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'Willpower' and the Suckiest Generation


I often joke with my wife that I wish my generation -- the Baby Boomers -- could die without taking me with them. I'd sure as hell like to be around to see them go. They ruined the culture of this country, threw away the untold riches bequeathed to them, betrayed and undermined centuries of wisdom, spread the use of drugs, legitimized divorce and abortion, and even managed to screw up the civil rights movement that might otherwise have been their signal achievement. On the other hand, they did give us pre-faded jeans, so I guess that's something.

All this misery they (we, I fear I should say) heaped on America and the west while retaining a sense of arrogant self-satisfaction and self-justification that, were it not for our knowledge of sinful human nature, would defy understanding. The television show Mad Men is excellent drama, I admit, but it fairly drips with the Baby Boomers' overriding notion that America used to be nothing more than a desert of falsehood, bigotry, and oppression before the Sixties cavalry arrived to rescue us from ourselves. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is crap.

A book called Willpower has been making a splash lately and will, I'm told, appear on the New York Times bestseller list next week. I have not read the book yet, but while in New York last week at the behest of the Manhattan Institute, I attended an MI-sponsored presentation by the book's authors, psychology researcher Roy F. Baumeister and science writer John Tierney.

Willpower surpasses even intelligence as a predictor of success in life. And Baumeister has performed a number of experiments that convinced him that willpower is something like a muscle:  it can be strengthened, conserved, and fatigued. Like a muscle, it also needs to be fueled. Baumeister's assertion that glucose in the blood is essential to willpower has featured in the headlines about the book.