AMERICAN VALUES — “That Used To Be Us”

From That Used To Be Us, by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum; Chapter 13, “Devaluation:”

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, Wikimedia Commons

“. . . something else that happened with the end of the Cold War and the passing of the baton from the Greatest Generation to the baby boom generation: an erosion of important, traditional American values that long underpinned our public and commercial life. . . .

“A well-functioning political system must be rooted in something deeper than itself:   a culture, which is most vividly expressed through certain values. We believe that as the boomer generation has assumed a dominant place in American society, the country has strayed from three of the core values on which American greatness depended in the past.

“The first of these changes involves a shift from long-term investment and delayed gratification, which were characteristic of the Greatest Generation, to short-term gratification and get-it-now thinking, which alas is typical of the baby boom generation.

“The second change is the loss of confidence in our institutions and the authority of their leaders . . .

“. . . loyalty in the face of hardship. There is no more sustainable value than that. This contrasts with opportunism in the face of hardship. There is nothing more situational than that. . . .

“. . . The drift from sustainable to situational values helped to trigger America’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. From Wall Street to Main Street, far too many Americans abandoned the save-and-invest mentality of their Depression-era parents for what became the prevailing ethos of the day, which bankers call IBG/YBG: Get whatever you can now and either ‘I’ll be gone’ before the bill comes due or ‘you’ll be gone’ before you really have to pay the piper.”

“That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.” It’s a book everyone should read before the 2012 election.

— John Hayden

4 thoughts on “AMERICAN VALUES — “That Used To Be Us”

  1. How true. I am sometimes embarrassed to be a boomer, but I take solace in the fact that my parents “raised me better than that”. I am also encouraged by the number of boomers I encounter who either never bought into that “counter culture” thinking or who have now abandoned it.


  2. Thanks for commenting. Interesting that you mentioned counterculture. Thinking about the history of our baby boomer generation, I remember the first countercultural changes came in the 1960s and 1970s, with the Civil Rights movement, the antiwar movement, and the women’s rights movement. Those counter-cultural developments were about justice and freedom. (And they were symbolized by fashion. College fashion changed abruptly from preppy to blue jeans over the summer and fall of 1968.)

    Then there was the hippy era of the late 60s and early 70s, with the drug culture and “free love”, where our generation tested the boundary between freedom and hedonism. No doubt there was some overlap between the first part of the counterculture (the human rights era) and the second part (the hippie era). Seems to me the hippy era went to excess and then faded by the end of the 1970s.

    The counterculture Friedman and Mandelbaum are talking about in Chapter 13 is more of a business and economic values change, which began in the 1980s and continued through the 1990s and into the new century. The economic cultural change, characterized by greed and materialism, seems to me to be in part a swing of the pendulum or a reaction against the human rights and hippy cultures. Possibly the hedonistic gene of the hippy movement mutated into the greed gene of the 1980s.

    A little bit of greed and materialism probably wouldn’t have been fatal, but greed and materialism led to unrestrained free-market capitalism, possibly a reflection of the hippy era excesses.


  3. America has become a nation of losers. Always whining and crying about something – bunch of babies. Wanting someone else to do something – sign of laziness. Wanting a bigger mommy state – evil and lazy thieves.

    Where are the self-reliant, hard working, can do, competent people that made this nation great? Is there anyone with values left in the United States?

    The United States could compete in the world if Americans were not such losers.

    Do not comment about how unfair the world is. The rules are natural rules, so adjust, adapt, and grow up.

    Censorship is evil.


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