ED HARRISON: Neil Howe, you’ve been introduced
me as the foremost demographer of our time. I’m pretty excited about this. NEIL HOWE: Let’s just tone down expectations. ED HARRISON: You and I, we were talking on
the telephone earlier. One of the things that you had said is that
really, it’s never as good as the first time so we tried to cap the conversation as much
as possible before we got into it. This conversation that we’re going to have
is going to be all about demographics in retirement, not just demographics but in the context of
your fourth turning idea, that framework. First, let’s just start out with the framework,
The Fourth Turning, tell us how does that relate to demographics and retirement. NEIL HOWE: Well, a lot of what I do is demography. People usually define demography pretty narrowly
as people who study fertility, mortality, morbidity, migration. They just put down the numbers in a population. One of the interesting things about demography
is that when you specify all these things, and a lot of them are known pretty well, they
don’t change very fast, you can be pretty certain about numbers in the population going
way out. It’s one of the very few certain things you
can tell about the future. I think that’s the one claim to fame of demographers,
or at least one strength of the way they study populations, is this great forecasting capability
because, and demography is like a giant supertanker ship. You start revving up fertility, it’s going
to take 20 years before those people can even enter the workplace. It doesn’t change very fast. This is the one of the great strengths of
demography. Obviously, when you’re studying issues, such
as old age dependency ratios, how much is it going to cost to pay for the old relative
to the number of working, demography is just central to that. That what was we live for, calculating those
[indiscernible] and spitting out that timeline and everything. That’s where we shine. I will say that one thing that demography
does not pay much attention to, it’s really not part of their field, but it is something
that it’s my other field that I’ve invented, you might say, is to look at populations,
not just in terms of numbers and how many are in each age bracket, but also to look
at how people are shaped in their attitudes and behaviors by their childhood and coming
of age experiences and how those attitudes and behaviors age with those cohorts through
life. These are what we call generations. Each generation reshapes every phase of life
they move through. That adds a whole new dimension, the demography. It like adds, it’s like making chess three-dimensional. Because now, you don’t have just numbers. You have qualitative shifts, and each of these
groups as moving through what I like to call the generational diagonal, and so as I haven’t
explained to people, if you have age on the Y axis and time on an X axis, we all live
a diagonal line. A generation is a group of diagonal lines. A single event is a vertical line through
all those diagonal lines. It hits people at different age. What most people do is that they study these
vertical lines. They study events, or they may study a phase
of life, they study old age over time. They’re looking at a horizontal line. The problem with that is that when you’re
studying a phase of life as just I’m studying midlife, I studied [indiscernible], I study
youth. You see, there are a lot of histories out
there. Histories of youth in America, histories of
old age in America. A typical history book has a history of midlife
people. Because all the leaders, they’re like the
presidents and the congressmen so they’re all between age 45 and 70 or something. You’re basically looking at one age bracket. What I set out to do, these many years ago,
a long time now because I guess late ’80s has been a long time, is to look at history
from a different perspective. I was amazed that– Bill Strauss and I were
the ones who wrote a lot of these books originally, we were amazed to discover that no one actually
looked at the diagonal lines. Everyone just looked at phases of life or
period. If you read the history of America, it’s goes
like, what was everyone doing in 1851? What was everyone doing in 1861, 1871? It’s just all these people. What about the experience of each group of
people over time? That’s what we did in our original book, Generations,
we did that and we looked at these generations, what we found is that even going all the way
back to the 17th century, the first old world migrants to the new world, we found that generations
had very different collective personalities. The older generation had very different attitudes
of how the young generation is growing up, all kinds of worries apprehensions because
even back then, they knew generational differences, and they knew that it wasn’t just that they
were older, younger, they were never like them. These new kids were just not the same. That’s not all we found, we found not only
are people very aware of generational differences, but types of generations, what we later called
archetypes tend to recur in the same order historically. ED HARRISON: It’s almost like a curve of–
NEIL HOWE: Well, it’s a wave. When you look at their impact on history,
it’s a wave. The actual generations for instance, a generation
that are heroic, history making, changing generation that takes the country through
great wars and founds all kinds of new institutions. Typically, it’s followed by a rather timid
risk averse generation. They were the children during the war. They’re careful not to upset everything that
was just created. Everyone just lost all these lives on their
behalf. Whoa. A good example of that would be the GI generation
went through World War II, and the so-called silent generation, where the kids of worldwide
joined the Great Depression. They were famous for, I don’t want anything
to go on my permanent record and they were very cautious. They were very risk averse. They all dressed in three-piece suits in their
early 20s, they play by the rules. Ultimately, they did very well economically. They got rewarded by the rules. This is the generation that’s today, in their
late 70s, and 80s and they’re all getting defined benefit pension plans, they’re all
doing really well and for a variety of reasons, they’ve done very well economically. Then you have other generations which have
different locations in history and different characteristic orders. For instance, following a generation like
boomers, which come of age during these periods that periodically happen in American history. These great awakenings, these great upheavals
in the culture. When we reinvent origin and literature and
dynamics between races and ethnicities and just reinvent the culture, that’s what happens
during awakenings and religion, typically too in our history. Those things happen during awakenings. Following these generations, you usually have
a left alone generation, we call the Nomad archetype. This would be like Generation X. These are the left alone kids. These are the kids had no one had time for
because everyone was finding themselves. Gen Xers– ED HARRISON: By the way, as you
say, though, I’m thinking about Macaulay Culkin. NEIL HOWE: There we go, home alone. What’s interesting and fascinating though
is that Gen Xers is not the first of this generation. The lost generation had that same, the gilded
generation. These are all bad boy generations and not
just by their names, lost, gilded, cavaliers is another one going back to the 17th century. Those are fascinating archetypes, but they
come in certain characteristic orders. Now, that order is connected to, and not only
in American history, but we think in many other countries around the world, is connected
to another fascinating pattern, which many people have noticed, particularly in American
history. That is what’s often called the long cycle
in politics. In fact, Ed, we have major civic crises that
redefine who we are as a nation politically, institutionally in very fundamental ways,
about once every long human life, about 80 or 90 years. You look at the worst span of succession,
it was probably the first great global war in European history, which happened way back
around 1700, there was the Glorious Revolution in England, but it was a huge event in the
colonies. Then about a lifetime after that, you had
the American Revolution, lifetime after Civil War, lifetime after that, the Great Depression
and World War II and a lifetime after that, you’re here with us today. Here we are. Roughly halfway in between those great outer
world events, you have the great inner world events and these are the awakenings, which
we just talked about. In terms of American history, these have typically
been characterized as awakenings in religion. That’s what we call them, the first great
awakening, the second awakening, now, we number them and many people call the ’60s and ’70s,
America’s fourth or fifth grade awakening, depending on how you want to start your counting. You can start it with Jonathan Edwards in
the 1700s or with John Winthrop and the 1600s. Here’s my point, is that when you look at
these mood shifts that are very characteristic, you see how they’re driven by the generational
change, and this is what creates a closed system. History creates generations by creating these
moods. Then these generations grow up, become mid-life
parents and leaders and create history. You see how that works? History creates generations, generations later
create history. This is the dynamic. ED HARRISON: As you say that, the immediate
thought that I have and this goes back to the conversation that you and I were having
on the telephone yesterday, is about where we are right now. Because the sense that I’m getting is that
the particular, and this isn’t just in the US, but globally in developed economies, that
particular social economic ideology, the prevailing ideology, let’s call it neoliberalism as an
example, which is very much in the Gen X form. NEIL HOWE: And boomers. Boomer and Gen Xers, yeah, absolutely. ED HARRISON: It’s breaking down. People are not believing in it in the way
they used to. NEIL HOWE: That’s what I attribute of what
we call this hero archetype of the civic generation. That is the strong belief of wanting to gravitate
toward community. We’re seeing that all around the world. By the way, these generations aren’t just
the United States. This is in much of the world today, we see
everyone assuming a similar generational pattern because a lot of the world had the 60s in
the ’60s, and much of the world has the World War II and the Great Depression. We’re all on a similar schedule. You look at this new populism, which basically
believes in the power of ordinary people and community plus authority. Those two things together, authority and populism. People have to remember that historically,
populism always means authoritarianism. These two things go together ever since–
the word populism, by the way, interestingly, was first used to describe Julius Caesar. He was head of the popularis, not the optimists. They were the good people. They were the senators. Julius Caesar was the authoritarian side of
the populism. It has been true ever since. You have Viktor Orban in Hungary, you’ve got
Vladimir Putin, you’ve gotten to Narendra Modi, you got Xi Jinping, you got them all
over the world now, you got Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, I could just go down all
these new leaders we’re seeing today, and you know what they’re appealing to? Two things really interesting that we didn’t
see in these leaders 30 years ago. They’re appealing to the mainstream of their
community. They don’t give a damn about the minorities. Narendra Modi cares about the Hindus and that’s
his group. Everyone else can go to hell. Xi Jinping, he cares about the Han in Chinese,
the great Han as he calls them, and everyone in China is going back to wearing an old Han
clothing. They’re eating Han food. Everyone’s going. Everyone’s redefining themselves now in terms
of this great majoritarian culture. You look the Shinzo Abe in Japan, he’s the
same thing. He’s find a traditional, the Shinto, it’s
going back. Everyone is doing this. Again, you look around the world. Even if– Brazil, yeah. You’ve got Jair and even an example like Boris
Johnson. You want to be a citizen of nowhere or do
you want to be a citizen somewhere? ED HARRISON: The interesting thing about Johnson
when you say that is that, it seems to me– this is what a lot of Brits think is that
he’s picked up on the Zeit guys, meaning that he’s a chameleon. He’s decided this is what’s happening and
I’m going to glom on to it. NEIL HOWE: Like any great leader, he senses
where the opportunities are. I absolutely believe, I absolutely agree with
you. Here’s my point, is this populism we’re seeing
in America right now which obviously took over the Republican Party in 2016, and it’s
waiting trying to take over the Democratic Party. We’ll see, it’s interesting. We just had the Iowa caucuses last night and
it was wondering about the results. You understand what’s happening here. We’re reshaping politics according to this. This is fundamentally millennial. This is the overall– and people get too hung
up on right wing versus left wing. ED HARRISON: Yeah, that was the next thing
I was going to talk about. NEIL HOWE: Let me give you a great example
of millennial, this is a good example. Sebastian Kurtz is the first millennial leader
of Europe. 33 years old. He’s Chancellor of Austria. He’s actually now voted in second time as
chancellor. He was actually booted out, no horrible scandalized
here, but now he’s back. He’s very popular. He is so millennial. He is so nice. This guy is just uses nice in all of his interviews,
and Austrians love him. Young people love him. Here’s the interesting thing about him. He used to be– he’s the head of the Conservative
Party, the people’s parties is the center right party in Australia. He used to be linked up with a with the Freedom
Party, the really extreme right wing party. Well, they got booted out, it was a scandal. They got rid of them. You know who he’s brought on board just happily? The Green Party. Now, the conservatives and the greens, and
what a great millennial switch. Why can’t we just get along? It doesn’t matter that we’re left and right. We both believe in the same thing. We believe in security, order. What do the greens want? You want a radical environmentalism to just
slow down all this technological progress. What does the right wing part of this coalition
want? No immigration, they want no change. They will have security, order, slow down
change. We can all co-hair around a communities that
we feel comfortable with. By the way, this is, I think, the emerging
mentality of Europe today. In the last parliamentary election, the big
slogan that all the mainstream parties used was “A Europe that protects.” Europe qui protège, this was the slogan. 15 years ago, it was a Europe that progresses,
a Europe that is doing great, that’s advancing rights around the world. Now. Now. Now. Now it’s, it’s this hunkering down mentality. It’s like, we can’t control the world and
we don’t want the world to bother us. It’s interesting that Britain left when it
did. ED HARRISON: There are a lot of different
ways that we can go from there in terms of the splintering and why Britain left, but
I think on a macro level, what I’m wondering is, how does this fragmentation, this need
for order develop now, irrespective of what’s happened in the past and different– but what
happened that caused the order to break down since that people are looking for stability? NEIL HOWE: There are two things. First of all, millennials were raised with
order. They were stressed over by protective parents,
given rules, assured that everything was going to go all right, everyone made sure that everything
went fine with them. They were encouraged not to take any risks. Millennials are also famously risk averse
generation. They’re a very community oriented generation. We know the risk averseness by the way, because
they’re not drinking, not smoking, the crime rate is way down for this generation. You name it, and the CDC has 150 Youth Risk
Surveillance Indicators. They’re all down. This is also true of them. They want to create a world in which you can
live in a more supervised way and live a good life and not have so much uncertainty and
risk all these things that Gen Xers like you, all of us, all of us, boomers and Gen Xers,
we wanted a more risky world. We wanted more individualism, we wanted an
entrepreneurial state. We wanted a more free agency in our lives. The last thing that boomers wanted was a strong
middle class. Guess what’s the first thing millennials want? A strong middle class. By the way, that’s why they’re flocking to
Bernie. Not because they’re attracted by any bizarre
left wing cultural ideas, this is what boomers mistake when they look at the whole fascination
with Bernie Sander. No. Bernie’s promising them a strong middle land
America that they can just belong to a team and not have to compete so much because they
look up at their Xer parents and their boomer parents and they just see people are competing
themselves to death. You understand that? They’re the differences that I think they
sense in where they’re going. We had, by the way, a very similar generation
back in the coming of age in the early 1930s, late 1920s. This was the GI generation. An estimated 85% of them voted for FDR in
the New Deal. That was a massive tidal wave in 1932 and
1936. This is the first generation of African-Americans
to vote for the Democratic Party, no longer for the party of Lincoln. This is a massive shift. It was all in this generation. What did they do? Community, community, all those WPA murals
with GIs are all in teams, they’re all building things at teams, and they’re all muscular. They’ve all been given vitamins, and they
were literally taller than the last generation, and they all join unions. This is the generation. They all did the sit down strikes. The CIO, particularly the radical union movement. A lot of them joined the Communist Party. It’s interesting because a lot of them were
dedicated. A lot of the best and brightest of this generation
were dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism in the United States. Whenever a boomer has problems with the millennials,
because I think too many of them are voting for Bernie Sanders, would you prefer a generation
like we had in the 1930s, where they actually were card carrying members of a party dedicated
to our nation’s overthrow? That’s what we had in the 1930s. By the way, in the 1930s, it was also a very
isolationist generation, almost up to Pearl Harbor. They were signing the Oxford Peace Pledge. I never want to go to war. Of course, once country clearly galvanized
around the issue. They were more than happy to join. They did. They galvanized the country, and they create
a whole new sense of civic purpose. They invested hugely in this country’s future. I would argue that still today, we’re living
off those investments. All this infrastructure we see built around
us that boomers have never invested in, Xers have never invested in so we don’t care about
it. We just let it go. It’s because they built it. We needed a new generation to come along and
fill that void. The senior citizen generation is almost gone. This new generation, silent generation, they
don’t like to call themselves senior citizen, and no Boomer will call themselves a senior
citizen, that doesn’t fit at all. One interesting rule of generations is that
when one generation of one archetype passes away, it almost creates a void that another
generation has to fill functionally. I often compare this to like, if you take
one of these glass enclosures that you grow plants in and you tear one plant out, and
you put a new plant in anywhere in there, it will always grow to the empty space. It’ll always grow because that’s where the
sunlight, that’s where the role is, and I do believe that’s true to generations. I think that helps keep– because these archetypes
are important. You need a generation like a prophet archetype,
like boomers to reshape the culture and think deep thoughts to come up with ’60s music. Occasionally, you need that kind of generation. Then you also need a generation of builders
and doers, you need all types. I do believe there’s a certain process of
compensation and correction in how did the– ED HARRISON: The thing that I found really
interesting about where you were going, we talked a little bit about tangentially is
about the left and the right, immediately when you started talking about the ’30s, I
thought to myself, you’re talking about FDR but we know for a fact there was Mussolini
and Hitler on the other side and in many ways– NEIL HOWE: Yeah, there was [indiscernible],
we had [indiscernible]. ED HARRISON: People look at the fascist as
a negative obviously because of genocide. However, they were looking towards the same
things. From my perspective– NEIL HOWE: You had Stalin
and he wasn’t bad in the genocide. To be fair. That’s an equal opportunity. ED HARRISON: What I was getting at is that
it’s not necessarily the case that it’s necessarily left versus right. NEIL HOWE: That’s my point. My point was, is that that era was an era
of populist dictators all around the world. I’m just saying, and it was very similar to
the era we’re having today. Remember, as they think back on the mood in
the late ’20s and ’30s when you had no concert of nations anymore, that had been wiped out
by World War I, and then you had the League of Nations, but it proved to be too foolish,
that was Wilson’s dream and it never did anything. Then suddenly, you had the rise, particularly
once the Great Depression started and there was desperation, but you had the rise of all
of these dictators, all these authoritarian leaders with no global concert to restrain
them. Much like today. We think of the world now. NATO is no longer, everyone laments. We no longer have a concert of nations today. We’re all going different directions. NATO’s toothless. We no longer have anyone signing treaties
anymore. We had Smoot Hawley tariff. We have the Trump tariff. My point is that the mood globally was very
similar. The mood in terms of feelings about inequality
were very similar, obviously. The actual trend in equality was very similar. That was a peak in the late 1920s. It’s obviously very high today. It reached its all-time low by the way when
the GI generation was right about to retire, late 1960s, early ’70s was probably the low
point of the Gini coefficient over the last century. Then we have other trends that are interesting
that are similar, think about living patterns. I know a lot of people remember all those
Frank Capra movies, you remember Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, you can’t take it with
you and all those wonderful movies, and they all showed these big Victorian homes with
multigenerational families. They’re all living together. Jimmy Stewart and his parents were they’re
all like living in this big thing. Then after World War II, of course, we all
got rid of that. Everyone wanted the nuclear family. We all moved in a town and suddenly, we had
this huge 30-, 40- year gold rush of homebuilding, and the development of the suburbs, and the
number of adults per household went down, down, down, down, down. It is a huge tailwind for home construction. That’s what’s happening now, the number of
adults per household is going back up again. Houses are getting crowded again. All those huge mansions that boomers bought
are beginning to look like those Victorian ramblers back in the Frank Capra movies. They have multi-generational families living
again and we’re right back where we started from and in fact, the rise of multigenerational
living is a stunning sociological fact. We thought that the nuclear family was here
forever. No, it lasted about one and a half generations
and now, we’re back to a much more primordial pattern. Families all living together again. Millennials, by the way, are driving that
pattern. About 20% of 25- to 34-year-olds, that’s getting
into an old age bracket, are living with an older generation, typically their parents. This hasn’t been true, by the way, since 1938,
1937, it’s very high on historical terms. Again, it’s all these parallels that interest
me, the fact that generations are actually in their personal lives getting along better,
but in terms of their overall national economic interests, are diverging. The problem here is that boomers and Xers
who believe in free agency and believe in a much more wide open capitalist system and
everything had given up but doing anything to collectively invest in our future. As I said, no one gives a damn about infrastructure
anymore. When it comes to dams, I think the only thing
boomers have done is actually tear them down. It’s interesting. All those dams that their parents built, they’re
actually tearing them down. They’re going into Oregon and various places,
pulling down all that stuff. My point is, we have generations now that
tear down infrastructure. When it comes to things that used to be taken
for granted, when boomers went to school, public paid for it, state colleges wherever
are for free. I went to University of California and I went
to San Diego and Berkeley and I think I paid $85 per semester. Best universities in the country. I paid almost nothing. Guess what, guess who paid for it? That generation we hated, the GI generation. They all uncomplainingly paid taxes to pay
for all the professors that all these boomers could go out and ask interesting questions
and denounce everything they had built. Now, boomers and Xers, no, no, you pay for
your own education. You build your own interest. We’re not going to build anything for you,
but you’ve got a lot of liabilities to us you need to pay for. All those unfunded liabilities for Social
Security and Medicare? Oh, yeah, by the way, those will be taken
out of your FICA tax. If I were a millennial, I’d be outraged. You, boomers, were given everything publicly. You never replace anything that was built,
and now, look what you’re doing. You want to take all your marbles back from
the generation that’s coming after you. Now I think, again, I bring out that contrast
between public life and private life. I think personally, in their personal family
lives, I think boomers and millennials get along very well. You’re going to see it. They’re calling each other every day. You see the closeness is there. Boomers, by the way in their 20s, never called
their GI generation parents. It wasn’t because we didn’t have cell phones
either. We didn’t want to talk to them. ED HARRISON: I didn’t call you either. I got one myself. NEIL HOWE: That’s the point. You know where I’m coming from. No one back then live with their parents. By the way, it wasn’t just because of the
economy. The 1982-’83 recession was pretty brutal. You didn’t see any boomers and Xers going
home to mom and dad, did you? I don’t think so. You’d live under a highway or something. You do everything, anything rather than go
back to live with them. That is different. That, by the way, I think that’s hugely positive. Actually, that’s one key to how we’re going
to solve this problem eventually, because in the end, we’re going to have to cancel
out those obligations. The only way we’re going to be investing again
in the future, from millennials or any other generation coming along, and not just they
have a sense of future, again for our country, is we can’t spend so much on obligations to
the parents. ED HARRISON: That’s what Jean was saying. NEIL HOWE: Exactly, and Jean Storley is incredibly
eloquent on this. He has all these accounting that generational
accounting, which demonstrates this, but I think the critical tradeoff is the one reason
why we’ll be able to do that, I think, and this is positive. People often accuse me of being pessimistic
on it, but I’m not. I’m actually very positive. I think one very positive tradeoff will be
precisely because millennials and boomers get along so well in their family lives. It will allow, it will allow boomers to relinquish
a lot of these third party transfer payments that they want to take. Because a lot of them now have young people
around them in some form or another, helping to take care of them. I think ultimately, when push comes to shove,
this isn’t going to happen on a sunny, bright, nice day, this is going to happen on a stormy
day. When we’re looking for resources as a nation,
we’re going to have to make that tradeoff. ED HARRISON: When you were talking about all
of that, the first thing that I thought of is what does that mean in terms of the politics
of today? Because when I think of– most people think
that Trump as being authoritarian, and they think of him as being someone who is moving
in that direction. That’s true to a certain degree, but in terms
of a lot of the things that the millennials want in terms of safety, he’s not necessarily
offering that. In some ways, you could say you could go either
way going forward in the United States, whether we’re talking left or right. NEIL HOWE: That’s one of the reasons why you
don’t see many– there are not armies of millennials voting for Trump rather. That’s part of the issue. Bernie Sanders is a more interesting case. When it comes to security and order you just
think, no choices. Single payer healthcare. It’s like your Apple phone. There’s only one of them. They’re not different models. There’s just– it’s like a Google page. There’s only one, you just go there and get
your business done. Millennials are used to that, I think, what
consumer behavior psychologists often talk about, or even cognitive psychologists talk
about the Paradox of Choice, this famous Schwartz book, about how too many choices paralyze
you. I think millennials are more bothered by that
than older generations. It’s fascinating. I’ve done a lot of work in employer benefits. I know that when the employer offers 30 different
kinds of pension plans. All of these variety of plans, Xers love it. It’s like yeah, I get the thing that’s– because
every Xer is looking for their corner solution. That works just for me. I don’t want to be part of the crowd and any
of that. You offer 35 different plans to millennials,
and they’re like, feel betrayed, they’re disappointed. Why? If you ask them, they’ll say, because you
know which one’s best, you just won’t tell me. Meaning they want to be told, they want to
be given advice. Clearly, they can’t just all be equal. There must be a best one and if there is a
best one, why don’t we all just tweak it? It set a different mentality, essentially
driven outlook. I think that’s behind many of these things
we see, only it’s not in consumer goods, it’s in politics, but even the whole privacy argument
about authoritarianism, specifically technology, the surveillance state as we now like to call
it. That fact that you are going to just have
cameras everywhere, and pretty soon they’ll be sensing your voice, your footsteps. Everything now is going to be tagged. Millennials are less bothered by that than
older generations, because ultimately, that’s going to be a safer world. You want to be looked after. I’m going to need a criminal would be caught. This the attitude today in China. Well, you don’t have to worry about the social
credit system if you didn’t do anything wrong. That’s the chilling response of someone who’s
bought into the authoritarian system. ED HARRISON: It’s like the Tom Cruise movie
with the precogs. This is where the rubber hits the road, by
the way, in terms of if you think about asset markets and things like that, because what
you’re talking about right now, you’re talking about things that involve anti-trust. We’re talking about things that involve privacy. All those companies; the Googles, the Amazons,
the Apples of the world are definitely on the brink of that. NEIL HOWE: Anti-trust is a huge issue and
both Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are both huge in anti-trust. This is probably I realize that lately hasn’t
got a lot of attention, but this is a big issue in this race now. I think anti-trust is probably more talked
about now there has been a long time and not just pricing power and monopoly power, the
market concentration, but also new and emerging issues of price discrimination, which I think
is one of the big hidden anti-trust issues of our time. It’s been practiced everywhere by Big Pharma,
by colleges. You look at universities now. They find out exactly how much cost every
family can stand and they now, since their retail price is $150,000 a year, they’ll bring
it down to just the point that you can stand. This used to be crime. The FTC is to prosecute people for actually
looking at your ability to pay before giving you a price. It’s standard now. Safeway has this personalized pricing, everyone
does it. All these Xers, they say, oh, they have a
price for me. Isn’t that great? That’s exactly it. Are you kidding? That’s how they extract all of that consumer
surplus. For them, it no longer goes for you. I think in parallel to what we’re saying,
if you look at the new generation of economists in Chicago, this is two generations after
all of the great Chicago economists who got rid of anti-trust law, you know what I’m talking
about. Robert Bork and Aaron Director and all the
greats who basically just said we just should think about consumer welfare and just get
rid of all this anti-trust stuff. If you look at the new generation 10 years
to Chicago, they’re all in favor of stricter anti-trust. Here too, you see the millennial wave. There too, you see the new millennial wave
coming in. What’s interesting is that even the Republicans
are now putting anti-trust. You look at Josh Hawley now, under Josh Hawley,
even Trump often talks favorably about breaking up some the big telecoms or Big Pharma. Certainly, he does it pretty much like all
of those Bay Area based in Seattle, or Bay Area based tech companies, he loved to break
that up just for spite. Again, it’s not right and left. It’s the era we’re entering. ED HARRISON: The real question for me, I think
you alluded to this before, is the transition period. You were saying before, at some point in time,
that it’s going to happen in a period of, I don’t know what the term was that, you used
chaos, but it’s not going to be a smooth transition. NEIL HOWE: Never is. Never is. People don’t remember that when we you– early
looks of Social Security. Social Security, by the way, everyone thinks
that was such a big thing. Social Security was one part of 35 other things
in the Social Security Act of 1935. That was massive legislation. It said it means tested benefits for young
families, for the disabled. At that time, we call them the lame and the
crippled, halting or something. Everything is labeled differently, who we
set up all that stuff. Practically the whole welfare state. Was that done on a sunny day? 1935. I think you know the answer to that one. This is a time of crisis in America. Big things are done under duress, and that’s
when people have– because when things are pleasant, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. No one wants to change anything. This is why, by the way, and the Fed is worried
about this. I’ll tell you an interesting speech that Jerome
Powell, Chairman Jerome Powell, gave recently to the House Budget Committee. The House Budget Committee was very flattered
that he came, I think it’s been something like, I don’t know, eight or nine years since
the last time a Fed Chairman spoke to their committee. They’re feeling unloved lately and no one
really cares about what they do anymore. Anyway, they’re the Budget Committee. He basically said, I have one fear. I thought it was a brilliant passage. He said, I have one fear and that is we’re
now running record low unemployment. We’re running 5% of GDP deficit. How many times in the post war era have we
run a 5% of GDP deficit? I’ll tell you it’s only five times, four was
right around the time of the Great Recession, and one was that 1982-’83 recession we’re
talking about. That’s it. Record low unemployment. We are now under Trump running a 5% of GDP
deficit. Anyway, his point was though he said, here’s
what I fear is that you’re not doing anything about it now. In fact, times are good, let’s just run it
some more, keep this expansion going. Here’s what he said. He said, here’s what I fear is that when suddenly
we go into a recession, we go into a bad recession, we go in a market panic, it’s when everything
tumbles down together, the Fed will be out of ammo. We’ll be down to the zero bound and we’ll
be out of many tools. It will only be at that moment when Congress
suddenly says, wow, we’re running a huge deficit, we need to cut that of, but you know the psychology
of budget cutting is the opposite of the economics of budget. That’s my point. That’s what’s going to happen and you can
just see it. Do you think we’re suddenly going to say,
oh, the economy’s is massively spiraling into recession, let’s just not tax for three years
and run a 18% of GDP debt. No, that’s not going to be the political response. The political response is going to be the
opposite. That I think, was a very well phrased, and
I think that is actually the mix of what I call the fourth turning, when suddenly, even
your efforts to correct things are happening at the wrong moment. It’s in those periods where you suddenly can
say, well, okay, if everything is going to change anyway, if all of the rules now have
to be different, and if we’re all going to be suffering anyway, let’s do something really
new. Let’s just rewrite the whole rules of the
game. Let’s completely rewrite, let’s completely
redo how we do healthcare. Let’s completely redo how we do community
planning and urban development. Let’s completely redo how we do education. That’s what we do in these creative moments
a little bit like when we first pass homesteading legislation, the peak of the Civil War. It’s an interesting combination. Transcontinental railroad, thinking about
that when you’re still thinking about beating Robert E. Lee on the battlefield. I think the idea that we wait for a time of
plenty to come up with our big ideas, or implement big, bold new ideas, that’s actually not how
history works. ED HARRISON: I think that’s a great way for
us to end it right there. You are an optimist after all. NEIL HOWE: I am. ED HARRISON: Thank you. NEIL HOWE: Thank you so much.