Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier

Disenchanted youth of the world: Tomorrow’s hope

The youth of the world are disenchanted — disenchanted by the older generation’s politics as well as their economics, by their ideologies and their religions and by their inability to halt ecological destruction. And they are the ones who will replace the current leaders of the world.

What are the chances that they might just opt for a way of living that will differ radically from that clung to by older generation(s), including the political and economic leaders of the world, as well as the yuppies? As far as I can see, the chances are excellent for this to happen, both from my own experience as well as from what I read these days.

Personal experience first. Many of my students make no secret of their disenchantment with the way the world is governed or with the lack of foresight on the part of the leaders of the most powerful countries in the world. One of the most radical among them, who has a master’s degree in philosophy and working in Britain, is planning, together with a number of close friends, to return to South Africa and start a permaculture (“working with, instead of against, nature”) farm, to become as independent as possible from ordinary economic processes of buying, banking, consuming and so on.

It is unlikely that they will be able to opt out of the “normal” economy completely, at least in the short run, but theirs is a long-term commitment, not least to the well-being of the planet and her creatures, including what they see as the selfish, destructive human race.

These young people are growing in number, and are committed to inventing a better future — recently my young friend (and many of his British friends) joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in the UK, and spent many hours voicing their justified discontent about the economic lot of the 99% as opposed to the 1%.

But my own experience of young people’s dissatisfaction with the shape of the present world order is not the only indication that this is the case. In a recent article entitled “The Jobless Generation” (TIME, April 16), Michael Schuman elaborates on the plight of the under-25s in the world, where the percentage of unemployed in this category surpasses the overall rates of unemployment in every country he surveys, sometimes by as much as three times as many.

In Italy, for instance, unemployment among the young stands at 31.1%, compared to 9.3% overall unemployment. The figures for the rest of the developed countries don’t look much better. In Spain and Greece youth unemployment, although not quite three times as high as overall unemployment, stands at over 50%. Estimates based on the latest research indicate that, globally, as many as 75-million young people are unemployed.

And we are not talking about individuals without the necessary qualifications to fill posts requiring a certain expertise — as Schuman’s article reveals, many of these young people have master’s and doctoral degrees, and regularly send out resumés to companies and other would-be employers, without as much as a response.

South Africa is no different in this respect: most people are probably aware of the fact that the waitresses and waiters serving them at restaurants and coffee shops are better qualified than ever before and are doing this lowly-paid job because they can get no better.

I know a young manager of a pizza joint in Port Elizabeth who has a B.Juris, LL.B, but has not been able to secure a job at a law firm for at least five years. When I talk to him about it he shrugs — “It’s not much, but at least I have a job.”

Schuman also points out that what is nothing less than a crisis facing the young people of the world has been simmering for some time but catapulted to crisis proportions after the 2008 financial crisis.

Many of the people he interviewed for his article highlight the potential of these figures for political as well as more severe economic instability — for one thing, if the number of young people finding work remains low, the economic pressure to fund pensions and health care for pensioners will increase dramatically, because of fewer people funding the tax base.

For another, if this trend continues, it could escalate into violent protests and not just peaceful ones, like the one staged in Madrid recently by the disaffected, jobless youth. Schuman further reminds one that economic deprivation among the young has been a key factor sparking the protests in Arab nations since early 2011, and that it was a factor in the London riots later in the year.

He sums things up like this (TIME, p. 28):

“The longer the youth job crisis persists, the more severe the consequences will be for the global economy, in both developed and developing nations. Instead of nurturing the labour force of the future, the world is creating an underclass of millions of disaffected workers …”

What strikes me as especially relevant regarding future prospects, is the remark made by Gianni Rosas, coordinator of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva (quoted by Schuman in TIME, p. 28), that: “We are in a situation where our kids are worse off than we were 20 years ago. We are going backward.” In other words, the neo-liberal world economy, supposedly (according to its free market adherents) best capable of providing “everyone” with a decent livelihood, has failed, or is failing the youth.

And not, as many would argue, because of government interference (in fact, in the US the banks and other corporations had to be rescued by government with taxpayers’ money), but through financial sector greed and irresponsibility.

The effect that these trying circumstances have on individuals varies, of course.

In Japan, where personal honour is still highly valued, especially a man’s, unemployment is so embarrassing that young men in this position sometimes go into complete isolation, and require professional assistance to overcome the psychological resistance to re-entering society in search of a job.

Other young people are spurred into active attempts to deal with the problem, either by economically “risky” entrepreneurial efforts, which dovetail with the existing economy, or — like my ecologically-minded young friend, who is attracted to permaculture — by opting for an alternative, truly “sustainable economy” altogether.

To my mind these are the (young) people who hold the best promise for a better future for everyone — human as well as non-human — on the planet, not only because of their increasing disillusionment with the kind of economy dominating the world, but (perhaps more importantly) because of their acknowledgement that we don’t have another home.

We only have this planet called Earth, and its precious ecological resources therefore have to be rescued for future generations. And this takes ecological commitment — more than can be discerned among the so-called leaders of the world’s nations.

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  • Educational disparities at an international level
  • Does humanity have enough redeeming features to deserve to survive?
  • ‘Only when the last fish has been caught, will you realise that you cannot eat money’
  • The age of anger
    • Dave Harris

      A new geopolitical and economic world order is already in its formation spurred by the greatest world wide recession in living memory, the demise of white supremacist corporate media mind control, and the explosive growth of the internet and social networking. The future is already looking brighter!

      In SA, the ANCYL is reflective of the majority of our youth – the unemployed, landless dispossessed whom, almost twenty years since our liberation, still face racism and economic oppression on daily basis. The time for change is closer than you think!

    • HD

      The youth have always been more rebellious and pliable to all sorts of romantic ideological narratives (especially to the ideological sermons of university professors) – it is part of growing up.

    • HD

      The youth in many developed countries are unemployed – because they are not being allowed to work. The welfare state and entitlement culture has become so overwhelming in these societies that it is actually working against the best interest of its potentially most productive members.

      With all sorts of minimum wage legislation and labour laws the youth are being kept out of jobs by the law book and unions. Just go and have a look at especially southern European countries…

      Secondly, many graduates are unemployed because of all sort of educational policies that promise jobs/university spots without the economy being able to support it. You see the same sort of nonsense in SA, were thousands of young students are encouraged to study humanities & social sciences, when they are better served either not going to university (rather technical or vocational training) or studying somethings which the economy can support and highly values.

      It is no accident that the vast majority of Occupy protesters are middle class humanities and social science students. They have largely been fed the snake oil from all sort of professors and brainwashed into believing that you are entitled to a job regardless of what you study…that you are entitled just because you spend a few years boozing, fooling around and doing a bit of studying…usually at a fair share of mommy/daddy and the taxpayer’s expense.

      It is not pc to say this, but education follows economic realities….

    • HD

      “….And not, as many would argue, because of government interference (in fact, in the US the banks and other corporations had to be rescued by government with taxpayers’ money), but through financial sector greed and irresponsibility.”

      This just illustrates that you have no interest in digging deeper to find out what contributed the financial crisis. That you still belief this, despite numerous readers pointing you to alternative and more complex explanations, indicates that you prefer your simple ideological dichotomy. (Ironically this is exactly what the neo-liberal plutocracy want you to belief).

      I sincerely hope you don’t teach this narrative to your students….

    • Maria

      HD, you are blinded by your own ideological beliefs. If I recall, Bert wrote a piece here on David Harvey’s complex explanation of the financial crisis, which confirms Bert’s own sentiments. And no one would call David Harvey’s account, in The Enigma of Capital, simplistic. Besides, you know as well as everyone else that it is an incontrovertible fact that the banks (and GM, among other companies) were bailed out with taxpayers’ money because they were deemed “too big to fail”. Don’t try to bamboozle readers into thinking that this was not the case! And you can betcha that Bert’s students are well versed in philosophical critiques of capitalism (from Marx to Lacan, Harvey and Wallerstein) as are mine. It is not a mere “narrative” – in a world full of capitalist apologists like yourself, an alternative account of how society should/could be organized is urgently called for. But you would not know about alternatives, would you… And these students are also part of the generation Bert writes about here.

    • Benzo

      The current wave of unemployment reminds me of the stories of my parents about the thirties some 80 years ago. A qualified engineer driving a tram and…..
      The drive for an academic degree as a guarantee for a well paid job…….sorry guys, times over.
      Education and job are not necessarily and directly connected, never have been and never will be unless in a labour market with demand outstripping supply. It seems primarily an economic problem but a.o. created by restrictions imposed on the labour market.
      When unemployment money is better/more than remuneration for work, unemployment will rise in a stagnating economy if labour has the choice.
      The young today should be advised to take on any job for “reasonable” pay and study relevant subjects on the side to broaden their “expertise”.
      The times of the golden watch after 45 year loyal service are over. The carreer path is via multiple jobs in multiple businesses or a focussed carreer in a specialist job which one only gets after getting a record in this specified field.

    • The Village Idiot

      Why should the youth accept that IF they are rendered superfluous by the capitalist system, that they should be grateful for low-paying crappy jobs despite their qualifications, with no end in sight?

      It is a bit rich to tell people time and again they are failures if they can’t buy certain products and then subsequently order them to be happy with a job that pays no more than bread crumbs. The wealthy do not even know what to do with their money to begin with.

      Take a look at how hard Mitt Romney struggles to present himself as an average American, and how disconnected he is from his society. The reverse also holds; identification with political leaders is increasingly strenuous, as they are increasingly seen as lackeys to the economical elite.

      The whole wave of privatization has effectively meant that profits are privatized but risks are socialized – and the trend is to worsen. SA, in a strange way, may project the image of the future of the US and Europe.

      Opting out of the system (in as far as it is possible) is not really a solution. Politicians and corporates can happily ignore the Amish, and it does not slow down their resultant drives to destroy the planet and people’s livelihoods.
      Intentions count for nothing: it is the outcome which has to be judged. The (moral) blindspots of capitalists and their critics does not invalidate truthful.criticism of their actions and the consequences of their behaviours.

    • Wineou

      I am just a simple soul, but I would think that if the supply (of youth) exceeds the demand then the simple solution is to reduce the supply. There are already too many people in the world – polluting it, and turning forests into farmland and farms into housing estates.

      To reduce the number of youth we need to reduce the number of babies being born. With modern methods of contraception this is easy to do. Perhaps we need to get the most creative people in advertising and communication to donate some of their time towards devising methods of persuading everyone to have fewer children. (A little example from the top might help!)

      In the meantime the unemployed could be guided and coached by suitable volunteers to learn skills that are actually in short supply. I am pretty sure that if we had more qualified plumbers and electricians, for example, the high cost of “calling out” one of these types would be reduced. Another useful skill is the ability to communicate clearly in English (I have seen statistics indicating that those who speak good English well tend to be employed first).

      In a recent edition of The Big Break Legacy (SABC2 at 19:30 last Thursday), three young men were each given R1000 and told to start up sustainable businesses over a weekend. They all succeeded, and the winner was the African man who made a profit of over R45,000, with a business supplying and planting indigenous trees in townships. It seems that staff trained by him will continue this…

    • HD


      I know all about the alternatives, after all I was also once I postgraduate student in the social sciences and humanities.

      That is exactly my point – why do you only teach Lacan, Harvey and Wallerstein? Why not Smith, Hayek, Bastiat, Rand, Nozick or any of the numerous contemporary classic liberal/libertarian ppe theorist and philosophers?

      Harvey’s account is among other things Marxist and therefore perfectly in line with a lot of Bert’s own believes (as I read them). So why not read something different to challenge those views, rather than reinforce them?

      Sure, banks were bailed out by taxpayers money, but that is only one piece in a much larger puzzle. Just by examining this one piece a bit closer, you will have to look at the moral hazard created by bailing out banks/big corporate in the past and how these corporations came to be “too big to fail” (corporatism and regulatory capture) in the first instance.

      The whole financial crisis also needs to be seen in the context of cheap money, Fed policies, sovereign debt (in the EU), accounting practices, the role of parastatals and political interest groups in promoting sub-prime mortgages, accounting practices, the SEC rating agencies cartel, Basel rules that allowed lower capital ratios if you held AAA mortgage instruments, etc…

      I don’t see Bert addressing or acknowledging any of these issues? Raising these issues doesn’t make you an apologist for capitalism.

    • http://Newstime Paul Whelan

      It depends what you take education to be for. The first essay I had to write at training college was ‘Education or Indoctrination? – Discuss’.


    • MLH

      It surprises me that no one ever seems to mention the pertinence on the exisiting economy of all these young people being unable to contribute actively to ‘gowing the markets’. Not only are their talents and qualifications wasted, but without incomes, they cannot buy anything.
      How can we expect economic growth with so great a proportion of our people (in SA) either living in poverty or without the funds to create demand? Our market is continually shrinking.
      I agree with HD as far as: better a plumber or electrician than a tourism graduate, but I also agree with Benzo that youngsters need to rethink their definition of ‘reasonable pay’.
      The only thing really growing around here is the population and servicing the poorer among our population could guarantee income (although hard-won income) for life. Why were ideas like the highly successful methane gas toilets built at one school in KZN not immediately replicated by government and private-sector sponsors in rural areas? Why are companies that can now, with new technolgies, build faster, not snapped up by governemnt for RDP housing and school classrooms? There seems to be an idea that anything less than brickwork is not good enough. Looking at where brickwork has got us on RDP housing, one can but wonder…

    • HD

      @ Village Idiot

      The “capitalist system” has largely allowed for many more professions and specialisations to be financially viable, than at every other time in our past. Including supporting more academic, art and performing careers.

      Lets throw your question around…

      Why should you be entitled to an academic or any other job, when you complete a MA (or PhD) in Philosophy, English Literature, Puppeteering (yes you get those) or for than matter IT, Engineering, Accounting etc?

      Sure you studied hard and gained lots of knowledge, but that doesn’t entitle you to a job. Most people learn and work hard. They all have ideal career aspirations. What makes you special?

      Finding a job, in most cases means having a role in producing commodities and providing services that other people value. It is the privileged few that can work purely for self gratification.

      It might seem like you are just another “cog” in the big capitalist machine.

      However, this machine with its specialisation, allows for the mass array of goods and services we have at our disposal – including career paths, social networks, welfare states & entitlements and general high living standards (compared to our ancestors).

      We are all working for the betterment of society and the millions of individual needs of others…

      It strikes me as selfish and full of envy to feel entitled to a good career and lots of money….and very un 99%.

    • Kwame

      Whats interesting for me is that the plight of the economically deprived and dispossesed by an unjust system, has fallen on deaf ears for many centuries. They were disregarded as the ‘voiceless’, ‘under-developed’, ‘dark africa’ etc. And only after the rot has caught up to the West, do we now have a sudden rush for introspection of our current world order and its racist and in-humane character.

      I would say bravo to the youth of the coming generations across the globe. They do not have to accept the current dispensation that promotes institutional corruption and racism, using various legalistic instruments and mind control tactics through our media outlets.

    • John Patson

      There have been many permaculture projects, most last just as long as it takes to start a family and then turn out not to be so permanent after all.
      You need money to give the best to your children and growing your own veg does not make it.
      Sorry to be so down but Occupy St Paul’s (as it was in London) also lasted just as long as it took all the alkies and druggies to find it as a new source of amusement.
      As soon as that happened all the nice, concerned, well-bred youngsters moved out and a good thing for their safety they did so too.
      I hope they feel proud they chased the Dean from his job, what did he ever do against them to deserve that?
      And your definition of peace full protest in Madrid does not match mine — did you not see the millions of euros of damage done by “casseurs” during the protest?
      Never mind the insurance will pay…
      Yes times are hard, and yes in Spain, Italy and France it is difficult for youngsters to get jobs because it is impossible to sack anyone who has a job, so there is zero job mobility.
      But the youngsters are not starving and the most entrepreneurial of them find a way to create wealth, and sooner or later, will give work to the others.
      They will not do so by adopting half-baked Trot philosophies which have ruined every country they have been tried in.

    • Yaj

      You are quite correct, however, for the youth and all of us to deal with the challenges of Peak Oil, climate change, and resource depletion in general we need to change the monetary/banking system as a top priority. We must understand how fractional reserve banking works and why and how it needs to be changed. We need to understand how a money system based on debt and compound interest is the driver of exponential growth which is unsustainable on a finite planet. We need to understand how interest concentrates wealth, increases inequality and perpetuates poverty and debt slavery. We need to understand how it is both practical and possible to have alternative systems with debt-free money, full reserve banking, social credit, public banks, universal basic income, job-sharing and ultimately a steady-state economy based on new better values with sharing and stewardship of our finite resources on a sustainable basis. See for some information. Google Herman Daly and the Centre for the Advancement of a Steady-State Economy (CASSE)

    • The Village Idiot


      “Goods & services” is the realm of the ideological lackeys to capitalism.
      Meditating for 30 minutes a week under the guidance of a supposedly qualified “service renderer”, for the exchange of a few hundred Rand, whilst simultaneously ignoring our spiritual needs for the rest of the week does not make us better human beings.

      Why would I or anyone else who is mentally healthy be interested in goods and services? To render a service is already denying the basic human qualities of said “service”. Think of what prostitution and escort services really amount to, to give but one obvious example.

      I read Bert’s articles, not because he renders a service to me (I think the thought would horrify him), but because I want to make sense of the increasingly irrational world we live in. The computer I use is a tool to me, and for its functionality (i.e. my use) it does not matter one iota if it is produced in 2010 or 1995.

      From a mental health perspective I am quite happy to argue that capitalists and their apologists are mentally unhealthy, and that they strive, just like any other ruling elite of the past, to pass their insanity of as normality.
      You might not agree with my assessment, but that is a different matter. Ultimately, the only argument you present is (economic) might is right. People who are marginalized by the respective elites, increasingly beg to differ.

      Life itself is our main job. Better make certain we live creatively, rather than as slaves to…

    • Aragorn Eloff

      @HD: “why do you only teach Lacan, Harvey and Wallerstein? Why not Smith, Hayek, Bastiat, Rand, Nozick or any of the numerous contemporary classic liberal/libertarian ppe theorist and philosophers”

      Because their theories are facile and their ideological prejudices – which they disavow – tediously obvious.

      Then again, maybe they are taught, even if only (apart from Smith and Bastiat) as case studies in Psych 101 😛

    • Ryan Whittal

      Great article

    • HD

      @Village idiot

      Call if what you want and think about it how you want…Bert can write blogs because he gets paid to teach at NMMU and can use that money to keep himself healthy in every sense.

      He gets compensated for a valued service he delivers to NMMU and students. In turn various other people get compensated for doing jobs and helping produce things that Bert values and uses in his everyday life.

      If this was not the case, Bert, would have to provide for himself in every respect. Now, that would not be much fun – laboring just to ensure basic necessities and having no time to pursue anything that you value because you are too busy surviving.

      It is an example of how markets with a common medium of exchange coordinates various diverse self-interest to produce outcomes valued by society.

      As John Patson points out you can only get so much out of some of these socialist utopian schemes before you sacrifice an awful lot of things we take for granted today.

      My point is simply that markets allow for coordination, specialisation, more choice and innovation on a much bigger scale. Without taking into consideration these finer points it is irresponsible to dismiss them out of hand.

      Now we can talk about the right institutional environment for markets…for what it is worth I also prefer free markets over corporatism or “neo-liberal capitalism”.

    • HD


      Yes, well things are only obvious to the ideologically rigid. It is still slightly amusing how academics can get all worked up about hegemony, critical theory and alternative critiques – accept when it applies to their own theories and world views 😉

    • The Village Idiot

      “If this was not the case, Bert, would have to provide for himself in every respect. Now, that would not be much fun – laboring just to ensure basic necessities and having no time to pursue anything that you value because you are too busy surviving.”

      And yet you argue that young people should be happy doing that. Contradiction much?

    • dimwit

      Try not telling them that the world will end unless they agree to a massively less advantageous economic model that their parents such as you Bert, enjoyed. This is not limited to so-called privileged white youngsters. The western economic model has and continues to deliver humanitarian and economic aid to the undeveloped world where their own leadership has failed to and provides the only form of refuge for the dispossessed, oppressed and hopeless.

    • HD

      @The Village Idiot

      Perhaps you should have a look at Peter Boettke latest book – “Economics By and For Human Beings”.

      From the book review:

      “Economics puts parameters on people’s utopias.”

      “Yes. That’s exactly it. That’s why the politicians hate economics. That’s why the media are so… selective in which economists they call on to talk about policy.”

      “That’s why the economics departments in colleges are put down by the sociologists, philosophers, literature professors and just about everyone else who has romantic longings for a coerced utopia.”

      “Economics is about human choice in the real world”

      “We do not need to understand economics in order to experience the benefits of freedom of exchange and production. But we may very well need to understand economics in order to sustain and maintain the institutional framework that enables us to realize the benefits that flow from freedom of exchange and production.”

    • HD

      For those that get all worked up about capitalism and tangled up in the definitions – I would recommend having a look at Gary Chartier & Charles W. Johnston’s new book:

      “Market not Capitalism – individual anarchism against bosses, inequality, corporate power and structured poverty”

      Especially Johnston’s “Markets freed from Capitalism” chapter.

      Johnson spend a fair time distinguishing between the different conceptual meanings of markets – (a) voluntary relationship and (b) the cash nexus. He discusses how they are related, but how government intervention and corporate lobbying can distort the latter into captured markets that serve the interest of big business & plutocracy and increases inequality (social / economic), leading to alienation etc…

      His general thesis is that in modern markets the cash-nexus is artificially expanded, and forcibly deformed, into the patterns of actually-existing capitalism, by means of government privilege to big players; creating the many monopolies (he specifically mentions 10) that provide some of the most pervasive and intense points of force that dispossess working people, favour big centralized forms of business, and coercively favor capitalistic, formalized, commercialized uses of resources over non-commercialized alternatives.

      I agree with a lot of what these guys say and perhaps many will find their left-libertarian rhetoric…

    • Garg Unzola

      Ah, I see another post on economics while still being ignorant of economics. Of course I could point out the obvious fallacies, but they’re far too obvious by now and it’s getting tedious.

      Aragorn, how’s the bloc parties going? Found a way around plexiglass yet?

    • Ernst Marais

      “The youth have always been more rebellious and pliable to all sorts of romantic ideological narratives (especially to the ideological sermons of university professors)”.
      Well said!

      There are a number of eco-friendly developments being touted in the PE-Garden Route area.
      Idyllic pictures are painted of growing your own organic food, getting milk from the communal farm, handcraft driven economy.
      I have yet to see such a development being sustainable. Those that can afford to live there had to make their money elsewhere.

      You cannot have a 21st Century life expectancy and comforts on a 19th Century economic approach.

    • The Creator

      The problem is that disenchanted people do not change anything. The powers that be are very happy to see a lot of disenchanted people. With any luck, they’ll end up completely hopeless, and that’s perfect.

      What we need are a lot more enchanted young people. I don’t see much evidence of this, unfortunately. Harris’s remark about the ANC Youth League is probably closer to the mark, but we can all see how their attempt to change anything ended. The Occupy movement is not going anywhere. Young South Africans are disorganised and despairing.

      It would be nice to be able to agree with you, but I lived through the 1980s when the youth had a real sense of hope and purpose — until we all got rounded up or shot.

    • Garg Unzola

      But seriously, here’s a piece on the informal economy in Egypt and how the Arab uprisings may not have had poverty or income inequality at its core:

      Turns out people like to own stuff, so we can be mystical and technical about private versus personal property, but it doesn’t matter unless this basic human need is met.

      If you are more familiar with Žižek and Gramsci than with Hayek and Friedman, then here are a few starting points:

      Eventually someone will read them and the content of the economically minded posts on Thoughtleader would improve. I hope.

    • The Village Idiot


      Since you are under the illusion that repeated Ctrl+C & Ctrl+V will win you arguments, think again. Laziness cannot replace intellectual rigor (not that I am going to display any, but why should I?).

      Just going by the Boettke-review you have provided, biased as it undoubtedly is (that is yet another “advance” in capitalism: PR and being creative with the truth – being oblivious to ideological blind spots and hailing such myopia as clairvoyance).

      The assumption that most people have the freedom to choose as they please, even within the “realities” of economics is spurious at best; an ideological lie you share with the mainstream “economists” you seemingly so detest. Judging by the review itself it is already in sharp contradiction with the realities of people’s lived lives.

      Any argument that most of the foundation pillars and conclusions of Austrian thinking have been discredited and proven to be incorrect will not change your stance (insofar the Austrian model is falsifiable – or is that criticism only reserved for Marxism?).

      I could tell you to read plenty of books from the other side, and you’d dismiss them summarily. I am sure you will show me and others the same courtesy – the same courtesy you have been showing for quite a while in these blogs.

    • HD

      @Village Idiot

      The one lacking intellectual rigor is clearly on display here…

      Why is it that you need to resort to personal attacks and emotive language? No amount of adjectives and ideological straw men will convince me – it lowers the debate, tempting me to respond in kind and is likely to negatively influence neutral observers that want to examine both sides. How about trying to address the points that I am making?

      Boettke writes about economics with great passion. This book is an attempt to communicate that passion to the ordinary reader and why he feels economics is so fundamental to understanding and describing the social world.

      Yes, Boettke is a free-market Austrian, but to characterise him as a narrow ideologue only exposes that you have never read him. He regularly embraces a variety of economist/thinkers that cannot be said to be Austrian and his whole research program is about winning the battle for ideas within the mainstream economic departments (no ideological cop out here – he is clear make better more persuasive arguments – don’t gripe about ideological bias). See

      As for dismissing books from the other side summarily – please point out the occasions on which I have done so. (the guilty party is pretty evident from even just this blog).

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Kwame, this article doesn’t applies to Africa because most of black Africa have over seventy per cent of the people are unemployed. However, many African leaders are giving contracts to China and the Chinese are bringing their workers to perform the work while the African workers are unemployed. There is nothing wrong with the system because if one wants to go out and start a business, one can do so to create wealth for oneself and the country.Castro has just told the Cuban people to go out and start their own business to make money because the state could no longer take care of them.

    • Garg Unzola

      As a curiosity, how many people under the age of 25 are ordinarily employed? Surely, most people under 18 are not employed but still at school. Being employed and under 18 is rare. And then many people go to study for 3 years, at least. Most of my varsity companions didn’t work and study simultaneously. It appears to me that it is entirely reasonable to expect that most of the youth would experience unemployment until the age of 21 at least (not counting post-graduate study, which could count as employment in a way too?).

    • Dimwit

      The Clinton and Blair governments deregulated the banks in the late ’90’s (Mervyn King admitted this just yesterday) in order to stall a dip in the business cycle threatening their political survival. This is being fixed and providing the present major powers deliver cheap energy such as gas to their citizens, the business cycle should kick up again

    • HD


      I find the deregulation argument misleading – how much of that was scrapping regulations as opposed to amending regulation in more favorable terms for big business? (For instance Glass/Steagall was not repealed in its entirety – a line or two was changed in more than 100 pages added)

      Legislation actually increased in pace during this period, but there is no doubt that it was written in more favourable terms – a consequences of the rise of “neo-liberal capitalism” among the ruling classes, if you like. (Actually only 3 really big de-regulations acts took place in the last 30 years – vastly outnumbered by new regulations on national, regional and local level)

      I think this highlights the danger of regulatory capture and the folly of thinking that you can regulate desired outcomes in complex systems (like finance) with complex regulations…

    • Shmerk

      I am not a philosopher, economist or an academic, so my ideas might come over as crude or unsophisticated, but I am one of the individuals from the younger generation (I am 32) Bert refers to that decided to “opt out”. So I thought I’d chime in to deliver my viewpoint as well. My wife and I left our well-paying corporate jobs 4 years ago to re-evaluate our lives and make sense of where we were. Working 65 hour weeks to buy a nicer home and car (and not really being able to enjoy the home as we were almost never there) just didn’t make any sense for us at that point any more.

      What I want to say here is not the above, but rather that what we observed and what informed our decision to move to a cheaper country and create income from a more natural and stress free vocation was that we felt the “system” as it currently operates is no longer sustainable – and I think this is the crux here. It is no longer sustainable for the planet, and when we truly looked inside ourselves, we realised it was no longer sustainable for us as humans. No amount of intellectual analysis will change the fact that the way capitalism has been practiced over the last century and the way humanity as a collective has lived needs to drastically change in order for us to survive. Continued below…

    • Shmerk

      People seem to be blind to the fact that we are currently experiencing collapse as a society – it need not be overly dramatic and I for one have no idea how far or drastic this will end up being, but it is obvious to anyone with open eyes that we are experiencing collapse at this moment. Just because we aren’t calling it that yet, does not mean it isn’t true.

      And whether people are spiritual or not, we as western society have completely lost our connection with ourselves, with our children, with what community ought to mean to us. Anyone who does a little bit of self-inquiry, in my opinion, will find that this way of life is also not sustainable to our spirit any longer, and I use the word spirit here as loosely as possible, for even a staunch atheist surely believes in the value of life quality and inner peace.

      We simply cannot continue the way we have been in the recent past. Hopefully we can do something about it soon, but if not, we will simply be forced to comply with the natural laws of our universe. I feel that many of the “disenchanted” youth may be feeling exactly this, even if they aren’t cognisant of it in this way, or can verbalise it decently. continued again..

    • Shmerk

      We can look at economic causes, social causes, we can say “Take a shower and get a job” but this is just plainly naïve and unrealistic, in my humble opinion. Permaculture projects fail as it just doesn’t fit into consensus reality for many, especially in a country as scientifically materialist as South Africa (at least, in the educated sector of society.)

      What is relevant now for us all is to look to the future with mindfulness and hope and together create something more wholesome than what we have. I don’t believe that we need to know all the facts of exactly why it went wrong – but to acknowledge that we collectively got into this mess – whether steered by greed or ignorance – and to take responsibility for it by taking responsibility of our own actions, motivations and thoughts. We can create something more coherent – I truly believe that. And each person would be doing this in their unique way; there cannot be any other way. Just how boring would a uniform world be? It is obvious that we can’t rely on the establishment or our current world leaders to effect change. I applaud the permaculture enthusiasts and their friends; at least these individuals are doing something concrete. We need the thinkers, but we certainly need the doers at this juncture in time, else we’re all doomed to learn our lessons the hard way.

    • Garg Unzola

      But HD, how can these be? Surely, the Watchmen do not need Watching? I mean we just need regulating bodies like the SIFMA, vote for the right guy like Obama to put some honest guy in charge of those bodies and they can regulate the fear and the greed out of people?

      I mean it’s not like regulators are ever corrupt people?

      And obviously it was deregulation that led to the financial crisis?

      Obviously, you just need to cater for Quetelet‘s average man. You know, for equality just skim a little off the top and spread it around and everything will be great. I mean it’s not like there are any gaps in statistical and applied probabilistic knowledge. Except of course when they tell us things we don’t like hearing, like absolute poverty is decreasing wherever markets are freer.

      It may also be of interest to note that derivatives were invented by Émilie du Châtelet:

    • bert

      Shmerk – WONDERFUL! I like your thoughtful response very much. What you articulate is exactly the kind of mind-shift that I am picking up among many young people. What is especially striking, is that one is more likely to eencounter this among younger people than the older generation. But I guess it makes sense, because tomorrow belongs to you.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Bert, the same thing was said in the 60s about the youth and look at those same people now sitting on the boards of big companies. Bill gates was a long hair hippie and look at him now. In the US the youth all want to live the good and this is why these youth are trying to make a lot of money.

      @HD, the Glass/Steagall was changed to allow the saving banks to become investment banks and this when the gambling started and got out of control. This bill was passed by the Republican controlled Congress and bill Clinton signed the bill. Banks from all over the world were coming to the US investing in the loans in the housing market and look at what happened the bubble burst. If Obama hadn’t acted many of the pension funds would have been wipe out.

    • HD


      Economist and financial experts are divided over how much blame could be attributed to Glass/Steagall or Gramm/Leach/Bliley which allowed commercial, investment and security firms to merge…some even arguing that it helped during the aftermath in allowing failing investment banks to merge with commercial banks and avoid bankruptcy.

    • Richard

      All ages of humanity since the rise of early civilisations have had some central raison d’etre. In mediaeval Europe it was to get closer to God, later it became perhaps perfection in art. For the South African experience, think of the British Empire, children of which we all are in some way. Apart from the commercial and economic incentive, which was the honey to draw the workers, the internal propulsion of that endeavour was that it was a civilising mission. Hardships were borne for its fruition, the economic systems imported were there to power it forward. Once empires became unfashionable, that central tenet disappeared, but it left behind it the means of production it had introduced. But these simply replicated and proliferated for their own sakes; the civilising mission was transmuted into concepts such as “standards of living”. Basically, the ghost had gone out of the machine, and the central motivations became peripheral: Black Africans (in the South African scenario) were turned from beneficiaries of some mission, into simple units of production, working rather meaninglessly to preserve some edifice whose purpose was long-since defunct. Extrapolate from this to the rest of the world, and the picture becomes clear: we are void of purpose other than the simple continuation of the present. How bereft of imagination we have become as a species! In the 1960s and 1970s we seemed to have the mission of migration into the rest of the universe to drive us forward (contd)

    • Richard

      perhaps the equivalent of heaven for mediaeval Europeans. In other words, the efforts of the present were towards some greater good. However, that notion has died, to be replaced with societal goals such as comfort and enhancing life-expectancy. People who previously would have toiled in agriculture and had their rewards in a way that did not incorporate the notion of an accumulation of goods, now will work for nothing other than the accumulation of goods. Where previously they will have worked in some sort of harmony with nature, now they will work, in many cases, in ways that harm the natural balance. And yet, on balance, they will be no happier, or fulfilled, or filled with added satisfaction. Somehow we have become machines working towards we know not what. The very apposite biblical quote comes to mind: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

      And the beneficiaries of this strange world, the people who have large amounts of capital, waste and squander it. Where in the past, it behoved people occupying such positions to endow institutions and use their power to what was considered social good (perhaps think of Elizabeth Fry or the captains of industry in places like Manchester) that is now very much the exception.

      But what can interrupt this fire, now that it burns brightly everywhere? I cannot imagine that, but I am fairly certain that returning to earlier models (permaculture et al.) is not in the offing.

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