Reason Magazine Articles
Millennials: Who are they? What do they believe? Why do we care?
Armed with data from the recent Reason-Rupe poll on the same subject, Reason TV explored these questions on the campus of University of California, Irvine by asking students in the 18-29 age group to talk about their political philosophies, their attitudes towards Democrats and Republicans, their reactions to the word socialism, and their perspectives on entrepreneurship.
"Right now, I think of [socialism] as more of a postive, because I think our country could use it a little bit more," said one student who typifies attitude represented in the Reason-Rupe poll, which found that 42 percent of millennials favor socialism over capitalism.
However, as Reason polling director Emily Ekins explains, this may be because millennials simply have a different understanding of socialism than prior generations who came of age during the Cold War.
"If they were to understand that 'socialism' meant government running Facebook, Amazon, Uber... they would not like that," says Ekins, who found that only 32 percent of millennials favor a "government-managed economy" over a "free market economy."
Millennials also have a distrust of the two-party system and increasingly identify as independents, with 34 percent declining to identify with a political party even when asked if they lean one way or another, a rate three times higher than that of Americans over 30 years old.
Ekins says that millennials speak a different political language than older generations, a language shaped in no small part by major world events like the 9/11 attacks, the financial crisis, and two wars in the Middle East, all of which occured as this generation came of an age where politics began to matter to them.
"We need to be more concrete and specific with the words we use when we talk to young people," says Ekins. "Words like capitalism and socialism, language from the Cold War, post-World War II era is just not going to work, because those words have lost meaning."
Approximately 7 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Paul Detrick. Scroll down for downloadable versions. And subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for daily content like this.
"Just this whole process of going through the baby boom's history, I began to realize what a nicer society—kinder, more decent society—that we live in today than the society when I was a kid," says P.J. O'Rourke, best-selling author of Holidays in Hell, Parliament of Whores, and many other titles.
O'Rourke sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest 2014 in Las Vegas to discuss his new book, The Baby Boom: How it Got That Way and It Wasn't My Fault and I'll Never Do it Again. As the father of three kids born between 1997 and 2004, he also lays down some thoughts about millennials, noting that they live in a much nicer, more tolerant world than the one in which he grew up. "I don’t think my 10-year old boy has ever been in a fist fight," says O'Rourke, who was born in 1947. "I mean there might be a little scuffling but I don’t think he’s has ever had that kind of violent confrontation that was simply part of the package when I was a kid."
He also feels that the internet "fragments information" in a way that destroys the sweep of history, at least at first. "You end up with mosaic information," he says. "Now, I think over time the kids put these mosaics together but I don’t think the internet itself lends itself to the sweep of history."
The interview also includes a tour of O'Rourke's long and varied career in journalism, from his humble beginnings writing for an underground alt-weekly to his time as editor of National Lampoon and his incredible work as a foreign correspondent for Rolling Stone to his current position as columnist at the Daily Beast.
A prominent libertarian, O'Rourke also discusses the difficulties in selling a political philosophy devoted to taking power away from politicians.
"If libertarianism were easy to explain and if it weren't so easy to exaggerate the effects of libertarianism—people walking around with 'Legalize Heroin!' buttons and so on—I think it would've been done already," says O'Rourke, the H.L. Mencken fellow at the Cato Institute. "But the problem is, of course, is that libertarianism isn't political. It's anti-political, really. It wants to take things out of the political arena."
Watch the entire interview above, or click below for downloadable versions of this video. About 35 minutes. Edited by Zach Weissmueller. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Shot by Meredith Bragg, Jim Epstein, and Weissmueller. Music by Antiqcool.
Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for daily content like this.
Below is a rush transcript of this interview. Please check against audio for accuracy.
REASON: Hi I’m Nick Gillespie with Reason TV and today we’re talking to P.J. O’Rourke, the great libertarian humorist. His most recent book is The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way And It Wasn’t My Fault And I’ll Never Do It Again. P.J. O’Rourke:, thanks for talking.
O’ROURKE: Oh, you’re very welcome.
REASON: Early on, you talk about the difference between baby boom and other generations. “What makes the baby boom different from other generations is the way everybody was feeling we could be or do anything. What unifies the baby boom is the way we talked everybody into letting us get away with it.” Where did the feeling that the baby boom could do, would do anything come from?
O’ROURKE: Economics. I actually did do a little research for this book and one of the things I found out was that in inflation in adjusted dollars, the median family income for baby boomers was $10,000 per year more than the median family income for the greatest generation.
REASON: And this is the generation that was born, maybe raised in great depression, fought World War II.
O’ROURKE: That’s right.
REASON: And these were our parents, I mean I’m a baby boomer as well, or some people’s grandparents. They grew up in a pretty grim world.
O’ROURKE: They did and not only were they poorer and of course faced a number of impositions on their freedoms such as the depression and the war. When you look at the GDP per capita, when you look at the greatest generation it goes sharply down after World War I, way up in the 1920s, then even more sharply down and for a long time during the Great Depression, and then only starts to ramp up as we begin to rearm. That’s not the kind of economic ramp-up you want. You put those two things together and simply the fact that baby boom children had more money their families had more money, and the stability of that money. If you look at GDP per capita from 1946 really until the Arab oil embargo, it’s a study upward ramp. So the greatest generation suffered both from relative poverty and from income insecurity.
REASON: You’re making a crass Marxist argument here that at a certain economic base, more wealth gives you a certain cultural superstructure, which makes you feel you can do anything.
O’ROURKE: Absent externalities, and the period where the baby boom grew up was until the Vietnam War, largely absent of externalities.
REASON: Was it the parents who were telling their kids, “You can be anything,” or was it the kids who said, “Look at me, I’ve got money in my pocket and I’m five years old?”
O’ROURKE: We didn’t know that, I mean you can only know the conditions that are around you. Children have not too much sense of futurity and no sense of history. So we we didn’t feel that, but our parents were really urging us to act out a lot of things that they themselves felt they never got a chance to do. Whether it was go to college, whether it was start a business, whether it was playing the trombone, they were saying “You can be anything you want,” which in the case of my dad meant being an engineer. They were saying “You can be anything you want,” and we thought, “Wow! Drunk, stupid, stoned!” The message of the greatest generation to the baby boom got through all too well.
REASON: Do they resent the fact that people your age did get to go to college, you did to do drugs and have a dissolute lifestyle. You did get to have premarital sex openly. Were they aghast because it was immoral or were they pissed because you were doing that they wanted you to?
O’ROURKE: I think it was more pissed than aghast. After all, they were veterans of the war and wartime era. And come on; tell me that when a guy was going off to Iwo Jima he spent the last night with his girlfriend on the front porch swing cuddling mildly.
REASON: You talk about, “What unifies the baby boom is the way we talked everyone into letting us get away with it.” So it wasn’t a particularly hard sell?
O’ROURKE: No it wasn’t really in a sense, society was moving in a very permissive direction. Whatever great Victorian inhibitions between the depression, World War II and to a certain extend the Cold War, those things were already under attack.
REASON: Obviously it was a fight enjoyable to fight, but is it better to live in a permissive society than a repressed one?
O’ROURKE: To be determined. That’s probably a question that needs to be asked 100 years hence. There were a couple of blowbacks from the permissive society. One was drugs. While I’m libertarian, I’m theoretically at least in favor of drug legalization, nonetheless to say that widespread drug use did not have a deleterious effect on American society would be a palpable lie.
REASON: What are the obvious effects of that?
O’ROURKE: Marijuana did turn out to be a gateway drug, not in the sense that people who smoked marijuana went on to heroin or crack. But a gateway drug in the sense that once you lower the social shaming and against the social inhibition against one drug, the others tend to sneak through the door. The society that winks at smoking marijuana or even applauds it is probably asking for a little bit of trouble with abuse of drugs that really hurt.
REASON: When you convene your Hague Court of war criminals Cheech and Chong will be up there?
O’ROURKE: Well far be it for me of all people, no I’d be in the docks with them. No I’m not blaming them. Marijuana is fine with me. I have teenage daughters. This is a drug that makes teenage boys drive slow. Maybe is does a little brain damage but so does almost everything else a teenage boy would do.
REASON: The chapters in the baby boom where you talk about your drug use in college and after are very funny and very insightful, but you also make a special case that beer was the drug of choice of the baby boom. Talk a little bit about that.
O’ROURKE: Well beer was always the fallback. Probably always will remain. Alcohol will remain a fallback drug because it makes you uniquely stupid while remaining pretty mobile. There are drugs that will make you more stupid than beer but you can’t move.
REASON: You say one of the other great cultural contributions of the baby boom to American pop culture thinking is that life is like high school. This is a kind of framing device in the book, talk a bit about that.
O’ROURKE: What we think about when we think about high school is the way people self-organize. And I’m a Hayek, and I truly believe in human self-organization but I don’t have a perfect faith that that self-organization is a good thing, and maybe that’s because I was shoved in my locker a lot.
REASON: I’m guessing Hayek wasn’t exactly the captain of the football team.
O’ROURKE: I’m guessing Hayek got shoved in his locket a lot but he came out with an admirable faith in self-organization.
REASON: He used that time trapped in his locker to think?
O’ROURKE: He did, instead of using that time to pound on the door. Of course, Hayek’s real point is not that self-organization is wonderful, it’s that it’s preferable to being organized by others. Of course if you’ve been to high school when it came to dealing with the mean girls versus dealing the the principal, you pick the mean girls every time. That bring us back to another jury is out area of the permissive society which is the breakdown of the traditional family structure. A remarkable number of kids are born out of wedlock. A remarkable number of kids are raised by a single parent and usually a financially pressed mom. Is this a good thing? People seem to be surviving this better than they might have in the 1900s.
REASON: Youth crime is down, school bullying is down.
O’ROURKE: It’s down after being very up for a long time. The baby boom had a lot to do with youth crime. And we’re aging out. The youngest baby boomers are turning 50.
REASON: Do you think there’s a social learning curve there that with, say, beer or pot there’s a learning curve how to drink beer where you learn how not to drink it too fast or too slow. Is society like that?
O’ROURKE: We see that with crack-cocaine, which was panicking the nation for about a decade. And its usage went down, and its usage went down because the younger generation of kids watched an older generation destroy themselves with crack-cocaine. Now we have an opiate problem which seems to have originated in an over prescription of pain pills, which are very expensive and even more so on the black market, which has in turn driven people to heroin as a cheaper alternative.
REASON: The governor of Vermont early this year devoted his state address to how there was a nearly doubling of the number of heroin deaths and when I actually looked at the numbers it was like from 8 to 14 in the state of Vermont. Is this one more “Hey kids, don’t do drugs” hysteria?
O’ROURKE: I don’t think so. I think it will have, like crack did, a natural cycle where the younger generation will come around and see the older generation of kids who have destroyed their lives with this. This is a huge human price to pay though, to wait these things out, but I’m not sure there’s anything to do but still, big price.
REASON: Towards the end of the book you say, “Given all the liberties the baby boom has taken we ought to be libertarian. We should be adhering to the Clinton rules. That is, the rules that the Clinton exemplified. Mind your own business, and keep your hands to yourself. Hillary: Mind your [own business. Bill: Keep your hands to yourself.” It’s a good line but then let’s focus here, Reason’s a libertarian magazine, you’ve been a long adjunct scholar at Cato, is America more libertarian now? Is it at about the right place?
O’ROURKE: We’re certainly more libertarian on a social level, things like gay marriage. I mean, we elected Barack Obama, are we libertarian on the fundamental government issues which are in some ways more important?
REASON: Are economic issues more important that social issues?
O’ROURKE: Not economic issues, but political issues are because you create a political situation that is much harder to modify, escape from, change, than social issues. This is Hayek’s argument, is that while we may not self organize well, when people do it for us it’s always a mess. And so, we’re creating a national political system upon which everyone is dependent. In fact, the liberals seem to be working very hard to be sure that everybody- old people, young people going to college, anybody who has any medical problems- that everybody is dependent upon the state. And this is ultimately more dangerous than an individual state.
REASON: This tendency is being pushed by baby boomers. How does that match up with a high 60s liberation?
O’ROURKE: It doesn’t, and this is what puzzles me. You would think that after the Vietnam war and the exuberance of the 60s that the baby boom would be strongly libertarian in its political orientation. I think there are three things that have kept that from being true. One is that dependence which has been fostered at least since the New Deal if not the progressive movement more than a century ago. Another is that at a crucial time in our political education, big federal government was on the right side of a extremely important, vital question which was civil rights.
REASON: Well talk about that, because libertarians all the time will step in it all the time of how if being free means having large parts of the country segregated, that’s a price I’m willing to pay with.
O’ROURKE: It’s not a price I’m willing to pay. We watched the federal government battle [in air-quotes] “conservatives” and indeed libertarians. I mean Barry Goldwater famously wrong footed himself by supporting states’ rights, not because he was a racist but because of his constitutional principles. Those constitutional principles were budding up against a really ugly reality and there are times when you simply have to make the best of the situation as it is. And so, Barry Goldwater was wrong about that, and not only did cost him votes, but it cost the whole reputation of the conservative/libertarian movement. There was, in Paleolithic conservatism quite a bit of racism, anti-Semitism. Bill Buckley basically devoted his life to getting that stuff out of the conservative movement.
REASON: Even until late into the 60s National Review was still talking about how “segregation was not always a bad thing.” He had trouble really waiving goodbye to this.
O’ROURKE: He did. He managed to get the anti-Semitic nuts, and he defended McCarthy for a little while until he realized he was a nut who had grabbed hold of a real problem but had distorted it and perverted it. People had slow learning curves on this sort of stuff. So we watched the federal government step in and do something about this. Now, at the same time we also watched the federal government conduct the Vietnam War, and you would think that would out way the other. But one had to do with the permanent structure of American society and the other had to do with a military misadventure. Plus, our parents really saw the New Deal and Franklin Roosevelt as being heroic. Not heroic in the sense that it actually worked, but here was at least someone who was trying to do something about the depression, of course he wasn’t doing the right thing. And of course people have long forgotten that much of the stuff he did was started by Herbert Hoover himself, a progressive Republican. But nonetheless they came away with a feeling that the federal government was benign. They might be personally quite conservative, certainly they voted for Ike rather than Stevenson, but they still had a feeling that federal government was beneficent.
REASON: It’s easy to create a heroic enterprise of the federal government or of a communal society, where we’re throwing everything we can against poverty, we’re throwing everything against racism, Islamofascism. A real problem with the kind of libertarian point of view seems to be that it has trouble coming up with- we’re fighting for freedom so we can sell our artisanal cheese. We can sell raw milk directly to people without bullshitting around. Is there a way to craft a heroic vision of libertarianism that really gets the majority of people pumping in that direction?
O’ROURKE: It’s tough, or it would have been done by now. There really is a strong streak of libertarianism and if libertarianism were easy to explain, and if it weren’t easy to exaggerate the effects of libertarianism- people walking around with “legalize heroin” buttons on- I think it would have been done already. There’s certainly enough smart people that have, I’d like to think you and me included, have really applied themselves like Charles Murray. Many many intelligent people have applied themselves to crafting an agenda that people could grab a hold of. But the problem of course is that libertarianism isn’t political. It’s kind of anti-political really; it wants to take a lot of things out of the political arena. It isn’t ideological, or when it is ideological you can get excessively pure libertarians that can get a little-
REASON: And we are taping this at Freedom Fest so that’s on the front burner right now.
O’ROURKE: We’re taping this in Las Vages, which probably isn’t the best example of people doing exactly what they want.
REASON: Is that for you the core-selling proposition of libertarianism, that it takes things out of the political arena?
REASON: And it squeezes politics down, because there are places where we need a consensus, and we need to be on the same page.
O’ROURKE: And we need a government. I covered Mogadishu. Any time I talk to an anarchist I say, “Let me just take you over to Mogadishu, see anarchy at work.”
REASON: So the essence is really removing as many things as possible from an arena of coercion or a forced consensus to self-organization.
O’ROURKE: This is a practical matter too, when you task the government or any government, say, the federal government with righting all wrongs, fixing all things. Making everything swell for everybody physically just can’t be done.
REASON: How many millennial children do you have?
O’ROURKE: Three, I suppose. I’ve got one born ’97, I’ve got one born smack on 2000 and one born in 2004.
REASON: One of the things that is great about this book and your work in general is that it is dipped in history.
O’ROURKE: Very much, intentionally.
REASON: The millennials, maybe it’s because of the internet but do you feel like they’re more connected to a sweep of history? They seem to be more globalized.
O’ROURKE: No actually, because what happens with the internet is that it fragments information. In trying to get information to write our school papers and so on, we would of course be copying from the world book.
REASON: My parents bought the Encyclopedia Britannica so I was an A student.
O’ROURKE: Oh, you were copying from the good stuff, the stuff the teachers hadn’t even read. But on our way to trying to find out something, we ended up finding out a lot of other things. I wish I could remember who this was but somebody said something very wise about the internet which is that “you do not question the internet; you depose it. And the internet tells you only what you ask.” So if you just type in “riots in Brazil” you get the entire history of riots in Brazil, but that’s not what you meant. If you’re not careful, you go “Brazil defeats Germany” and find out that Brazil was an ally to the US in World War II and Germany defeats Brazil in this case. So you end up with mosaic information. Now, I think over time the kids put these mosaics together but I don’t think the internet itself lends itself to the sweep of history.
REASON: You mention in your book that you feel the baby boom not only used up not only all of the drugs, but it used up all the peculiar, all the weird. I forget the exact phraseology. Talk a little bit about that, and what do you mean by that?
O’ROURKE: Well every generation of adolescent kids has to do something to shock their parents. This is something that been going on- it’s been mentioned by the ancient Romans.
REASON: So you could say “I think Cain and Abel shocked their parents!”
O’ROURKE: Yes, Cain definitely. Yes, but there is something to the baby boom using up the weird so now kids have to hurt themselves badly on skateboards and get piercings and face tattoos.
REASON: You’re gotta love that though, right? When your kid comes home with a face tattoo you’re going to be like, “y’know what? I’ve gotta give it to you.”
O’ROURKE: I think personally at my house that’s probably not going to work that way but in the abstract I appreciate their efforts to set themselves apart.
REASON: Did we kick free of a certain kind of historical cycle with the baby boom? The book is caustic towards the baby boom, it has a lot of fun, but it the end you really do come down on the idea that the baby boom is the greatest generation.
O’ROURKE: I wouldn’t go quite that far but in the end I come around. I actually started the book hostile to the baby boom and in the end I came around to the fact that a lot of problems baby boomers caused were simply demographic. You can’t blame that on anybody. Low birthrate before the baby boom came along and low birth rate after.
REASON: Although I suspect you agree with this: the baby boom really owes it to the next generation to get off the government tit in terms of social security and Medicare so that our kids are not paying for us.
O’ROURKE: It doesn’t look like we’re delivering on that. That’s one of the things that started me off hostile to the baby boom. But in the end I think I just realized that just this whole process of going through the baby boom’s history, I began to realize what a nicer, kinder, more decent society we live in today then the society when I was a kid. It’s been years since I’ve seen a bar fight. I don’t think my 10-year old boy has ever been in a fist fight. I mean there might be a little scuffling but I don’t think he’s has ever had that kind of violent confrontation that was simply part of the package when I was a kid.
REASON: Let me talk about a slightly different cycle over time which is of your journalism career which is also covered in depth in the book and it is kind of great and also parallels a lot of things. You more or less got your professional journalism start working for an underground weekly when they were still called underground or…
O’ROURKE: I don’t know if you’d call it professional but I certainly got my start.
REASON: At a magazine called “Puddles?”
O’ROURKE: Well the actual name I changed, but its name was every bit as bad, it was called “Harry” and not even “H-A-I-R-Y-“ but it was “H-A-R-R-Y.”
REASON: In the context of the book you call it “Puddles.” You write “Combat (combat was a World War II underground resistance paper) was edited by Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, Puddles was edited by Harry, Bob and me. Combat was in constant danger of being raided by the Gestapo seeking viscous reprisals, Puddles was in the occasional danger of being raided by Baltimore cops.”
O’ROURKE: For drugs, not for free speech.
REASON: Underground newspapers or alt-weeklies started in the 50s but they became one of the defining media of the 60s. Talk a bit about what it was like to work for an alt weekly back in the day.
O’ROURKE: A great place to get started because there was no quality control whatsoever. We had to fill up a newspaper and put it out once a week. And of course it didn’t quite get out quite once a week. Trying to look back on it, I can’t remember whether it would finally get published when we were out of marijuana and needed to buy some more or whether it would not get published when we got some marijuana because we were too stoned to do anything. But at any rate, it gave me a chance to do all sorts of things and any sort of grammar that you wanted and so it was a great training round though in a way although the end product was pretty dreadful.
REASON: You’ve moved on from there, and I’m skipping some stuff but to National Lampoon and National Lampoon was a massive magazine. It was a cultural touchstone. It changed the way that people felt they could talk about sensitive topics and ideals and things like that. Talk about your experience at National Lampoon, how you came to be there and then what was the essence of it? Did that demonstrate some kind of great boomer juice in American society?
O’ROURKE: It did. I came to work there because I wanted to be a writer, I moved to New York. Basically I hung around the office until they gave me some kind of job. I’m pestering people, trying to write in a lampoon style. It was my first experience with people who were really well educated doing kind of the thing we were doing with the underground newspapers but much more apolitical. National Lampoon was there to all turn down, no building up.
REASON: Arguably the best magazine cover of all time by this magazine was “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll shoot this dog,” what I remember was “if Ted Kennedy was driving a Volkswagen he’d be president by now.” What was your most scabrous essay or piece that you wrote?
O’ROURKE: Probably mine was How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink a libertarian cry from the heart.
REASON: Matty Simmons, the publisher in his book about the magazine’s history identifies you as a turd in the punchbowl because of your politics [in his book about the magazine]. National Lampoon at its best it’s like the Onion or the Daily Show where it takes on all targets equally.
O’ROURKE: Long before I was in charge we ran a cover of that famous Che Guevara poster with him getting a pie in the face in the “nothing is sacred” issue.
REASON: Do you feel like possibly American humor or American avant culture at some point decided instead of being thoroughgoing and making fun of everybody- punk music was kind of like this. It was very broad-based in its target- and then there was moment where it said, “we’re gonna be Avant-garde but we’re going to be politically de rigueur in a very specific way.” Was there something that caused that or do you think it’s a misperception?
O’ROURKE: I don’t think it’s a misperception. What caused that is show business. In fact, what killed off the Lampoon was the movies, essentially. In 1978, Animal House came along and it resulted in almost everybody who was on the National Lampoon getting offers for movie or television. And then of course what had already been going on was Saturday Night Live. Anyways, all of a sudden the talent pool had been getting sucked. When the Lampoon had started, it was the only game in town it terms of making a living making fun of things.
REASON: You say that like “there was only one.” It was kind of great that there was at least one place to make fun of things.
O’ROURKE: I mean you could go to Mad but that was more for kids. The New Yorker had lost its sense of humor some place back in the early 50s or something. And so people who wanted to make fun of things for a living were drawn to the National Lampoon.
REASON: And then you moved to Rolling Stone, which is fascinating because your work there is like a masters class for journalism. It’s the later edge of the new journalism. It’s heavily reported, serious work. It’s funny. It’s totally readable. How did you go from writing stories about “getting your wing wang squeezed without spilling a drop” to going to Mogadishu and going on raids with the Guardian Angels and things like that?
O’ROURKE: In 1980 Doug Kenney died and he was the guy who had basically brought me into the National Lampoon. He was my best friend there, but the other thing was that he was- and it sounds funny to say it now but it sounded old at the time- he was 33. I was a year younger than Doug. I was 32 and I thought, “Y’know, this making fun of everything is a lot of fun, and I do enjoy it, but it’s kind of a kid’s game. It’s standing outside in the flower garden and peeking in the dining room window making faces at the grown ups.” Wasn’t it maybe time to have a place at the grownup table? So I said, “Do I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life?” I laughed, and I tried some movie stuff, and I just didn’t like the world. I had a good time and it paid well. I worked on Rodney Dangerfield’s first feature movie Easy Money and I just didn’t like the world. I didn’t like the oppressively collaborative- anyway, out of the blue, Michael Kinsley who was then editor of Harper’s, asked me to go to USSR with a group of leftists. It was a crew sponsored by The Nation and he thought it would be very funny for me. Michael and I knew each other a little bit. He knew what my politics were and he thought it would be funny to send a Republican along.
REASON: It helped define Rolling Stone in that period but also what it meant to be a new journalist, somebody who was interested in telling stories using fictional elements being present.
O’ROURKE: I mean it’s always fun to be in on the beginning of things, but it was fun to be on the tag end of new journalism because I could learn from its errors. I used fictional devices but I never used fiction. I kept strictly to the rules of reporting while putting some life in not denying my own role as an observer. The Heisenberg principle is that by observing anything you change it. You could allow for all that, and not have to do AP-Style copy. New journalism had been around for long enough that I could not longer avoid the excesses.
REASON: When you were developing as a writer, who were your models, or did you have such?
O’ROURKE: I don’t know if I really did. I would say that Tom Wolf and Hunter Thompson of course impressed me.
REASON: What I would find interesting about Wolf is that the story is never about him, he’s always researching stuff but then Thompson-
O’ROURKE: It’s all about him.
REASON: And yours actually threads that needle pretty neatly because with you you’re there and you’re an interesting character but it’s not always about you. It’s serious.
Now, among other places, you write for the Daily Beast. And I guess one of the things that’s interesting is that, just looking at the span of this, you start with an alt weekly and now you’re at a publication that is only online. Do you feel like over the past 40 years or so journalism has changed? Is the media getting better or worse? You hear people constantly talking about how there’s no good writing out there anymore, the economic base is not there etc. Are you optimistic about print or are you optimistic about media or are these totally different beasts now?
O’ROURKE: I just don’t know. I’m just glad I’m not starting out now because the model that I understood, the magazine business essentially and the book business offshoot of that, is just so different now. I think it is harder to make a living. It was always hard to make a living, and now it pays less. There are probably more outlets but it pays less, in your “price per word.” It was never lavish. Playboy was famous for paying “a dollar per word, woo!” Newspaper editorial sections still pay about that for an Op-Ed. The business model is strange and I think it will sort itself out in time. The internet started by amateurs, it never really quite figured out a business model, I hope they’ll get around to doing it. It’s probably easier to get published today but harder to make a living at it. Does the shift in media cause people to have shorter attention spans? Yes, I think so. I think it would be hard for something like “Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas” to blow the public away today the way that it did at the time.
REASON: To close out, in the baby boom, you talk about how, “The baby boom didn’t invent bullshit, but they became expert in it.” You also talk about how words are the pheromone of the baby boom generation. Has the baby boom passed that on to the rest of the world?
O’ROURKE: I think so, it seems that way. We certainly are a chatty and communicative society.
REASON: And as you say, a nice one? Or a kinder one?
O’ROURKE: I think so. Certainly more tolerant. In fact tolerance I think isn’t even a good word anymore because tolerance means, “Well, I’ll put up with you if I have to.” It’s more enthusiastic about people’s differences of plotting them and embracing them as it were, and that’s good.
REASON: The author is P.J. O’Rouke. His latest book is The Baby Boom, How It Got That Way And It Wasn’t My Fault And I’ll Never Do It Again. P.J. thanks for talking to Reason.
O’ROURKE: Well thank you.
REASON: For Reason TV, I’m Nick Gillespie.
Millennials get a bad rap, which isn't exactly surprising—nobody likes a youthful generation while they're youthful. If you're lucky, like Gen X, people stop paying attention to you when the next whippersnappers come along. If you're like the boomers—and millennials look a lot more like the boomers, both in terms of size and outlook, than Gen X—people will keep right on maligning you through AARP eligibility. But boomers have, over time, shed some of the most outrageous or unfair of the stereotypes assigned to them, and hopefully millennials will grow out of their's as well. In the service of helping that along, allow me to attempt deconstruction of several prominent millennial myths.
Myth #1: Millennials are young
Some are—with the outer bounds of millennial birthdom stretching as late as 2000 by some accounts, the youngest millennials are currently in their early teens. But the oldest of us were born in the early 1980s (some even say late '70s), placing us firmly in our early 30s these days. Millennials are getting married and having babies and running companies and all kinds of crazy stuff by now, despite the media portrayal of millennials as pretty much perpetually college-age. By 2020, Gen Y (as millennials are alternately known) will account for some 46 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Myth #2: Millennials are all living in their parents' basements
Much has been made over data seeming to show that adult millennials are living with their parents in record numbers. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, more than half of adults under 25 are living at home. But as Derek Thompon at The Atlantic recently pointed out, the census statistics count college students who live in campus dorms or apartments as living "at home." Because young people are attending school in record numbers, this skews the results comparative to previous generations and makes it appear like many more millennials are in dire straights than actually are. When you remove college students from the equation, the share of 18- to-24-year-olds living at home has been steadily declining since 1986.
Myth #3: Young millennials are doing significantly worse than older millennials
A new poll from Zogby Analytics looked at differences between older millennials, which Zogby defined as those born in 1979-1989, and the younger millennials born 1990-1996. Lauren Alix Brown recently summarized some of these findings at Quartz: "The older cohort was more apt to have a college degree, consider their current job a career, and less likely to have lost a job in the past 12 months." But while this may be perfectly true, it doesn't really mean much of anything. Older millennials in this study are currently 25- to 35-years-old, while the younger cohort is 18- to 24. Of course the former are going to be more likely to have finished college and landed in a job they consider career potential.
Myth #4: Millennials want to ban abortion
Those who want to make abortion illegal in all circumstances often assert that they have the younger generation on their side—perhaps even that millennials are "more pro-life" than either boomers or seniors. PolitiFact.com tackled that one earlier this year and found it patently "false." In a 2013 study from the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, only 40 percent of millennials called themselves "pro-life," compared to 45 percent of Gen X, 47 percent of boomers, and 53 percent of seniors.
A study this year from the Public Religion Research Institute did find that 65 percent of millennials said the term pro-life describes them "at least somewhat well"—but 74 percent of this same group said the same thing about "pro-choice". It seems many millennials simply don't feel comfortable pinning themselves neatly within these old labels. In the same study, 52 percent of millennials said they personally believe abortion is "morally wrong," compared to 36 percent that said it was "morally acceptable." Yet 55 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to only 41 percent that believe it should be illegal in all or most cases.
Myth #5: Millennials are anti-capitalist
Perhaps Occupy Wall Street cemented this myth in Americans' minds. But if anything, it's more accurate to say that millenials are anti-corporatist. They distrust the collusion of Big Business and Big Government. But as I explore in Reason's October issue, even countercultural millennials aren't anti-money, anti-profit, or anti-entrepreneurship in the way that previous youth movements have been. "Ultimately, money is power, and if you have more power you can use that power for good things," one millennial entrepreneur told me. "Profit isn’t seen as such an evil thing anymore," said another. "It’s more about how that profit is used."
A 2009 poll from the Center for American Progress found nearly equal numbers of millennials agreed that "the free market is still the best way to organize our economy" (39 percent) as those who said "our current economic problems show what happens when you rely too much on the market and reduce regulations on corporations" (42 percent). In the 2014 Reason-Rupe poll of millennials, 64 percent said they supported a free-market economy over a government-managed one, and 55 percent said they have entrepreneurial ambitions.
Producer Paul Detrick talks about the protests in Ferguson and why journalists there are having their First Amendment rights violated on Fox Business Network's Stossel.