Sunday, 29 April 2012

Getting something back from baby boomers before they go I was at a Building Futures debate last night at the RIBA, part of their investigation into ‘how cities adapt to the changing requirements of an ageing population’. Among the speakers were Alan Hatton-Yeo of the Beth Johnson Foundation, and Indy Johar of 00. I just want to note here a couple of points that Indy made which struck me as particularly important. First, he argued against distinguishing any single age group in public debate where it pits one group against another: ‘intergenerational warfare is completely pointless’. This is part of an argument to get away from single segment politics, a tradition exploited by many politicians and single issue lobby groups. Rather, we should be working out how to do intergenerational planning and intergenerational economics. Indy then went on to argue the need for a process of intergenerational wealth transfer, because this has broken down, and inadequate levels of house building have contributed to the collapse. He identified a contrast between older people’s insistence on independence, and the fact that there will of necessity be an increase in intergenerational households whether they like it or not. This led to a welcome blast at the so-called baby boomers (shades of The Pinch): ‘It’s about the baby boomers not talking about what they need, but standing up and talking about how they can contribute.’ What are the odds of that happening in significant numbers? Where, culturally or politically, is the stimulus for it? I find myself increasingly despondent at being part of arguably the most selfish and destructive generation in history, in this country, and I fear it will take more than wise words from Indy, or David Willetts's book, to slow things down, let alone reverse the damage. Someone persuade me otherwise.

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