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Robert McGarveyThe unthinkable has happened: in two successive Canadian elections, unproven and much younger left-leaning political neophytes have electorally swamped conservative parties possessing skilled and experienced leaders.

It was more than a fluke. It’s a changing of the guard that signals the political twilight for a generation of Baby Boomers who suddenly seem old and out of touch. It’s quite a shock for a self-absorbed generation that’s had it all.

In 1976, journalist Tom Wolfe described the post-war youngsters as the “Me Generation”. According to Wolfe, post-war prosperity and peace created the “luxury of self”. And the Boomers happily followed suit, reinventing the modern world in their own image. Their (our) mantra: It’s all about ME.

As the Boomers came of age, they began to change the world. Many good and noble efforts can be attributed to the impact of Boomer energy, including significant advancements in civil rights and the feminist movement, and perhaps most importantly, the rise of a more globally minded generation that broke the mould of petty nationalism.

The economy helped: the post-war boom lasted decades and there were plenty of industrial type jobs, open career paths, (almost) free education and — amazingly — affordable housing, which was the norm even in big cities like London and New York. The Boomers inherited a world where a single income could support a property-owning family which, with a little effort, could afford to send all their children to college.

Then, just when the Boomers were cutting their (long) hair and trading their flared jeans for business suits, along came OPEC, the oil price shocks, inflation, and recession. Suddenly, the easy prosperity was at risk. So the emerging Boomers went to work; soon, it was out with the old and in with the new.

The most significant Boomer contribution to the new was in the realm of economics. The ‘collectivist’ Keynesianism of our parents suddenly seemed obstructive, and so out it went. In its place came Milton Friedman and monetarism, a radical new economic doctrine that encouraged governments to adopt strict ‘free market’ policies, and to get serious about deregulation and privatization.

Regrettably, with monetarism came some unfortunate ideological baggage, including the novel idea that business leaders have only one social responsibility: to make profits for shareholders. The private face of this new economic order was dark, predicated on the idea that society didn’t really exist and that individuals had no moral responsibility to one another. It fit the “Me Generation” like a glove.

So 40 years on, what have the Boomers accomplished and what could possibly explain their shocking and sudden demise?

Stephen Harper’s Conservative election campaign was focused on his opponent, the much younger Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. The Conservative conceit began by ridiculing Trudeau with the tag line ‘he’s just not ready’, the logic being, how could the electorate resist Harper’s decades of experience?

Trudeau, on the other hand, promoted an upbeat vision of an idealistic and inclusive Canada. In the process he indirectly targeted the monetarist-inspired assumptions behind the Conservative machine.

The Conservatives boasted about their sound economic management. But is the economy better, today? Not for younger people. Thanks to decades of monetarism and globalization, the Canadian economy is stagnating and has lost significant segments of its primary industrial base to Asian competitors.

Canada is home to one of the most highly educated, ethnically diverse and tolerant Millennial generations. But, unlike the Boomers, they’re carrying massive student loan obligations and are buried under a mountain of mortgage debt. And, while there are jobs, job security is non-existent and wages have stagnated while productivity has quadrupled.

With its rise to power, this younger generation is changing the rules. This generation is more networked and connected, more committed to a tolerant, inclusive society. Clearly, they want a more environmentally responsible business culture and are much more willing to pull together to build a better life for all.

From this perspective, the ‘experience’ of the “Me Generation” looks like blatant self-interest masquerading as policy. So, a new generation takes over and, once again, it’s out with the old and in with the new. The difference this time is the Boomers are on the outside looking in.

Robert is a Troy Media contributor. Why aren’t you?

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