Talk about timing the market: Demographer Dent (The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash Following the Greatest Boom in History, 2009, etc.) studies generational trends that suggest hard times are in store, particularly for younger people entering the workforce.
Though the economy seems to be recovering, writes the author, this is a result of “endless government stimulus” that must come to an end. With the retirement of the baby boomer generation and the subsequent restrictions imposed on the economy by the fact that fewer workers will be replacing them, consumer spending will decline, since those workers will likely have less money to spend even as the boomers are in the “downward phase” in their own purchasing patterns. The “echo boomers,” whose births are spread out from 1976 to 2007, will eventually replace the baby boomers, and they’re significantly more numerous. Meanwhile, the Gen Xers—less than half the echo boomers’ number—are going to have to pull a lot of weight. The near-term result? A “coma economy” such as Japan’s. The good news, if it is in fact good news, is that China is not likely to overwhelm the West economically, since its demographic future is even more dire. The bad news for nativists is that in order to re-emerge economically, the United States will have to see a population growth to 420 million by 2060, and much of that will have to come from immigration, which is likely instead to slow in the coming “winter season.” Dent closes by examining the place of social entitlements in a newly austere economic landscape; refreshingly, he urges that “there should be “a government-driven one-payer system for the most basic health care services for all,” adding that the free market system is intended to benefit everyone, “not just the strongest.”
Provocative reading: a bad-case, if not worst-case, scenario that portends tough times ahead. Let’s hope Dent is erring on the side of pessimism.