25 February 2014

Big Ideas on Has Britain bankrupted its youth?

This was another Big Ideas event that did not especially appeal beforehand but which I went to on the strength of the Big Ideas brand and then had a great time.

I was working in Birmingham that day so the late start (8pm) suited me well. I got in to Euston soon after 7pm, was in The Wheatsheaf around 7:30 and was soon upstairs with my first pint and a sharing portion of Nachos (they do not do a smaller one).

The topic followed on from the previous one where we had discussed generations in general and this time we looked at the economic impact on one specific generation.

Our guide was Shiv Malik, one of the authors of the Jilted Generation.

He explained that young people are getting poorer and old people are getting richer. This had been a trend for a while and the post-crash austerity had accelerated it.

Middle-class parents were now giving birth to working-class children.

Of course this has to be balanced by some non-financial considerations and the young will live longer, have grown up without the threat of an European war and have much better technology to enhance their lives. We did not get a TV at home until I was about ten. That made such an impact on me that I can still remember that the first programme that we watched was Hector Heathcote.

In considering the causes we quickly reached the consensus (at least I think that we did) that this was all Thatcher's fault.

The neo-liberal approach to giving boosts to the current generation had led to fewer resources for the next one.

This largess had include selling off council houses, giving away revenue from the North Sea as tax cuts and giving home-owners mortgage tax relief.

This contrasted badly with Norway where oil and gas revenues had been saved to create a sovereign wealth fund that is helping future generations.

An impact of this is that the older generation (myself included) have a lot more capital than our parents did and we are looking for things to spend it on. Some of it now goes on university fees for our children but it also goes on assets like houses (buy to let) and football season tickets and this is pushing the prices of these up so that the younger generations without the same capital behind them struggle to afford them.

I think that, just for once, we got to some sort of conclusion, or at least I did. The real topic that we were discussing was economics and generations were just a way of showing the impact of failed Conservative policies.

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