Review of reviews: Books
Book of the week
A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America
At long last, “the backlash to the Boomers is at hand,” said R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. in The Washington Times. Decades after it ought to have become clear to all that my Baby Boomer generation was destroying America, a sharp Gen X writer has arisen to finally take my birth cohort to task. In A Generation of Sociopaths, Bruce Cannon Gibney, a 42-year-old venture capitalist, paints “a persuasive and frequently hilarious portrait” of the horde of white Americans born between 1940 and 1964, said Timothy Bracy in Men’s Journal. Raised in comfort and certain of their righteousness, the Boomers in Gibney’s account are forever running up debt and rigging the tax code to benefit themselves. And though even Gibney concedes not every member of the Me Generation is a sociopath, “the overall critique feels eerily on the mark.”
At times, Gibney’s indictment goes a “just a wee bit” too far, said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. Sure, it’s true that since fellow Boomers Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich rose to power in the early 1990s, the whole generation of leaders has failed to act on global warming or runaway entitlement spending; watched inequality spike; and presided over declining faith in virtually every institution. “But Gibney blames the Boomers for everything,” including abortion, divorce, inflation, crime, and even adjunct professors. His disdain is so indiscriminate that both evangelical leader Pat Robertson, born in 1930, and Marco Rubio, born in 1971, are portrayed as accessories to the Boomers’ idiotic narcissism. If Gibney looked closer, he might realize that the Boomers created a mess because they’re so divided—not because they’re all the same. Counterculture types and their opposites have been at war for decades, unable to compromise on any issue.
A Generation of Sociopaths shouldn’t be treated as sober social science, said John Semley in the Toronto Globe and Mail. “The book feels most useful as a forceful, polemical riposte to a decade’s worth of risible op-eds about Millennials being lazy, narcissistic, unmotivated, and blasé.” Boomer thought leaders have had their say; now comes the younger set’s retort. Still, given the politics of resentment that govern today’s America, “one wonders how useful the widening of intergenerational divides really is.” Unless people under 52 are ready to launch a revolution, they have to work with America’s graying cohort of “sociopathic” leaders until the Boomers all die off.