By JLP | May 29, 2008
Will our kids be dumb and broke? That’s the question/headline of a recent MSN Money article.
I sure hope the answer is no, but I’m not very encouraged. Every single one of my friends and peers it seems, are people who couldn’t explain compound interest if they had to, ignore the 401k matches offered by their employers (despite my pleas), are comfortable having debt, and spend like they all have huge inheritances coming to them.
And these are my college-educated peers. Fellow finance majors for crying out loud. There are many more who start with much less, have unique disadvantages, and don’t have an education or support system in place to assist them.
All these folks are starting to have children. Children! You can’t teach what you don’t know, and it seems to me that we all know precious little (a real irony in this Information Age). Is it simply a lack of experience so far, or are we actually getting dumber as the generations pass?
The truth is that we don’t know less about financial matters than our parents and grandparents did. The difference is that they didn’t need to know as much. They had pensions, they didnt’ have credit cards, and no lender would give them a loan they couldn’t afford to pay back. You had no choice but to live within your means. That is obviously not so today.
But it’s not just finance; we seem to know a lot less than we should about everything, from history to literature to science. As the information in and about our world grows, it seems our schools – and parents – are actually spreading around less of it than ever! Kids at the good schools can barely read, much less think critically.
Part of the problem may be that our parents and grandparents didn’t have mindless activities like TV and with video games competing for their attention (92% of people 18 and under play video games regularly, a quarter admit they’ve felt addicted, and almost 10% can be considered pathologically addicted, according to a recent U.S. News article). They were forced to read books, talk with each other, create and play physically active games, and so on.
Another part of the problem could be that no one in the younger few generations has ever faced a major threat to our way of life – no major wars or recessions, for instance. We seem, perhaps consequently, to be lacking the fierce patriotism, independence, and drive of our forefathers.
I’m staunchly anti- government regulation, but I’m feel less and less confident that Americans can or will make rational decisions in their own best interests. And without that, capitalism doesn’t work. “Dumber” people, for lack of a better word, are less valuable to society. And the more uneducated people there are in a society, the less valuable and productive that society is. In a that kind of society you end up needing a big government monitoring and regulating all the ignorant masses (unless you’re OK letting said ignorant masses wallow in their own poverty and misery, which a truly capitalist society would allow and recognize as necessary, as that would be the only motivation for said people to work hard and strive for education).
I realize every generation probably goes through some sort of “we’re going to be the end of civilization as we know it” crisis, and maybe I’m just pessimistic. But is it just me or are things actually getting worse – at least for Americans?
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