The Atlantic

The Boomers Ruined Everything

The mistakes of the past are fast creating a crisis for younger Americans.
Source: Carlina Teteris / Getty

The Baby Boomers ruined America. That sounds like a hyperbolic claim, but it’s one way to state what I found as I tried to solve a riddle. American society is going through a strange set of shifts: Even as cultural values are in rapid flux, political institutions seem frozen in time. The average U.S. state constitution is more than 100 years old. We are in the third-longest period without a constitutional amendment in American history: The longest such period ended in the Civil War. So what’s to blame for this institutional aging?

One possibility is simply that Americans got older. The average American was 32 years old in 2000, and 37 in 2018. The retiree share of the population is booming, while birth rates are plummeting. When a society gets older, its politics change. Older voters have different interests than younger voters: Cuts to retiree-focused benefits are scarier, while long-term problems such as excessive student debt, climate change, and low birth rates are more easily ignored.

But it’s not just aging. In a variety of different areas, the Baby Boom generation created, advanced, or preserved policies that made American institutions less dynamic. In a for the American

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readTech
FaceApp Makes Today’s Privacy Laws Look Antiquated
Cameras are everywhere, and data brokers are vacuuming up information on individuals. But regulations have not kept pace.
The Atlantic6 min read
The U.S.’s Toxic Agent Orange Legacy
Washington has admitted to the long-lasting effects of dioxin use in Vietnam, but has largely sidestepped the issue in neighboring Cambodia and Laos.
The Atlantic8 min read
The Best Banter From Apollo 11
Between the high-stakes maneuvers, the crew joked around, listened to music, and drank way too much coffee.