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Meet the Economist Behind the "Me" Generation

Meet the Economist Behind the "Me" Generation

Angela Colley

Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Baby Boomers get a bad rap when it comes to socioeconomics, especially compared to their socially-conscious millennial counterparts. It’s long been popular to argue Boomers are downright selfish in their economic worldview. 

But have you ever wondered why? In a fiery op-ed, Linette Lopez—senior finance correspondent for Business Insider and particularly adept at breaking down economics for millennial readers—argues the “me generation” took root with one economist and some good timing. 

While boomers were entering the workforce and joining the political scene, economist Milton Friedman was starting to make waves. Friedman, an advisor to President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, helped popularize the neoclassical theory of economics, which was right at home in the “greed is good” decade. His ideas remained influential well into the 2000s. Lopez writes: 

“According to this theory, every human action is motivated by selfishness. As such, all humans can be motivated into doing anything as long as there is an economic incentive for it. In fact, no one does or should look out for the good of the collective — corporations should worry only for their shareholders and not for their workers or their customers, for example. Individuals should think only about their own bottom line. It’s all that matters to them really, anyway — the me, here, and now.”

Lopez contends that influence led to the failed trickle-down economics of the Regan era, as well as controversial for-profit systems from education to incarceration.

But with a powerhouse of a generation starting to come into their own, America’s economic policies might look quite different in the coming years. As Lopez says about millennials: “They do not benefit from the selfishness of their parents. And hopefully they will not emulate it either.”

Check out the rest of “How Baby Boomers Became The Most Selfish Generation” at Business Insider.

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