Sunday, August 29, 2004

Can John Quiggin please tell Clive Hamilton to put a sock in it?

John Quiggin has repeatedly disavowed the case for special pleading on behalf of GenX; most recently in an article in the AFR Magazine*. Presumably, John’s logic also extends to GenX not being susceptible to special vilification. If so, then John surely has a duty to speak out against the increasingly strident pronouncements being made – most recently in the same AFR Magazine article – by his age-peer, and sometime fellow academic, Clive Hamilton.

Clive writes:

“In a way, Generation X is the blank space between the far more interesting baby boomers and Generation Y,” quips Hamilton. “X never really seem sure of who they really are or what they stand for.” He predicts that Y will prove trickier for employers by exacerbating trends already started by X.

. . . Hamilton also predicts that Y will fully embrace the trend started by Xers towards renting for life and moving away from family to inner-city centres. For many in Generation Y, a mortgage will be way beyond them. That will have profound implications for employers as they won’t be rooted to any one place.”

As to how can a generation simultaneously be both uninteresting “blank space” and yet selfish and socially destructive, Clive seems to have learnt a thing or two from 1930s German politics. But fascist vilification techniques 101 isn’t Clive’s only specialty – being economically irrational, and dangerously so, is right up there too.

For Generation Y and property ownership, Clive envisions a continuation of the GenX (although more so for those who went to university, and much less so for buying-in-their-20s tradespeople) status quo – high property prices will make them renters for life. Here, Clive could well be accurate – although I hope that he’s not, for the sake of the nation’s social stability. For his part, though, Clive’s only foreseen consequence of the imminent end of majority home ownership in Australia is that it will be “trickier” and “have profound implications” for employers (!), as the new labour pool will be more geographically flexible. Leaving aside the dubiousness of the assumption Clive makes – that home-renting strongly correlates with a willingness and financial ability to up-stakes – the profundity of this change, as well as it assumed negativity for employers, is simply risible in the broader scheme of things.

Just to be clear about the implications here: Clive is merrily dreaming up an Australia that closely resembles apartheid-era South Africa, only age, not “race” is the basis for the declaration and enforcement of a permanent economic underclass. Even richer, GenX and their shiftless and trouble-making ways, are/will be held to blame for this.

Therefore, as to why Clive Hamilton is not being given the appropriate cold shoulder by the academic (and especially the Left) establishment, please explain, John Quiggin.

* Fiona Carruthers “Generation Xcluded” AFR Magazine 27 August 2004 (no URL)

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