Millennials! They are, according to many pundits and politicians, ungrateful and wasteful, and come with an angry and humorless social justice streak on the side. “No faction on the Democratic side more richly deserves rebuking,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens darkly proclaimed last week, before going on to say he didn’t mean the whole group, just the ones inclined to “histrionic self-pity and moral self-righteousness.” Or you can hear it from former vice president Joe Biden, who said last year, “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break. No, no, I have no empathy for it,” before telling them to get more involved in politics.
True, complaining about the wasteful habits and lack of respect that younger generations show their elders is likely as old a habit as human existence itself. Horace did it. So did Geoffrey Chaucer. But millennial-bashing is also a prime example of a particularly nasty tradition: assuming individual behavior is the cause of economic woes, and not the result of them.