Book Review: A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney

A Generation of Sociopaths is an interesting book with an interesting thesis, to say the least.  The main thesis of the book is that the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1944 and 1964) has used its power at the voting booth to essentially bankrupt the nation and impoverish those of us in succeeding generations to ensure that the Boomers themselves enjoy the kind of life they want to have.

First the details.  The book is divided into 17 topical chapters that are internally organized somewhat chronologically.  There is an afterword, appendices, a large notes section, and an index.

The first chapter presents the central thesis of the book, that the Baby Boom generation has essentially screwed the generations born after it.  The rest of the book is a look in various levels of detail at different aspects of that screwing with the final chapters and afterword being a look at how the US can dig itself out of the mess the Boomers created.  Interestingly, it is the authors contention that no explicit plan was required by the Boomer to fleece the country, they just did it naturally by voting for what they saw as their interest and electing co-generationalists whose avowed promises were to enact the policies promoting that self-interest.  There is no party, racial, or ideological divide, the Boomers voted to take care of themselves, and that is what has happened.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the whole theory is the way in which government policy and law changed in the ways that were beneficial to the Boomers just as they reached the point in their lives where such changes would provide the most benefit.

Examples of providential policy changes include the changes in the tax treatment of estates just at the time when the parents of Boomers were passing away with such treatment sunsetting in time to maximize estate tax revenue to the government as the Boomers themselves start to die off.  Another is the expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drug costs just as Boomer began to become eligible for Medicare in large numbers.  A final, and I found a telling example is the way in which Social Security financing has been tinkered with such that it will remain funded enough to pay out to the Boomers but almost certainly require radical revision if not elimination once they die.

I am not convinced that everything in the book is right but there is an awful lot about it that seems to providential to be pure coincidence.  The proposed solution is a technocratic raise taxes and reduce entitlements approach that has been broached before and will no doubt go nowhere yet again, at least until the boomer lose their electoral majority.  One thing is certain, whether the boomers are at fault or not, the United States has a difficult and painful fiscal adjustment to make over the next 50 years to overcome the fiscal profligacy on both a personal and national level of the last 50.

A Generation of Sociopaths is at a minimum thought provoking and is sure to be controversial.  I can hear the howling now from people saying that it is full of lies and slander.  The arguments in the book are thought provoking but the vitriol is also real.  A great book that I highly recommend anyone under the age of 50 to read and then ponder how we can take back our stolen heritage from the selfish generation that preceded us all.


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