An interesting article in today's Washington Post by Catherine Rampell mulls over the frustrating plight of America's 18-35 age group. The main points are: dwindling marriage rates, dwindling home ownership rates, dwindling job opportunities. These are all the predictable outcomes of the growth of big government solutions imposed on the economy over the last quarter of a century and the significant shifts in emphasis in our education system.
Ultimately skill development and work ethic determine economic outcomes. When a society no longer thinks these things are important, the society loses its economic momentum. The contrast between Asia and the western economies could not be more stark. Asian youth find opportunities for jobs, housing and family development that were unheard of forty years ago. The exact opposite is taking place in the western world.
Talk to American employers or visit the modern American university.
American employers will tell you that, even with large levels of unemployment and record numbers of people leaving the work force, the pool of talented people with strong work ethic has been declining for more than a generation in the US.
Any brief perusal of a college newspaper today will show what is emphasized on campus -- political correctness mainly. Skill development including reading, mathematics, science and history are increasingly afterthoughts in the modern American university. Instead, there is a constant focus on social issues and the "correct" political attitudes.
College graduates in modern America often view the job market that they are plunging into as a reward for their years of meandering through an increasingly dysfunctional education system. Instead of starting out and beginning the process of "paying their dues," many college graduates expect to move right into a lifestyle that matches the free flowing life of booze, sex and drugs that were the main components of their college days. To many graduates, they have already paid their dues. Now is reward time.
Meanwhile, politicians encourage a lack of interest in skill development and work ethic by beating the drums of inequality and promoting poverty-encouraging measures like increasing levels of the minimum wage. All of this reinforces the idea that we are all "entitled" to, more or less, everything -- medical care, housing, old age income security and on and on.
The reality is that no one is really entitled to anything that their skill set and their efforts can't justify. For a while, the political process can distort the workings of the economy, so that it seems like government can provide everything. But, it can't.
Sooner or later the economic vitality and the cultural vitality of a country begins to wither away. We can see that in modern America and the millennials are the first generation to feel the full brunt of the changing America. European youth have been experiencing this phenomenon for decades, but for Americans, this is new.
Fortunately, there is positive change in other parts of the world. This is likely to be the Asian century, as Asians, for whom skill development and work ethic take center stage, the future looks bright, especially for the young. In some ways, this is a good outcome. Good results should accrue to those who work to improve themselves and bad results should accrue to those who complacently think they are entitled to the fruits of other people's labor.