4 min read

Different values

Millennials have different values to the generations that came earlier, and conservative politicians haven't adapted; success in fighting inequality has led to the false perception of increasing inequality; and putting a human on Mars by 2050 would take a series of continuous miracles.
Different values

1—Different values

Millennials – the generation born between 1981 and 1996 – are much less conservative than were the generations that came before at the same age (at least in the Anglosphere). There are multiple possible explanations, with the FT's John Burn-Murdoch believing the "most likely" is:

"[A] cohort effect — that millennials have developed different values to previous generations, shaped by experiences unique to them, and they do not feel conservatives share these.
The data is clear that millennials are not simply going to age into conservatism."

Burn-Murdoch only looked at the US and UK, but the causal data he cites are similar to those in Australia. For example, Australian Millennials are less likely to own their own home (55%) compared to Generation X (62%) or Boomers (66%) when they were the same age. They also delay family formation – one in five Millennials live with a partner and children, compared to more than half of Baby Boomers – and are less religious, with the proportion of Australians that identify with Christianity falling from 76.4% in 1981 to 43.9% in 2021. By the time of the next census, believers of Christianity will almost certainly have fallen behind "No religion" (38.9% in 2021).

According to Burn-Murdoch, that poses a challenge for conservative politics:

"To reverse a cohort effect, you have to do something for that cohort. Home ownership continues to prove more elusive for millennials than for earlier generations at the same age in both countries. With houses increasingly difficult to afford, a good place to start would be to help more millennials get on to the housing ladder. Serious proposals for reforming two of the world's most expensive childcare systems would be another."

A lack of serious policy effort in those areas and the abandonment of fiscal responsibility might partly explain the poor performance of the conservative Australian Liberal Party at the recent federal election.

You can read John Burn-Murdoch's full essay here (~3 minute read).

2—Impossible to win

Solving inequality is the holy grail of public policy. But that's only because the official statistics that measure inequality have made it impossible to solve:

"Government statistical reports exclude 'noncash' sources of income, which excludes most transfers from social programs. Taxes (paid disproportionately by high earners) are also ignored in official calculations. Furthermore, even the government's 'cash' income numbers are reported in a way that understates improvements in real (inflation-adjusted) income over time because government inflation measures fail to use the appropriate chained price indexes or take account of new products and services."

That's from Charles Calomiris in a review of a new book called The Myth of American Inequality, by Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund and John Early. Their research shows that transfer programs have been working, "taxation of the rich has flattened the distribution of consumption across household", and that measurement errors are leading policymakers astray:

"Ironically, it is the very success of redistribution in reducing poverty and inequality that has led mismeasurement to create the false perception of increasing inequality."

You can read the full review here (~4 minute read), or preview the book on Google here.

3—Urban white elephants

"Eating out and entertainment are almost back at pre-pandemic levels. So commuting must have dropped >35%."

4—A series of continuous miracles

Should governments listen to Elon Musk, "the Martian spiritual leader", and attempt to send human beings to Mars before 2050? Probably not:

"Like the Space Shuttle and Space Station before it, the Mars program would exist in a state of permanent redesign by budget committee until any logic or sense in the original proposal had been wrung out of it.
How long such a program could last is anyone's guess. But if landing on the Moon taught us anything, it's that taxpayer enthusiasm for rock collecting has hard limits. At ~$100B per mission, and with launch windows to Mars one election cycle apart, NASA would be playing a form of programmatic Russian roulette. It's hard to imagine landings going past the single digits before cost or an accident shut the program down. And once the rockets had retired to their museums, humanity would have nothing to show for its Mars adventure except some rocks and a bunch of unspeakably angry astrobiologists. It would in every way be the opposite of exploration."

That's from Maciej Cegłowski on why a mission to Mars using current technology – i.e., without "a series of continuous miracles" – would be a "destructive, wasteful stunt". And our own success in space is partially to blame:

"It wasn't always like this. There was a time when going to Mars made sense, back when astronauts were a cheap and lightweight alternative to costly machinery, and the main concern about finding life on Mars was whether all the trophy pelts could fit in the spacecraft.
But fifty years of progress in miniaturization and software changed the balance between robots and humans in space... The imbalance between human and robot is so overwhelming that, despite the presence of a $250 billion International Space Station National Laboratory, every major discovery made in space this century has come from robotic spacecraft. In 2023, we simply take it for granted that if a rocket goes up carrying passengers, it's not going to get any work done."

You can read Cegłowski's full essay here (~21 minute read).

5—Further reading...

🧠 "A Danish intelligence official said Putin was taking thyroid-cancer drugs in February 2022... [which] can cause "delusions of grandeur" and may have warped his thinking."

🏡 "We're in the second biggest home price correction of the post-WWII era... [but] relative to the last bust, a large home price correction this time around wouldn't see as many borrowers go underwater (i.e., their mortgage balance being greater than their home value). While U.S. home prices are falling, they're still up big-time. In fact, October 2022 home prices are 38.1% above March 2020 levels."

❤️ "Are the top 20% of men showered with attention and are "Chads" poaching average women on dating apps?" An interesting twitter thread on modern dating.

📉 Taisu Zhang: In 2023, China's "economy will grow more than 5 percent year on year, but none of the underlying structural problems (demographics, housing bubble, local government debt, relatively low consumption) will significantly improve".

👩‍⚖️ "Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced co-founder and former CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges at his arraignment on Tuesday."