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OK Boomers

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OK Boomers:  The Politics of Me vs  the American Dream.

By Sven Steinmo


Baby Boomers are the largest and wealthiest generation in American history. We’ve been lucky. But most of us are confused and frustrated by the fact that our children and grandchildren are growing up a country that is in far worse shape than the one we grew up in.  Despite the fact that America is the richest country in the world, we are deeply in debt, our infrastructure is falling apart, and our national health system is wonderful if you want a hip replacement at age 93, but cannot provide basic test kits for people who have Covid-19. 


The truth is that the American Dream is slipping away from millions of our own children.  Everyone wants someone else to blame.  OK Boomers argues that we should look at ourselves first.


This book does not suggest that Boomers are particularly selfish individuals.  It argues instead that over the past few decades we have come to accept policies that are good for middle-class Boomers in the short run – and shows why these choices work to undermine our society in the long run. 


OK Boomers tells the story of how the largest generation in American history began with progressive social goals and ambitions, but eventually became frustrated, disheartened and alienated. Privileged by the wealth and opportunity that the Greatest Generation had built for them, the “me” generation genuinely believed they would be the agents of social change.  But as they grew into adulthood they turned inward.  Encouraged by increasingly sophisticated marketing technologies, Americans – and Boomers in particular – came to accept a new public philosophy.  This philosophy championed the individual and his wants over society and its needs.  It worshipped the consumer and not the saver.  It rejected duty in favor of individual freedom. 


The book begins with the1930s and shows how Americans rejected the free market after the Great Depression and instead built a huge number of social and economic programs designed to manage capitalism, stabilize the economy, and redistribute wealth. The reader will learn that America was once the most egalitarian country in the world and had the most “progressive” social policies of any democracy on the planet.  Many will be surprised to learn that by the mid-1930s America had the highest levels of social spending of any democracy in the world. By the 1950s, the United States had imposed steeper taxes on the wealthy than Britain, France, Germany or even Sweden. These policies were also massively popular. 


America did not continue down the path towards a progressive democracy and instead has become one of the most unequal societies in the world.  Currently, the US has lower levels of social spending, higher levels of child poverty and less social mobility than any other modern democracy.  This book tells us how and why this happened. 


The book intends to be controversial. But rather than simply accuse Boomers of being selfish sociopaths, OK Boomers points to what I call the Boomer’s Dilemma. By making sense of these choices, it also offers a way out by pointing to specific policies (like a national public service requirement) that can help heal this country.  


This book is written for both Baby Boomers and their children. It speaks directly to current political debates by offering a bridge between those who recall better days, and those who wish to redirect this country in a more fair and just direction. Millennials and Gen Y are sometimes jealous of their Boomer parents.  They have a right to be – and it’s not just about the music.  As this book demonstrates, the United States was once far more progressive and egalitarian than it is today.  By showing what changed in American society and politics, it offers specific suggestions for Americans who are no longer willing to accept a world of hyper-individualism and over-consumption as well for those who do not approve of the choices that were made on their behalf. 

OK Boomers ends with a call to action. In the wake of the Corona Virus epidemic, Americans will be looking for ideas and policies that can help bind our nation together again. Obviously, we should roll back some of the most narrowly self-interested policies that have been passed on our behalf - like tax cuts that we did not need.  But more importantly, if the current crisis has taught us anything, it is that we need to work together to rebuild our society. In FDR's time they confronted the Depression with policies that brought people work. Today we need something along this scale.  We can and should implement a national service requirement - and not just for the young.  Everyone should contribute to the national rebuilding effort as a condition of receiving Social Security.  We can do this when we are young, or when we are my age. 


OK Boomers.  Our society has given much to us.  It is time for us to give back.

In short, the potential readership for this book is significant. Not everyone will like this book. But it should invoke debate and even some of those who disagree will want to read it. Some of their children will buy it for them.  


The book is written for a general audience and while well researched, it is written in a conversational style.  It is full of surprising and interesting historical details and will invoke considerable discussion.


It is intended to invoke significant debate. It confronts the reader with many uncomfortable facts without accusing Boomers of being individually selfish.  Both Baby Boomers and their children will be interested in this book because it both explains why America is in such a mess today and offers some avenues to help us emerge from this mess.


The final manuscript should be approximately 80,000 words.

Delivery date:  December 15, 2020. 


Sven Steinmo teaches political economy at the University of Colorado, Boulder and a Research Professor at the European University in Florence, Italy. Most recently Steinmo was also Senior Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University as well as a visiting professor at the Copenhagen Business School.

He has published extensively on American political history and “American exceptionalism.”  He is also well known for his writings in fields as diverse as health policy, evolutionary theory, economics, psychology, sociology, and behavioral science. According to Google Scholar Citation Index, he is one of the 60 most cited political scientists in the world.

Steinmo is a much sought-after public speaker, having given public lectures and keynote addresses international conferences around the world. In recent years he has also been interviewed various programs on National Public Radio, Canadian Public Radio, and Colorado Public Radio. His writings have been translated into eight languages.

In addition to his academic writing, Steinmo has published articles and Op-ed columns in several newspapers around the world including, The Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, The Denver Post, Social Europe, Challenge, Project Syndicate, Policy Trajectories, The Plot, Sydsvenskan, Cinqua Diaz, La Libre Belgique, Gazeta Woszborsza and the Boulder Daily Camera.

Steinmo has honored by a large number of internationally recognized fellowships and awards. Most recently, he won the European Research Council’s, “Frontier Grant.” This 2.5 million euro award is often referred to as the European version of the American McArthur Fellowship.  

Steinmo earned his Master's degree in Public Health in 1982 and his Ph.D. in Political Science in 1987 - both from the University of California, Berkeley.


In Fall (2020) he will be recording his first Ted Talk on this book.


X Questions with Sven

X Questions with Sven

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