, in their parents’ spare bedroom
Wonder why Gen Z are resentful enough to clamour for revolutionary socialism?
Have a victim mentality ripe for Woke grifters to capitalise on?
Why they aren't coupling up and having kids of their own?
It’s because prior generations gave us less to inherit than they were given -- and continue to take at the tail end of their lives, stopping us from starting ours
Insult and dismiss her if you like. The political consequences will not be pretty
Here’s the thing: I’m not sure there’s a political solution to this. You cannot legislate your way out of there not being enough to go around. All this talk of a more robust welfare state is a non-starter: even the long-term viability of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are in doubt. I suppose we could always attempt to print the necessary cash - something the government will inevitably need to resort to in order for the state to survive - but that leads to more of the dreaded “I” word. Options are few; what options do exist are all bad.
Still, only strong, drastic action, the kind authoritarians are capable of, is the only way out. What those are, I won’t get into, but it suffices to say our current leadership has neither the will nor the desire to carry them out. Even if we became less of a democracy, depending on who ends up in charge, still nothing may be done. Our rulers might decide they’re better off managing the chaos than trying to fix it. It’s working out just fine for them so far, why would they change anything?
The future is bleak. The numbers say so.
Preparing for Tumult
Now we can all hopefully see the end from here, what can we do to prepare? The short answer is to start living as though we’re at the end today, so the transition is smoother when it really does arrive. Let me share with you some ways of doing so, especially if you, like the young TikTok woman, are having trouble getting by even during today’s supposed economic boom.
Live With Family
The young woman in the video says she cannot afford to live on her own. Okay. So, why bother?
It wasn’t easy, not always. But until several years ago, I lived with my parents, well into my 30s. And I have no regrets about it. First, I couldn’t afford to live on my own, so it didn’t make sense to try. Second, I got to spend more time with my parents, time I would probably end up wishing I had more of when it’s all said and done. I got to be there for them during some tough times and they were there for me when I needed them. Sometimes, it just isn’t about the money. There’s just no point to any of it if we can’t fulfill our obligation to our loved ones.
Third, this wasn’t a “failure to launch” scenario. The entire time I lived with my parents, I was employed. I paid my fair share. Fourth, I got to save money. When I finally did strike out on my own, it might’ve been later than expected, but it didn’t matter. I was ready and had the means to do so. It never is too late to move out and live on your own, it’s just whether it makes sense to or not.
Life also has a way of bringing family together, no matter how far they drift apart. I know of a 40-something woman who lives with her parents in their 80s and 90s. Older folks often move in with family because they’ve gotten to an age where caring for themselves is more difficult or because they can no longer afford to live on their own. If life eventually finds a way to reunite us, why stress over living on your own?
Everyone’s family situation is different, certainly. And no, if I had a choice, I wouldn’t move back in with my parents. Grateful as I am I got to live with them as long as I did, I’d be doing myself and my parents a disservice if I kept living with them. But spending all that extra time with them didn’t just better prepare me to ultimately move out - it allowed me to be an asset to them as well.
Sometimes, it’s difficult, even as someone who’s relatively young, to sympathize with younger people who complain about the cost of living. Some of them have legitimate grievances. But I also know many of them try to live above their means, pursuing a lifestyle they’re not capable of maintaining.
No, we can’t go our lives doing nothing but working, eating, and sleeping. Humans need leisure. But leisure doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. You might be a motorhead, but does it really make sense to spend all that money on a muscle car or a full-size pick-up truck? Is that absolutely what you need in order to get around? Swallow your pride, buy that reliable mid-market sedan, used if needed. Trust me, you’ll live.
Travel is important. It’s also expensive. If you have trouble affording life’s necessities, what sense does it make to spend money on a vacation? No, you don’t need to become a prisoner in your own home or area of residence. But instead going to some exotic destination, how about go hiking instead? Most trails are free and there’s an obvious health benefit that comes from it.
Forget pets. Sure, they might be cheaper than babies, but they still cost of lots of money and are another mouth to feed. All those animals in the pound? Many of them were abandoned by owners who could no longer care for them. Dogs and cats have emotions too. How dare you spend money you don’t have to get them, only to throw them out of your home in the end? If you can see how it ends, make the right decision now.
The reality is, money is often not there because we end up spending it, often on things we don’t need. “I need to live a little” isn’t an excuse for financial irresponsibility. Yes, you need to enjoy life. There are many leisure activities that don’t involve spending lots of money. Go to the library, borrow a book, read it, finish it, the borrow another. Do things that provide a benefit to you beyond simply a good time. Things that contribute to your health or wisdom are the things you should look to for fun.
Get A Side Hustle
I 100% agree with the TikTok woman on one point: I don’t want to spend my entire life working from bell to bell. This made sense once upon a time, when there was a direct relationship between the amount of hours worked and the return on labor. We’ve long since exceeded the point of diminishing returns.
That said, financial security is a must. It’s not just about having a liveable income, either. It’s about always having some source of income at all times. There’s no such thing as a secure job; we can all be replaced or rendered obsolete at any time. This is going to be even more true as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, posing yet another socially-destabilizing threat. So while nobody wants to spend the entirety of their lives working, you always want to be doing something.
This is where a side-hustle comes in. It need not be a second job per se, but it ought to be something that can supplement your income or provide you a bit of extra spending money. Have mechanical skills? Maybe consider becoming a part-time or on-call handy-man. Are you multilingual? Give language lessons to those who want to learn. Or maybe teach English to immigrants. Thanks to the Internet, there are more ways of making money on the side than ever before.
Whatever you do, just don’t do it for free. One of the more underappreciated transitions to American culture we’ll experience is how we’ll become an even more nickel-and-diming of a society than before. And maybe that’s the way it ought to be. After all, your time is more valuable than anything else. Don’t just give it away.
If the importance of a side-hustle isn’t apparent today, it’ll become apparent in the decades to come.
Gen. Z Is Our Responsibility
Many of my readers are either Millennials or older. That means we’ve long since left childish things behind, or at least we should’ve. We’re past the point of taking ownership of our country and our future.
Meanwhile, Zoomers are where Millennials were 10 to 15 years ago. There’s a lot they’re going to need to overcome, a lot they’re going to have to come to grips with. Remember what it was like for us? It wasn’t always pretty, but it wasn’t all bad, either. Either way, we got through it thanks to people like our parents, who supported us into adulthood, allowed us to continue sleeping in our childhood bedrooms, or just provided a someone to vent our frustrations onto.
Now, it’s our turn to do the same for the next generation. The youngest Millennial is just a few years from turning 30. The youngest Zoomer hasn’t even started high school yet. They’ve already been through a bit and the road only gets rougher from here on out. We have a duty to prepare them, guide them into the transition, dare I say it, the revolution to come. That doesn’t mean just teaching them, but also listening to them. Their frustrations aren’t all frivilous. I’d also like to think that no matter how challenging life was in the past, we’d all aspire to create a better future. We just have to convince them it doesn’t come cost-free and it isn’t simply a matter of being a “better” person.
Along the same lines, we should explain why they’re not wrong to be outraged, but how they’re not entirely right, either. Nobody “created” this economy, as the TikTok woman claims. Not exactly. We should tell them how we got to where we are today and that the choices we made then aren’t too different from the choices many of them would make if given the same opportunity. We need to recognize that it’s a good thing so many young people are in fact alert to the danger our society is in. But we need to channel that outrage towards productive outputs. And if we can’t, we need to prepare them to survive what’s to come, not give into despair. There’s been enough of that already.
What do you think? What was your reaction to the video? Do her grievances have merit? What do you think about America’s demographic situation and what does it say about the future of our economy and politics? Do you see a way out of this? What advice would you give the young woman and other Zoomers?
Talk about it in the comments below.
UPDATE: Reader and frequent commenter “Reckoning” says:
I don’t think that this young woman has much of a beef with her economic situation, but I do think that Gen Z does have a lot to complain about.
Wal-Mart girl seems to think she deserves a good lifestyle living on her own while working a no-education, no training job. Why is that? There has to be some reward to investing in yourself. If she is non-academic, she should at least train as a hygienist, nurse, medical secretary... there are plenty of jobs out there better than Walmart.
At the risk of telling my whole life story, I, like a plurality of Millennials, attended university and earned a BA. I then spent almost a decade after graduation working lower-wage jobs that required, at most, only a high school education. In retrospect, going to college was probably a mistake. I can’t change it now, but while I did gain some useful knowledge and experience, it wasn’t worth the price my dear parents paid for it and I’m fairly convinced those four years I spent in college didn’t help me get ahead in life. Only after completing an apprenticeship, then attending trade school on my own dime to facilitate a career shift (I was past 30 years old at that point) and earned a few certifications did I finally break into the middle-class and move out to live on my own.
My advice to those on the verge of graduating from high school: get work experience. This, more than a college education, will make you hireable. But more important, what you learn on the job is infinitely more valuable than what you learn in a classroom. Getting work experience earlier on in life is exactly what I’d do differently if given a chance to do it all over again. If you wish to go to college, do so only if absolutely necessary to gain entry into a profession that demands higher education. Dreams change and life circumstances often dictate where we end up, so don’t waste time and money going to a four-year university without having a clear pathway in mind to a career.
That said, having college under your belt isn’t a bad idea, either. It’s the four-year institutions that are increasingly becoming a raw deal. It’s better to attend a community college and trade school; not only is it cheaper, but it allows you to get an education at a more manageable pace. If, one day, you decide you want to go for that bachelor’s degree or higher, the time you spent in community college or trade school can count towards that. There’s nothing that says you need to be a full-time student, fully committed to four consecutive years of schooling, in order to get a degree.
Also, as you said, living with family is common for young people around the world. North America is the outlier in having people in their early 20s expecting to live alone. (Incidentally my parents lived a year or two with their folks after marriage - this also happened.) She could also look for a husband.
I have a friend in Italy who, despite being around the same age as I, still lives with his parents. This is about to change, as he’s now engaged to be married, but even throughout much of the developed world, adults living with their parents is totally normal. Moving out is for married folks only.
Obviously, this never caught on in the U.S. or even the Anglosphere more generally. There are many reasons for this - culture, family structure, and land availability being the most prominent - but as life gets crowded and housing increasingly unaffordable, even Anglo societies ought to consider reexamining their priors. I don’t have any children, but if I did, I’d be more than happy to have them continue living with me well into adulthood. It just doesn’t make sense to move out if you can’t afford it. American parents need to quit kicking their kids out when the math doesn’t work out.
As for getting married, I avoided bringing that up, due to the sensitivities surrounding the topic. That said, a marriage-less society is ultimately more unstable. People may prefer the single, unattached life, but they should never confuse that as a contribution to society, even as some people are unquestionably better off unmarried.
About the cost of living:
I do think that young people have a general complaint. Real estate averages and medians don’t necessarily tell you much. The main urban and suburban areas outpace that growth. I know that in Canada the real estate math doesn’t work out for a young family unless they are super well off or have family help, which is common.
I harp on this constantly: the number of affordable places in the country that are also nice places to live are quickly running out. This is not a good thing and will contribute a great deal to the growing instability in the country. The last thing you want is to make the young people angry; it’s the stuff revolutions are made of.
What nice, cheap places do remain, people will fight over. It’s these places where the risk of civil conflict, maybe even civil war, will be most acute. I wrote a super-long piece about it.
About birth rates:
I also think that the Boomers basically pulled up the drawbridge behind them. Education expenses have gone up dramatically for the same or worse education. I think this accounts for much of the collapse in birth rate.
There’s been much debate over the collapse in birth rates. Much of the concern constitutes a moral panic at the moment, but I also think it’s still worth a discussion. The reason birth rates fell in South Korea, arguably the world’s most acute demographic crisis, is because life is so expensive and stressful in the country. This was over 20 years ago, by the way, that birth rates collapsed. I think, as having children became less normal, it became an entrenched social mentality, and people began planning their lives around the expectation of not having babies.
So two things can be true, again: what began as an economic problem has now become a cultural problem. If it were purely a matter of economics, then pro-natalist policies, as we see in places like Hungary and Singapore, should fix the problem. But they don’t. Much of the talk today about free women’s healthcare, free childcare, free everything, is just hot air. None of it’s going to result in more babies and they know it. But it’s a good way to score points against the people you hate.
Reckoning has more to say, be sure to read his comments. And post some of your own!
UPDATE #2: Reader and Substacker “Yakubian Ape” says:
1. To address the doubtful theory about the Millennial cohort picking up the economic slack 15 - 20 years from now when they become asset rich; I’m pretty doubtful of that myself. I’m a Millennial and while, over the years, I have seen one or two in my circle break through the odds and get a house and start to accrue wealth, most are just floundering, and I really don't see the circumstances in society at large changing enough to make that, in turn, change. A lot of them are beaten down and pretty much given up on home ownership, marriage, families, economic advancement, so on and so forth. I’d say they made peace with it, but that implies (I think) a sense of contentment they don't and probably never will have about the situation. I have a bad feeling they will remain bitter about being deprived of what they saw as givens for the rest of their lives, if circumstances don't change, which, again, I don't see that being the case.
A college professor once said to my class, “Two anecdotes don’t make a fact.” I agree. But do hundreds of anecdotes make a fact? The sentiments expressed by Yakubian Ape have become so common, it becomes impossible to dismiss as simply misplaced frustration.
This morning, I came across this TikTok video:
You’re hearing the same sentiments expressed over and over again. And serious intellectuals have proven that there’s absolutely something real going on behind it all, that life is getting more expensive, and, GDP numbers aside, growth did become stunted long before many of us were born.
The only way for Millennials, by 2040, to possess the capital necessary to rebuild the economy is if the 1945-onward cycle repeats itself indefinitely. But there’s no way this will happen because the 1945-onward period was such an exception in human history. Furthermore, without the growth of that period, specifically the 1945-early 1970s timeframe, there’s no fuel for the cycle. So while I largely agree with people like Peter Zeihan about what the next 15 to 20 years holds in store, I still believe when it comes to the next great boom, they’re peddling a best-case scenario. Like the worst-case scenario, it rarely comes to pass.
15 to 20 years is a long time. Yet, for the 2040s to become a boom decade, so much needs to happen in that timeline that should’ve already happened - asset acquisitions, high savings rates, marriage and children. The youngest Millennial, born in 1996, is turning 30 in two years. How much more time do we really have, then? And what of all the intervening events certain to occur?
On that note:
It seems like every time that things do look as if they're bending a certain way, some convenient black swan event just happens to swoop in and throw things into turmoil again. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but, if I could put on my tin-foil hat for a moment... if I didn't know any better, I'd say that all of this is by design, almost a controlled-demolition of sorts to create a generation of serfs. Not saying that's the case - I'm really not sold on it myself - but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if it was. Which leads me to my second point...
I get where he’s coming from. What’s really going on here, though, is that Americans and Westerners in general are finally being exposed to the chaotic reality of the world. Not only that, America is becoming increasingly exposed to the consequences of chaos. I think the most painful reality Millennials and Zoomers will need to come to grips with is how stability is, in many ways, an illusion. Over the course of their lifetimes, they’re going to go from a sense of certainty to learning to live with constant uncertainty, like much of the world. We still live in a world where growth is expected, but not occurring. At some point, we’ll need to not only live with persistent stagnation, but expect it. That’s a profound mindset shift. We’re talking different lifestyles, different ways of relating with one another, etc.
2. I think the biggest source of this discontentment stems not from the fact that Zoomers and Millennials have less than previous generations and see those generations - boomers especially - flaunt that wealth then turn around spit in their face when they complain. That would be bad enough, but I think under better circumstances, many more really COULD make actual peace with it and find some sort of personal contentment in their lives. But, unfortunately, Americans are the single most psy-opped people on planet Earth, and subjected to a basically unending, ceaseless, and relentless barrage of various pieces of propaganda from every screen they look at, each one of them telling them that their lives SHOULD be better and that they're fuck-ups and failures for not meeting those standards. That's advertising 101. I get it. "Oh, you don't have product X? Well, only losers don't have product X." But we don't just have regular, standard advertisements now that display and depict consumer indulgence and consumption of a bygone era, but social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are home to fabulously wealthy influencers who are literally just paid to sit there and look pretty on the internet and shill for products. But seeing those influencers and the opulence they flaunt just makes 99.9% of their audience feel like shit because of course they're going to. I can't imagine how it must feel to be a Wal-Mart employee that works double-shifts just to pay rent seeing some 19 year old wastoid with a pill problem and the vocabulary of a well-educated chimpanzee raking in millions with product placement just because he or she had a viral tiktok. It's basically nothing but demoralization porn beamed right into these people's eyes nonstop. Of course, there's a degree of personal responsibility to delete those apps, turn off your phone, and get mentally healthy away from all that, but I see why Zoomers have such an issue with that when so much of their social lives, hobbies, and increasingly every part of their lives are wrapped up an internet awash in content specifically calculated through hundreds of millions of dollars of marketing research to make them feel terrible and buy more. That's ultimately why I feel like things aren't going to change, at least not through political means - there's too many people and market forces making bank by harvesting despair in the younger generations in America. I think it's ultimately more profitable for them to continue to milk every cent they can out of these people in their poor mental and financial states than it would be for them to get less in the short term but more in the long term by fostering a culture that breeds financial and mental stability and sustainability, if that makes sense. The way it seems to me from the outside looking in is that the strategy for the people at the top is to bilk as money much out of the bottom 99% as fast as they possibly can and jump ship before the consequences catch up to them.
Point is; I really don't think things are going to get better for the Zoomer generation anytime soon, but they could certainly start working on it if they divorced themselves from the parasitic drain that is social media.
There’s a lot there, but it all brings me back yet again to this video:
I beg you: watch it. Better yet, watch Part 1, then Part 2. Eric Weinstein talks about “doping reality” to distract people from the truth or make it easier to swallow. Writers and readers like you and I find politics interesting, but let’s face it: politics is pretty boring. It’s one reason most people don’t like talking about it. The other reason? Politics is serious business. It often becomes a matter of life or death. Who wants to talk about that?
Social media is likely the pinnacle of the “kayfabrication” (watch the damn video if you want to know what that is) of politics, of our lives in general. It presents a certain version of reality that has large elements of truth to it, yet there’s something not quite real about it, either. But social media, too, has exceeded the point of diminishing returns. Just as it keeps people drugged up to better deny the truth, it’s also exposing it simultaneously. That manifests in videos like the ones created by the two young women talking about their economic woes. There’s a limit to how much you can fake it. To use the pro wrestling example, everyone buys into the deception until a performer dies. Then the dangerous reality of the spectacle becomes impossible to ignore.
People, especially young people, are reacting as they are because something isn’t right and they can see it all around them. The platforms that were meant to distract them from reality have, ironically, turned into the only way for them to tell the world the truth.
These are great comments. I hope you keep them coming.
Max Remington writes about armed conflict and prepping. Follow him on Twitter at @AgentMax90.
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