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Long before millennials were dubbed the “Me Generation,” journalist Tom Wolfe used the label to describe the young baby boomers coming of age in the mid-1970s, a time of heightened focus on the self and personal development.

“The new alchemical dream is: changing one’s personality — remaking, remodeling, elevating, and polishing one’s very self ... and observing, studying, and doting on it,” Wolfe wrote in a 1976 New York magazine cover story.

To the extent that millennials really are self-absorbed and narcissistic, it may be because they learned from the masters: their parents. Baby boomers ― the unusually large generation born during a wave after World War II ― grew up in a time of historic prosperity. In many ways, the world they’ll leave for their children couldn’t be more different from the one they knew as children. 

Boomers blew through resources, racked up debt, and brought an end to economic growth, using their enormous voting power to elect politicians who enacted policies that typically benefitted boomers’ interests, rather than future generations. Now, millennials face more debt, fewer resources and higher levels of unemployment than their parents, and are likely to see the fallout of runaway environmental destruction within their lifetimes.

In his new book, A Generation of Sociopaths, writer and venture capitalist Bruce Gibney puts forth the controversial hypothesis that baby boomers ― specifically the large subset of white, middle-class boomers ― are, both individually and as a group, unusually sociopathic. Gibney cites mental health data showing boomers have significantly higher levels of antisocial traits and behaviors ― including lack of empathy, disregard for others, egotism and impulsivity ― than other generations.


As a result, boomers have used their substantial voting power to create a society and government that don’t work very well. Or, as Gibney puts it, boomers’ “private behaviors congealed into a debased neoliberalism.”

The factual basis for Gibney’s case isn’t perfect. Data on generations prior to boomers is thin, because widespread psychological testing wasn’t as common, and younger generations haven’t been around long enough for long-term data. It’s possible that other generations have major issues as well, but we simply don’t have enough information to assess them properly. Gibney, however, insists that there’s something unique with boomers.

We sat down with Gibney, a Gen-Xer, to learn more about why he says boomers are a generation of sociopaths, and how the boomer agenda has gotten us into the precarious political and economic situation we’re in today.

I imagine that a lot of people have taken issue with the title of your book. Is it really possible to apply a psychological label to an entire generation?  
Well, I think you can match the behaviors and the policies to certain diagnostic criteria. For the boomers ― the youngest are in their 50s and the oldest are in their 70s ― we have a coherent body of data, collected over decades, that map onto this diagnostic criteria of sociopathy.

So we can see sociopathy-associated traits like improvidence ― there is no greater improvidence than failing to save for your retirement. We can postulate the checklist that way. We have an enormous amount of data about the boomer mainstream, and it matches up surprisingly well with the description of antisocial personality disorder.

It’s a good diagnostic label, because what we’re really dealing with is an anti-social society. And that highlights the inherent paradox: Can you have an anti-social society? I don’t actually think you can.

You argue that boomers aren’t genetically predispositioned to be dysfunctional, but instead were conditioned to be that way. What do you mean by that?
I focus mainly on the white, middle-class boomers who constitute the substantial majority of the boom ― it’s a pretty homogenous group, and they were raised in a fairly homogenous way. They were the first generation in the U.S. to be raised permissively. And the evidence strongly suggests that highly permissive parenting leads to some problems later on in life. These people have higher self-esteem, but they tend to be more rebellious and messy, both in the literal sense and in their approach to their own affairs. 
They were also the first generation to be raised with television, and there really weren’t parental reservations about screen time. The literature on TV and cognitive and behavioral development is almost universally negative.
Quote:They came of age in a time of fairly effortless prosperity ... They really just assume that things are going to work out, no matter what. That’s unhelpful conditioning.” Bruce Gibney
And finally, there are certain assumptions that are built up throughout their early lives. For the first half of the boomers particularly, they came of age in a time of fairly effortless prosperity, and they were conditioned to think that everything gets better each year without any real effort. So they really just assume that things are going to work out, no matter what. That’s unhelpful conditioning. You have 25 years where everything just seems to be getting better, so you tend not to try as hard, and you have much greater expectations about what society can do for you, and what it owes you.

So what’s been the fallout of that, in terms of policy and economics? 
There’s obviously been a substantial deceleration of economic growth. The Great Recession arguably began in 2001 and we’ve never entirely recovered ― so that’s 16 years of lost opportunity.


The second big thing on the economic front is the intergenerational passing of burdens, and the most salient one is the debt. Gross debt to GDP 40 years ago was 34 percent, and today it’s around 105 percent. It’s projected by [the Congressional Budget Office] to exceed the World War II highs by the early 2030s. When boomers start taking control and influencing policies, the policies get worse on the debt, so that now we haven’t seen these levels of debt in more than 70 years.


There are consequences to these levels of debt. ... But that’s not really relevant for the boomers. This is not their problem and they have not been serious about it. The debt wasn’t discussed as a serious issue during the 2016 presidential election, but Social Security was ― because we know that this program is going to be partially insolvent by 2034. And this is the only thing that Trump and Clinton could agree on: Social Security ― untouchable. Medicare ― untouchable. These things are sacred. They couldn’t even agree where to stand on the stage together, and they agreed on Social Security.

But the boomers must have done some good things, right? 
Toward the end of the book, there’s a chapter called, “The Myth of Boomer Goodness.” Some of the pushback I’ve gotten on the book is people saying, well, didn’t boomers do all these wonderful things, like fighting for civil rights? But there’s no way that chronology works out. The Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act were 1964 and 1965, and only the very oldest boomers could have voted for the congressmen who pushed through that act. So they played no part in those foundational victories. What we have seen instead is the Voting Rights Act gutted.

Or you can take the environment, which is going to affect everybody. This has just not been a serious item for the boomers ... They can’t take credit for these enormous civil rights and environmental victories that we saw in the ‘60s and the early 1970s.

Are boomers responsible for the rise of Trump? 
Well, he is a boomer, and the leading candidates in the primaries were all boomers. Who’s responsible for the rise of Donald Trump? We could slice and dice the exit polls, or we could blame the FBI, or Putin.

But what I think is really remarkable is that he was ever considered a viable candidate at all. Only after years of disappointment ― economically and otherwise ― could a Manhattan vulgarian with no prior experience emerge as a candidate for the highest office in the United States. So, older white groups were the most enthusiastic about Trump, but there had to first be the conditions that allowed him to even be plausible. 


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/baby...821b4dd797

For comment.
I am a Boomer, I am white and middle-class (or was), and I do not consider myself a sociopath. It's simply that the sociopaths came to dominate.
I think different things cause sociopathy in different generations. For some reason with Boomers the more upper class they are the more sociopathic they are but with Xers it's the opposite with the poorer Xers having more sociopathic traits. With Millennials the bullied outcasts or people on the fringes seem to become more sociopathic such as Adam Lanza or Elliot Rodger. Why do you think there's such a difference between which parts of each generation become sociopathic? In Boomers permissiveness and good times produce it but in Xers poverty and neglect produce it and in Millennials bullying, being different, being outcast, and alienation produce it. Or in contrast being very popular and well-liked. Social capital is important to Millennials so lack of social capital can drive someone off the edge and too much social capital can create a monster.
(03-25-2017, 01:51 PM)disasterzone Wrote: [ -> ]I think different things cause sociopathy in different generations. For some reason with Boomers the more upper class they are the more sociopathic they are but with Xers it's the opposite with the poorer Xers having more sociopathic traits. With Millennials the bullied outcasts or people on the fringes seem to become more sociopathic such as Adam Lanza or Elliot Rodger. Why do you think there's such a difference between which parts of each generation become sociopathic? In Boomers permissiveness and good times produce it but in Xers poverty and neglect produce it and in Millennials bullying, being different, being outcast, and alienation produce it. Or in contrast being very popular and well-liked. Social capital is important to Millennials so lack of social capital can drive someone off the edge and too much social capital can create a monster.


There are exceptions. Among Boomers, Ted Bundy was a moral cripple; Aileen Wuornos had a very rough life. On the other side, it is amazing that the Manson cult and the Symbionese Liberation Army infamous for kidnapping Patty hearts came from comparatively privileged backgrounds.

A Boomer who has had any semblance of a rough time gets stepped on but does not become a sociopath. He often goes nowhere in life. He may have expected better, but at least he knows right from wrong. X may have learned later than Boomers that life is nothing more than wealth and power, and never had any good expectations in life.  So if everything works against an X youth, then what can he do? Imitate the successful that he sees -- the brutes. If he can't be the polished, sophisticated sociopath that he sees among middle-class or upper-class Boomers, then maybe polish and sophistication are suspect anyway. Life is about sex, indulgence, maybe getting high, and keeping an impressive image. On the other side, X who really are good expect gritty survival and may turn to entrepreneurial activities that do much more good than treating people badly in bureaucratic organizations.

I'm old enough to remember GIs as managers and workers... and the successful among them looked out for their subordinates. Such is the antithesis of the sociopathic boss or manager that I began to see and loathe among Boomers a few years older than I am. I do not remember them as youth.

Bullying is horrible. I do not tolerate it. So I was a target of bullies myself (that goes with Asperger's) -- guess how I act as an adult.  Being an outsider can push one over the edge if one has other problems, like a shaky home life, severe poverty, or being a pariah.
(03-25-2017, 01:51 PM)disasterzone Wrote: [ -> ]I think different things cause sociopathy in different generations. For some reason with Boomers the more upper class they are the more sociopathic they are but with Xers it's the opposite with the poorer Xers having more sociopathic traits. With Millennials the bullied outcasts or people on the fringes seem to become more sociopathic such as Adam Lanza or Elliot Rodger. Why do you think there's such a difference between which parts of each generation become sociopathic? In Boomers permissiveness and good times produce it but in Xers poverty and neglect produce it and in Millennials bullying, being different, being outcast, and alienation produce it. Or in contrast being very popular and well-liked. Social capital is important to Millennials so lack of social capital can drive someone off the edge and too much social capital can create a monster.

But once they reached midlife Boomers put the permissiveness and the good times behind them and initiated major crackdowns on such pathologies as public smoking, drunk driving, sexual harassment and underage drinking. Besides, except for the married women not returning to being homemakers, they pretty much became everything they criticized about their GI parents during their youth. A radical about-face to say the least.
(03-25-2017, 01:51 PM)disasterzone Wrote: [ -> ]I think different things cause sociopathy in different generations. For some reason with Boomers the more upper class they are the more sociopathic they are but with Xers it's the opposite with the poorer Xers having more sociopathic traits. With Millennials the bullied outcasts or people on the fringes seem to become more sociopathic such as Adam Lanza or Elliot Rodger. Why do you think there's such a difference between which parts of each generation become sociopathic? In Boomers permissiveness and good times produce it but in Xers poverty and neglect produce it and in Millennials bullying, being different, being outcast, and alienation produce it. Or in contrast being very popular and well-liked. Social capital is important to Millennials so lack of social capital can drive someone off the edge and too much social capital can create a monster.

That's a good summary.

The accusations against boomers in the opening post have some merit. Obviously, our two most sociopathic presidents ever were boomers. Boomers favored Drump at the polls by a decent margin.

It wasn't always so, though. It wasn't boomers who voted in the largest numbers for Ronald Reagan, who started us down the path that the writer in the OP complains about. It was GIs, Silents and Lost, and soon the Gen Xers joined them and became the Republicans' strongest supporters. Actually the strongest supporters of the Republican "neo-liberal" counter-revolution were the Jonesers: the last boomers and first Xers. But that has changed over time; some Xers and Jones Boomers have thought better of it by now, and as a whole Boomers recently became slightly, and now strongly, more Republican. The early 50s cohorts remained the most idealistic Boomers the longest, according to the info and charts posted here earlier.

So, were boomers idealistic in youth, and sociopathic now?

The author Gibney may have some good data on things like boomer failure to save money for retirement. Boomers grew up on the "live for today" ethos. I wouldn't call this "improvidence" "sociopathic." Gen Xers had a much worse record in really-sociopathic things like crime and even drugs in youth than boomers, even though boomers were worse than Silents and GIs in these respects. Now, the white Xers are the ones caught up in an opiates epidemic. S&H were guests on a program which detailed how boomers made better parents than other generations, and the claims of Gibney about how great GI bosses were as opposed to boomers, is really questionable. It was the GI bosses and managers who were complacent and hierarchical. The GIs I remember as bosses were haughty, mean and scornful of young boomers like me. But that's just my experience. We also have the poor record of corporate decline that started under their leadership in the 1970s.

But it's wrong to say that the Boomers created today's neo-liberal politics. Kepi used to make that mistake. One generation is not responsible for how the nation votes; that's up to all the generations of voting age, which is three of them at least. The facts don't bear out the idea that the Boomers were the most neo-liberal of the recent generations. Now they may be, especially as Silents die off, but only since Trump deceived them-- many feeling insecure in a changing society.

The GIs didn't like boomer idealism in youth either, any more than cynical Xers do today, and thought it was the impatience of young spoiled brats. Resentful, conservative Xers like Galen still say that about boomers. But it's wrong to deny that they did play powerful roles in the civil rights, environmental and peace movements, whatever you think of them. Freedom Summer in 1964 was staffed by early boomers, at least by S&H dating. So were all the movements that followed. Many leaders were older, but these Awakening movements would not have existed without the boom in youthful idealism in the sixties.

The question is how many blue boomers are there taking the lead now as idealists in our current 4T, having not sold out or thrown out the idealism of their youth. There are some, but that does not mean they are the majority of voters, or all the most-powerful leaders.
Interesting article about different attitudes between boomers and millennials/Gen Y at work. For me, the interesting thing is the extent that I agree with the millennials, and thought these were the same attitudes boomers had, especially about dress and differences between lifestyles. Boomers in many ways became more like the parents they rebelled against, and who millennials are impatient with now. On the other hand, the "faster pace" does not appeal to me. I certainly notice among millennial posters here the millennial temperament this article describes. "Among other characteristics that stand out, millennials, who have come of age with the text message and social media, are an impatient bunch: They’re hyper-connected, tech savvy, entrepreneurial, and collaborative."

Generally though, when I was younger, and even today, I agree with most of the millennial attitudes as described here, and remember many boomers who did too. It seems it's not so much a difference in generations, as the overall trend society has been moving toward for decades now since the sixties.

http://business.time.com/2012/03/29/mill...ther-hire/
This paragraph I especially take issue with:

"But the boomers must have done some good things, right?
Toward the end of the book, there’s a chapter called, “The Myth of Boomer Goodness.” Some of the pushback I’ve gotten on the book is people saying, well, didn’t boomers do all these wonderful things, like fighting for civil rights? But there’s no way that chronology works out. The Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act were 1964 and 1965, and only the very oldest boomers could have voted for the congressmen who pushed through that act. So they played no part in those foundational victories. What we have seen instead is the Voting Rights Act gutted.

Or you can take the environment, which is going to affect everybody. This has just not been a serious item for the boomers ... They can’t take credit for these enormous civil rights and environmental victories that we saw in the ‘60s and the early 1970s. "

Who gutted the voting rights act? It's true there was no pressure on the Republican congress to restore voting rights, but it was not congress who gutted it either. It had been extended many times by congress. It was the Supreme Court.

So who were the conservatives who gutted it? (party refers to the party of the president who appointed them)
Scalia Silent Republican
Kennedy Silent Republican
Roberts Boomer Republican
Thomas Boomer Republican
Alito Boomer Republican

Who were the liberals who opposed the gutting?
Breyer Silent Democrat
Ginsberg Silent Democrat
Sotomayor, Boomer, Democrat
Kagan, Boomer, Democrat

So what's the common ground here? Generation? or Party? The answer is: Party, and not Generation.

And it's true Boomers were not in congress to pass the civil rights and voting rights act. But they were marching in Selma. It's true they were not the majority in congress that passed the clean air and water acts. But they were the ones who demonstrated on Earth Day in the largest demonstration in history. And by the early 70s, they were voting, and were voting for change, and for these movements and the politicians who supported them. Those who marched with me against the war in Vietnam were my fellow boomers, and without us McGovern would not have been nominated either.

Gorsuch would be the first Xer, even though he looks like a boomer. He was born in 1967. He would replace Scalia, if confirmed. He is a Republican like most Xer politicians. Gen Xer politicians are a much worse crop than boomers, from an idealistic perspective, and the perspective of Gibney. Although Xers are pretty balanced and neutral, if leaning Republican, those Xers who have been inspired to become leaders are reactionary Republicans like Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Naturally there are more liberal Democratic ones too, like Obama, O'Malley, Kirsten Gillibrand and Tammy Baldwin, but (except for Obama) they don't seem to be going very far yet (and they tend to be Jonesers anyway, meaning demographic boomers). There's Cory Booker; he's pretty good, but maybe the best Xer politicians will be black or mixed race like Obama; we'll see. Likely there's a few more liberal Xers on the horizon.
No, not boomers. Ideas and ignorance. Ideas that are destructive to the whole society if they have the power to take off. That is the problem and it is not one generation that participates in that and it would be ignorant to say it is one generation.
Those Boomers who aren't sociopaths failed to stop those who are.
(07-11-2018, 01:51 PM)Hintergrund Wrote: [ -> ]Those Boomers who aren't sociopaths failed to stop those who are.

I guess your crowd didn't help much either.
(07-11-2018, 02:41 PM)David Horn Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-11-2018, 01:51 PM)Hintergrund Wrote: [ -> ]Those Boomers who aren't sociopaths failed to stop those who are.

I guess your crowd didn't help much either.

A generation of better parents would have taught their kids what to do. But that's a job only Nomads can do, as things seem to be. Everyone else spoils or neglects or suffocates kids, but never does the right thing.
(07-17-2018, 12:05 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-11-2018, 02:41 PM)David Horn Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-11-2018, 01:51 PM)Hintergrund Wrote: [ -> ]Those Boomers who aren't sociopaths failed to stop those who are.

I guess your crowd didn't help much either.

A generation of better parents would have taught their kids what to do. But that's a job only Nomads can do, as things seem to be. Everyone else spoils or neglects or suffocates kids, but never does the right thing.

Maybe the younger nomads.  The older nomad parents cocooned their kids, never letting them develop any independence or self sufficiency, resulting in the Millenials. and earlier, in the GIs, who made great cannon fodder but rarely anything else.
(07-17-2018, 12:20 PM)Warren Dew Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-17-2018, 12:05 AM)Hintergrund Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-11-2018, 02:41 PM)David Horn Wrote: [ -> ]
(07-11-2018, 01:51 PM)Hintergrund Wrote: [ -> ]Those Boomers who aren't sociopaths failed to stop those who are.

I guess your crowd didn't help much either.

A generation of better parents would have taught their kids what to do. But that's a job only Nomads can do, as things seem to be. Everyone else spoils or neglects or suffocates kids, but never does the right thing.

Maybe the younger nomads.  The older nomad parents cocooned their kids, never letting them develop any independence or self sufficiency, resulting in the Millenials. and earlier, in the GIs, who made great cannon fodder but rarely anything else.
I was listening to this song today and I believe this one has quite a message to it. The "highway" he sings about seems to indicate something that turned those folks, mostly Boomers who preached kindness and loving one another during their idealistic youth toward being old and mean before their time, hence the sociopaths often described here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S47wkL73WZA
The sociopaths among Boomers were closer to being the chilly rationalists, and they were never averse to money-grubbing, ethnic and religious bigotry, kissing up to powerful-but-corrupt leaders, and right-wing politics if it helped them along. The more idealistic Boomers did not cultivate power and influence, and they got pushed to the side. Although there are people who go from left-wing to right-wing extremism (or vice-versa) easily -- Eric Hoffer's True Believer -- whole blocks of people rarely move from one extreme to another as has David Horowitz.

Movement conservatism, as exemplified by Donald Trump, well fits a scoundrel -- and Donald Trump is nearly as pure an expression of pathological narcissism and intellectual shallowness as there can be.