Arrivederci, American Dream


In 1971 I made a lecture tour of Italy, talking (at the request of my Italian hosts) about “contemporary American life.” Everywhere I went, from Turin to Palermo, Italian students were interested in just one question: Was it really true that young people in America, no older than themselves, actually left home, and lived communally according to their own rules and created their own dress styles and vocabulary and had free sex and took dope? They were talking, of course, about the hippie or psychedelic movement that had begun flowering about 1965. What fascinated them the most, however, was the first item on the list: that the hippies actually left home and lived communally according to their own rules.

To Italian students this seemed positively amazing. Several of the students I met lived wild enough lives during daylight hours. They were in radical organizations and had fought pitched battles with police, on the barricades, as it were. But by 8:30 P.M. they were back home, obediently washing their hands before dinner with Mom&Dad&Buddy&Sis&theMaidenAunt. Their counterparts in America, the New Left students of the late sixties, lived in communes that were much like the hippies’, except that the costumery tended to be semimilitary: the noncom officers’ shirts, combat boots, commando berets—worn in combination with blue jeans or a turtleneck jersey, however, to show that one was not a uniform freak.

That people so young could go off on their own, without taking jobs, and live a life completely of their own design—to Europeans it was astounding.


—From Tom Wolfe, in his epochal “Me Decade” article in New York magazine, from 1976.


So Europe got the American president it wanted – the one who would present no threat to its own delusions. The United States is now officially one of us: an Old World country complete with class hatred, ethnic Balkanisation, bourgeois guilt and a paternalist ruling elite. And it is locked into the same death spiral of high public spending and self-defeating wealth redistribution as we are. Welcome to the future, and the beginning of what may turn out to be the terminal decline of the West.

—Janet Daley, the London Telegraph, November 10th, 2012, as quoted in Fred Siegel’s new book, The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.


The prospect of homeownership for many young Americans seems so far out of reach that many are resigned to be renters for the rest of their lives.  In places like San Francisco and New York even those with decent paying jobs will find it hard to own a piece of real estate.  Obviously many investors with easy money from the Fed realized this end-game and dove into the landlord business with all the gusto in the world.  Wages are weak for the children of baby boomers.  Many in fact are back living at home.  Homeownership seems like a massive pipedream when many don’t even have the income to support a rental.  Of course in California, you have odd inter-family dynamics where some kids are just waiting until the parents keel over so they can inherit the Prop 13 protected World War II built property.  What more do people expect from a narrow focus on the present while ignoring the challenges facing a new generation of Americans?  This structural change has also created a big hit on new home sales.  Unfortunately for many a modern day system of debt serfdom awaits.  For those that have the chance to buy, it may require a massive leap into debt on top of the student debt many already carry.


—”Living at home generation: a modern day feudalism awaits young Americans as the prospect of homeownership falls out of grasp,” at the Dr. Housing Bubble blog, yesterday.

Related: California only ranks number three on the Fiscal Times’ list of “The 10 Worst States for Taxes in 2014.” Clearly, even in the twilight of his political career, Jerry Brown has a new goal to shoot for. (And if anybody can reach number one on that list, it’s definitely Jerry, who once blurted out, “the conventional viewpoint says we need a jobs program and we need to cut welfare. Just the opposite! We need more welfare and fewer jobs.”)

Plus, “If you like income equality, you must love George W. Bush.” Heh.™ As Moe Lane writes, “Man, having the Volokh Conspiracy over at WaPo is gonna be fun.”


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