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In this eye-opening episode, James Connor sits down with historian, economist, and demographer Neil Howe to dive deep into the implications of generational trends on our society and economy. Neil, co-author of “The Fourth Turning,” discusses the cyclical nature of history and what the current “crisis” phase means for your financial future. Discover how to navigate these turbulent times with insights on protecting and building your wealth amidst looming economic shifts. Don’t miss Neil’s expert analysis on how generational dynamics influence today’s investment landscape and what it means for your portfolio.


James Connor 0:05
Hi, and welcome to Wealthion I’m James Connor. Today my guest is Neil Howe. And Neil is a historian, an economist, and a demographer and studies generational trends, and how these trends impact society and the economy. Neil has written several books, including his latest book, The fourth turning is here, and we’re going to discuss with the other concepts behind this book. Neil, thank you very much for joining us today. How are things in West Virginia?

Neil Howe 0:31
Very good. Thank you, Jim.

James Connor 0:33
Neil, before we examine your latest book, can you provide the backstory on how you and your partner Bill Strauss discovered that generational changes come in cycles or waves?

Neil Howe 0:44
Well, it was, it was accidental. And it wasn’t really what we were originally exploring. We wrote together for a long time. I mean, Bill passed away back in 2007. But our first book generations came out in 1991, a long time ago, and it was a generational biography of American history. So we, we told American history is a sequence of a kind of generational story, starting with the great migration in New England, the 1630s, and kind of going forward, right? And what we noticed, and that was our object, right to write a generational history, we were boomers, and noticing that our generation had always been obsessed with the idea of generations. And we’re interested in how different generations had different aspirations and wanted to leave behind different kinds of endowments than other general. In other words, how did generational differences start? And and why don’t we get an historical perspective? Well, what we noticed is that not only our generations have always been very different, going back to the very beginning. But these, these end, very striking, you know, one, one generation comes of age during a war that the next generation are children during the war and see the whole thing very differently. The life lessons from that conflict, very different, right. And as they age, these generations just think differently. They have different attitudes, that different behaviors, they have different life perspectives. But one thing we noticed very early on is that not only are these generations different, these generational differences come in patterns, right? Certain kinds of generations always follow other generations, for example, a generation of anti establishment idealists, you know, raging against the powers that be and want to create some idealistic better world and to some extent, that actually characterize the Puritans under John Winthrop, you know, a heavenly city on a hill and all that. I mean, you know, transplanting it to Boston. Well, the generation after them became widely known, not just in England, but in the colonies is the Cavalier generation, a generation attracted to wealth, riches, materialism, not all that different from Gen X following boomers, you know what I mean, kind of one to the next. And what we found is that these kinds of differences, repeat themselves in American history. For example, following a generation like, like the Cavaliers are the actors who were born in the 1960s and 70s. You very often, at the end of that have a moral panic over how badly kids have been treated, and you suddenly have a much more protected generation. Of course, that gave rise to a generation we described. In our original book, the millennial generation we, we coined that term. So if you want to know where that name comes from, that’s from from Bill and from me, we recognize that the children born after 19, that in 1981 92, were much more protected, much more fussed over and much more special, you know, all those things, we think about all the all the minivans and all the special protective gadgets we put around them. And the first comer to that generation was going to come of age actually would become the High School Class of 2000, which is why we called them millennial generation, right? We were looking ahead to the year 2000. We said millennial makes sense. So if you want to, if you want to know where that is. But that is a pattern. We saw something very similar after the last generation who were the children in the 1880s and 1890s, followed by the GI generation, who later became known as the greatest generation, they fought World War Two, they were the generation the New Deal and the Great Depression, but they were very protected children. We had the progressive presidencies after the turn of the century, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson in a very important part of the progressive movement was the protection of children and we forget about that was a huge moral panic of your children back then. We wanted to get we wanted to get to You know, child labor laws, you know, suddenly with teeth, we started giving children allowances for good behavior rather than letting them work and cigar wrapping factories, you know, for 12 hours a day. We didn’t like them to be run over by streetcars in the cities, we did everything we could do to enclose and protect their, their childhood. The Harrison Drug Act kept drugs away from kids. We all remember back in 1900, Coca Cola had the real thing, right. And there was a lot of drugs out there for kids. And suddenly, we all need to protect them. Ultimately, prohibition itself was an attempt to keep alcohol away from family life and away from kids. And that had a profound impact on the type of generation that GIS became everyone says that the World War Two made the GIS into a separate generation. That is not true. The GI generation, the generation of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, you know, back in those 1930s movies, even Jimmy Stewart was very different. Even before World War Two, and a lot of our book talks about how these generational how this generational formation happens, Sony to answer your question, we discovered this, these patterns, we were not seeking them. And it was actually an unexpected result of our research. And, and later on, we wrote a book we wrote, we wrote a book. And you know, we’ve written several books together in generations. But later on in 1997, we wrote a book called The fourth turning. And that was an attempt to sort of turn it around instead of looking at generations and then sort of an implicit cycle, we looked at the cycle itself, right. And one thing that that is very, that is consistent with this cycle. And I think, in fact, the two are kind of causally wed together, is a very interesting fact about American history. And in fact, Anglo American history going way back many centuries, and that is about every long human lifetime, about every 80 or 100 years, we have this enormous series of events, usually involving great conflict, which redefines our civic world, our Political Constitution, the world of infrastructure, economics, politics, right, our public world. And we had in the, in the colonies, and certainly in Britain itself, we had the last the last quarter of the of the 17th century, which was not just the Glorious Revolution that Bacon’s Rebellion and King Philip’s War. It was a horrible period of sort of civic chaos, creative reconstruction and violence, which which Jefferson looked back to later on, he called bacon’s, Bacon’s Rebellion, America’s first revolution. And, and of course, about a century later, we had the American Revolution, right and about, again, long human lifetime later, we had the Civil War. And then the same period, we had World War Two in the Great Depression. And then the same period, here we are, right, so we’re in the next fourth turning. And, and I think there’s a reason for this, it’s generational forgetting the generations which are shaped by those events, become very powerful civic generations very good at not only creating but running, strong civic institutions, and when they fade away, when they pass completely out. And even the children of those eras become a begin to fade from power. Another crisis occurs, right? And and roughly halfway in between these, these great civic events are the Great Awakenings of American history. And of course, these are very conveniently in American history. These are number two, we call them the first Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the third great awakening, and so on. And many historians call that the late 60s and 70s, America’s fourth or fifth Great Awakening, depending on whether you want to start your account with, you know, Jonathan Winthrop or John Edwards, you know which century you want to start your account. But I think these are periods very unlike these fourth turnings, where we call fourth turnings, the Civic reconstruction areas where instead of reinventing the outer world, rebuilding the outer world, we rebuild the inner world, right? So these are the periods when we reinvent the culture, music, religion, and anything having to do with meaning, of course, this is when boomers came of age, right? And so boomers like to think they have a monopoly on meaning and they they will until the time they die. This was John McCain’s quip about Boomer John Mayer Kane would have been a silent generation. He was born before the boomers obviously, he ran for the presidency back in 2008. Lost he was one of the very few silent to retrieve and run for office in America silent have not been a powerful political generation, they finally got a President Joe Biden. And now I think we understand why not many silent have been elected. So there you are. But John McCain once said about boomers, he said, Everything they touch becomes more meaningful, but less effective. So you know, I think we can sort of say that’s a fair portrayal of boomers. And and here they are, right. They are now America’s senior leadership generation, presiding over a fourth turning the pattern that a generation born just after a crisis, indulgently, raised in the aftermath of the crisis and coming of age with an awakening. Later on, in its old age. Presiding over the next crisis, is a pattern that’s been repeated again, and again, you think of Abraham Lincoln and and Emerson and Thoreau and Walt Whitman, and that that generation, that transcendental generation, they were entering old age of the Civil War. You think of the generation born after the Civil War, they were the wise old men of the New Deal and World War Two. This is a generational pattern. This has fascinated this, this fascinated us, and we’ve written quite a bit about it. And, and I will say this, and then I’ll, I’ll stop. So you can ask me more questions. But I will say this, that our basic thesis has not changed since that first book in 1991. I mean, the basic timing of it, what we predict what we predicted back then was way in the future. Today, we’re here, and hence the title of my most recent book, the fourth turning is here. They the publisher insisted on that title. That was that was Simon and Schuster. They said, now you got to have I said, let’s have some other title hanging on tight, kind of tired of that. No, no, you got to put that on the cover. So we did that. And I think actually, it does justice to the book. Because what it does is it brings this whole thesis up to today. And I think what we do in this book, which we didn’t do in the 1997 book, which which a lot of people have read is talk in much more detail about crisis, about how it actually starts, how it evolves, how it ends, and in which directions it could go, it usually involves conflict and big question now, of course, is it going to be mainly internal or external conflict? Yeah, that’s, that’s how that started.

James Connor 12:51
Very interesting points there. And I think one of the things that really stood out to me in your comments was about child labor, child labor laws. And the this is something we don’t even think about now, even though that wasn’t too many years ago. But now, you know, kids are in school, I don’t know, eight hours a day they come home, they might watch Netflix for a couple of hours, then get on their PlayStation for a couple of hours, then maybe go to hockey practice or football practice. And yeah, you know, maybe not even 100 years ago, they were out in the fields right, tending to their crops or

Neil Howe 13:23
Unfortunately now they’re spending five hours on Tiktok and it makes me wonder maybe that’s maybe what we’re used to have wasn’t so bad, but anyway, I guess. But your point your point is granted, you know, that it is there are huge changes. Obviously there’s secular, you know, big changes in how we live, but there is a profound cyclical pattern to how these things are introduced. Back when Gen Xers were kids, no one cared about anything. You know that no one cared about protecting them. No one even cared if they’re wearing a seatbelt. You just told kids to do this, you know or something you know, and and the devices you put on your stoves and your doors you did with with back in the 70s you did with cellophane or rubber bands, they had no products for it was a huge industry that came about in the 1980s. Think about this father’s present at the birth of their children. In the late 1970s. It was only about 20%. By the late 1980s. Thanks to the Lamaze movement that was a big Boomer deal back then. It was about it was about 65%. Today, it’s about 80% Fathers present at the birth of their kids. So these have profound influences on how a generation is shaped. Those influences are, as always, after the generations strengths and weaknesses. I mean, one of the great strengths of actors is that yeah, there were throwaway kids and they grew up in the era of child has double horror movies. I mean You know, no one really cared much about kids. If anything, the only the only interesting conversation was how you could prevent giving birth to them. I mean, these are the first kids people took pills not to have and then it 60s And they there were the period of a huge decline in the fertility rate both in Canada by the way in any United States. And and and exercise understood that in the era of the No Nope, no fault divorce and the huge divorce revolution and no one really took their interest much at heart. And they grew up to be somewhat like Tatum O’Neal, you know, in those movies, she did like Paper Moon, they were hard kids, you didn’t want to hug these kids. And but that was his strength, right? Because they knew how the world really was at a very young age. And everyone thought that was really great and just suck them and the reality early and and that has given some real strength to exercise, they are very good at handling reality, being survivors think of all these words that have followed them in the pop culture as they grown older. And very good at handling risks, very good at going off the grid and knowing how to behave when the system isn’t working. I think millennials who are much more good, much better at at forming and functioning in groups and forming communities are may not be good, and may not be as good as that, you know, off the grid survival aspect of life. And one fascinating thing about looking at generations is as the age and layer over each other. There was Francois Letra, he was a French sociologist, he wrote a book called Social generations and he said that generations follow each other like tiles on a roof. You know, when you think about age and and time, right, we all have these diagonal lines. And that’s sort of how generations fit together. Right? But as you have these different generations aging on top of each other, so to speak, each brings something different, right? Each bring something important that society needs. And I do think that that that different generations is a case of complementarity. Yeah, they have conflicts, or they have disagreements, but overall, the result has been complimentary.

James Connor 17:27
So Neil, you mentioned that your latest book is titled The fourth turning is here. Maybe you can just touch on that and provide the just binder for those people who might not be familiar with it.

Neil Howe 17:39
Yeah, well, it it takes the same basic thesis of original book, but it it. It it brings it up to date. I mean, you know, we talk about we talk about Trump, we talk about the current kind of wave of populism and authoritarianism coming around the globe. I talk more in this book than we did in the original about generational rhythms as a global phenomenon, not just a US phenomenon or American phenomenon. The fact is, is that World War Two in the Great Depression were global crises, right. And that we had a we it impacted not just America, obviously, but the entire English speaking world, all of Europe, including Russia and Asia, I mean, East Asia, South Asia, India, achieved its independence. My God, all of East Asia went through absolutely traumatic period. And then in the 1970s, the world went through an awakening. It wasn’t just in Berkeley, or Columbia University, it was in Paris, it was in Prague, it was in Milan it was in it was everywhere it was in it was in Beijing. I mean, that was the time of the of the Red Guard. And the the cultural gent generation revolution, born after the the real Chinese Civil War and the revolution, they’re throwing away 2000 years of Confucian culture. It was certainly all over Latin America, this rage of young people, against the powerful institutions built by their you know, World War two winning parents, right? This was globe. This wasn’t just America. And this is one of the reasons why we find these patterns toward you know, very often Boomer aged, ethnocentric rulers, you know, like Narendra Modi or Xi Jinping, or, you know, the, the new guy who just got in Malaysia. I mean, you can go around the world now, just point them out, are the way they are. It’s not just Trump. You know, it’s not just even variable scenario. I mean, it’s it’s all over the place and why this happens? We think we can explain it. Right.

James Connor 20:05
And you touched on something I just want to clarify what you said the 1960s was a period of awakening. And yet, we saw a lot of turmoil during the 1960s, with the assassination of JFK, MLK. Also, with Robert Kennedy awakenings,

Neil Howe 20:20
the awakenings involve a tremendous amount of argument and violence. I mean, that is typical of awakenings. Another awakening as the the English Civil War, you know, we’d be headed, we’d be headed Charles the First. But the what would what is characteristic of an awakening is that it’s tearing down the system, not so much. Not so much banding together and building up a new system. I think that was the difference between the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, right thing, the Civil War gave rise to a regime which quickly, you know, disappeared, we had the restoration, you know, it gave rise to nothing permanent. The Glorious Revolution on the other hand, that was a crisis era that was a fourth turning, and it gave rise to something permanent afterward, right, that lasted. That is the key difference between an awakening and a crisis. And awakening is youth rising up to, to overthrow institutions that are too strong, and to end to allow more individualism to thrive. A crisis is when youth band together to reinforce and save institutions which are too weak. Right. And that’s the fundamental difference from today. I think millennials are an order seeking generation. They’re not an order fighting generation. I mean, I have Millennials I, you know, I talk to millennials about what boomers did back in the late 1960s. And 70s. We said, you know, income inequality, we hated it. It was this huge monolithic middle class, we thought it was terrible. All those suburban homes, that all look just the same, you know, I’ll build that if ticky tacky. That was a Melvina Reynolds song, you know, all those little homes all look the same. That was pleasant valley Sunday, that was like horror. That’s the last thing we wanted. So we got rid of the middle class, we got rid of all those brightly colored homes. And I talked to millennials today. And they said, that sounds really nice little houses, they’ll look just this way, you know, where’s the middle class? Where can I sign up? I tell them now we got rid of it. So be You see, that’s the difference, right? We were we were an order destroying generation. For all the right reasons, because boomers always have the right reasons. You know, they always did things for the right reasons. But Millennials were seeking generation. And I think that’s how you explain this movement toward authoritarian leadership around the world. Millennials don’t care as much about democracy, saving all the procedures and everything. They want a system that actually works. They see in effectiveness and sclerosis. institutions around the world, they see institutions aren’t doing anything anymore. Boomers weren’t coming of age, we thought institutions work too well. Right. That’s, I think, a fundamental difference.

James Connor 23:22
So you are suggesting that we’re in a period of crisis right now, maybe you can just tell us when it started in when

Neil Howe 23:29
Well, it started with the global financial crisis, which is like 1929, it started with the with the GFC, right? 2008. And it will go for, you know, we reckon about 23 years. So I mean, a typical, you know, phase of life. So that’ll be a time when every shape, every generation will move into another phase of life. So it’ll be over by the early 2030s. And then we’ll have a new first turning. So the first turning is think of these like seasons of a year, right? So it’s kind of like you know, spring, summer, winter, fall, skinny, spring, summer, fall, winter. And the the first turning is when the, the prophet archetype, there’s the boomer like generations being born, right? The word child generation is coming into young adulthood, that would be the silent generation, and the war hero generations begin to move into midlife, that would be the GI generation. Right? And that was the, in America that was the American high. That would have been the presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower and John Kennedy, there was a period of great order, great prosperity institutions already very well. Everyone knew what to do. Everyone was giving their marching orders. And we were very prescriptive about how you ought to run your life. You know, I mean, if you were, if you’re a if you’re a guy, you’re supposed to go out and become a wage earner. If you’re a girl, you’re supposed to, you know, be become a homemaker. You know, everyone had their role, right? We felt very good about ourselves collectively, we were pretty modest about ourselves individually, no one really talked about, you know, soft drink ads back then were things like, you know, say Pepsi plays or something like, you know, very decorous, very known do the do ads back then. Right, anyway, that the next season was the awakening. And that would would have been the late 60s 70s, early 80s. I mean, that really started, it obviously was spearheaded by youth boomers. And it it started more on the left on college campuses, and particularly on cultural issues, like the patriarchy and you know, burning a draft card burning their bras burning, you know, just burning all symbols of authority. And it but I think it, it rapidly shifted until by the late 1970s, early 1980s, and more on the right, it was get rid of taxes, getting rid of regulation, but the common theme was get rid of social obligation, allow people to do what they want, right. And that was, that was very controversial at the time, and it involves a huge amount of screaming in, particularly kids against parents, go back and watch all in the family, you know, and beat head as I was just screaming at Archie Bunker, anyway, it was a traumatic period. But we came out of that with a newly individualized society and I think the, the, the third turning would have been the, you know, basically the, the, the early 1980s until the GFC. And that was a period of, of great individualism in America, when we less regulation, less taxes, less emphasis upon requiring anyone to do anything, you know, you go into a bookstore, and that was that the books are about me, myself and I and all the downbeat books are about you know, the end of society, the end of community, right? So, this is typical of about a third turning of the of the fall season, what we call on ramblings, the, what we call the Nomad archetype, Warren, born and raised during the awakening is beginning to come of age, this would be Gen X, right? But back in the, you know, that was in the roaring 90s, when the roaring 20s It was the last generation a very similar kind of generation coming of age. And that the 1920s, the 1990s, the 1850s 1760s, these are all wild decades of above cynicism, bad manners, weak civic authority. And I think that was the period we went through back then. It was much the opposite of a high, remember, during the high institutions is strong individual individualism is weak. This is a time when individualism and strong institutions are weak, right. And I think ever since then, we’ve moved into the fourth turning, and that’s when we rediscover community, we rediscover authority, and we we refashion large civic institutions from the ground up. And typically the climax comes late in the period. So I think most of the heavy lifting is still account.

James Connor 28:13
Oh, so let’s just assume we have another 10 years left of this crisis period. And we’re approaching the climax, what would you expect to happen?

Neil Howe 28:26
Well, typically, typically conflict. I mean, I’ll just throw it out there. I mean, all the total wars of American and sort of the whole Anglo American tradition, every total wars occurred during the fourth turning, and every fourth turning has had a total war. So that kind of gives you a clue. Right. And that means it’s a dangerous time. It’s absolutely a dangerous time. And one, one question I mentioned earlier, is whole question about Will it be internal or external or some combination of the two? And I think that’s one thing I actually talk about in the book is the extent to which conflicts are perceived as being external, internal, obviously, the Civil War was almost entirely internal, right, almost by definition, and in our history, although even then, typically, what happens in a civil war is the weaker losing powerless, tries to dry in a foreign ally. I mean, that just always happens during the American Revolution the Americans drew in France, which kind of saved our acid ultimately, at Yorktown and basically just diverting the Britain into doing a million other things around the world. So this this typically happens there is no unalloyed purely external or purely internal conflict and we have to remember that we look back upon World War Two is that you know, the so called good war is very clear, you know, who’s gonna win and so bring import And to remember that up until about a year before Pearl Harbor, we were a profoundly isolationist country, and that the big division in the America was between left and right. Between those who favor the New Deal and those who hated it. I mean, half of America should probably less than half of America thought about the 1930s with a red decade, and the other half thought it was the fascist decade. I mean, in the context of the Great Depression, liberal democracy seemed to have no future It was either communism or fat, you know, what I mean? It was a dire time in America. And the the, it as events showed, right, with obviously, the fall of France, and then and then, you know, the putting through the big armaments bills, the two Navy bill and so on. And Congress, America began to, to galvanize, you know, over the course of the late 1940s, early 1941, and ultimately ended Pearl Harbor, but, but that was by no means were ordained. Right. And, and most Americans thought that the Great Depression never ended. By the end of 1940, you know, I think the the long term yield on bonds reached its all time low. In, in, in in the middle of, I think, June of 19 1940. And we still had deflation. Unemployment was still in double digits, most Americans thought that Great Depression was still not over. And was a profoundly divided nation in terms of where we should go. I think I think the the similarities to did a are kind of mistakable. Right? An Asian divided with itself with growing foreign threats. In a world where authoritarianism is now gaining strength. I mean, you know, you don’t have to draw it out too much to see that we’re going through some of these same, some of the same trends. A, a an economy, which is not providing high higher living standards for young people. You see the the record share of young adults living with their parents. When was the last time we had that? 1940. Right, late 1930s. All the young people living with their parents, just like today. At those Frank Capra movies, like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, you can’t take it with you. They always show these old Victorian Ramblers with the young adults living in the top floor. And you know, I mean, they’re all living together, no one build new houses. 1830s. But we kind of forget this, right, we forget how we replay these things. And I think also, the younger generation developed a collective persona as being better behaved. And, and and better suited to to a more optimistic community oriented approach to public proud public problems than the older generation was back in the 1930s. I think we see that again to today. Every generation has its strengths. And I think we see them manifested much the same way.

James Connor 33:18
interesting comments. So let’s talk about this division that we currently find ourselves in. And it’s not official yet, but it appears that Trump will be the nominee for the Republicans, Biden, for the Democrats. And if Trump does, in fact, run and win, he will be the only other president who has ever come back after B being defeated to win a second term. The only other president was Grover Cleveland. I recently saw a poll that 70% of Americans don’t want another rematch. But yet here we are. And I’m just curious to get your thoughts on how this kind of fits into this whole crisis mode.

Neil Howe 33:56
Well, people don’t want to rematch because right now, people are driven by fear, not hope. Right? So what people want is for the other person not to get elected. And then I think that’s what’s driving people to the very poor choices. They feel. I mean, no one wants it. But my God, it’s better than the other guy. And, you know, say what you want about about the advent of Donald Trump in politics, but one thing he certainly done, which people people complained about for a long time is he’s driven a huge resurgence and political participation in America. By by 2020. We have the highest participation and a presidential election in 100 years. Not quite going back to Glory Cleveland, but you know, going back to Around the time of World War One. So we are a different country now, right? We are a country driven by tribalism. We are trying to find community and as we begin to find community, we first find find it within our own tribe. So we are a country divided by Blue Zone and red zone today. Right. And in fact, we are even self selecting by state and by community people are moving, you know, to have like minded people around them. This is worrisome, needless to say, because it always raises the question of what if, you know, the one half of the community just rejects the leadership of the other app at some critical point, right? This is the the problem of, of civil conflict, right. And it could start in any number of ways. Barbara Walters, who wrote a very influential study came out about two years ago on civil wars around the world, where she interviewed people. So the words I mean, from, you know, from from, from Burundi to Burma, I mean, all over the place, right. And she said, the one thing when she talks to people, they always say, they never see it coming. They never thought it was going to happen. And, and some of the most knowledgeable, Young Diplomats in in Washington, DC and 19 and 1859. And 1860 later wrote that they absolutely no one saw it coming. Right. Oh, wait, it was just expressive voting, and that we would call it expressive voting. You go now in poll Americans, and you know, 50% of them think a civil war is likely in the next few years. A large year, nearly half say that, yeah, they would favor their own section of the country, seceding, and Americans as well as just expressive voting. Well, I’m sure a lot of voters in the south in 1860, just thought, Well, that was an expressive vote. But expressive votes can have consequences. And we forget that they develop a momentum on their own right. And, and, and so I see that as, as, as an issue. There’s a wonderful essay, I quote it in the book, because I thought it was so important. It’s by Carl Becker, who’s an intellectual historian. I’m a big fan of his he wrote some wonderful books on European history, but he wrote a very influential essay and eight in 1940, just a very dark time, obviously, for democracy in America, we had seen so many countries in Europe, you know, succumb to dictatorship to fascism, either through, you know, being invaded, or revolution and so on. And he said, What’s the matter with democracy? What are democracies, weak points, and he came to the conclusion, it’s kind of a dark essay, but really worth reading today. So one of the problems with democracy is democracy works best, when there’s really nothing important to talk about. And I’ve actually meditated on that ever since he said, You know, when all you’re talking about is the width of sidewalks, and what size sewer pipe to put in, and all that stuff in Maxi works great. But whenever you’re talking about fundamental values, and the essential direction of the entire community, it no longer works, because one side is never going to accept, right? The the decisive outcome of the other side. And and that’s what I mean, he was pointing exactly toward the situation we face today. So I am, I am worried about what’s happening internally in America. I’m also obviously worried about what’s happening externally, because we live in a world in which the old concert of powers, shall we say, is completely broken down. I mean, we no longer would know if even NATO is worth saving. I mean, what is there now? It’s just a bunch of powerful people out there it can. We’re looking to grab whatever they can right now. Right? And the what we used to call the free world is so disorganized. It’s unclear how they’re going to respond. Right. And I think that invites that invites these authoritarians abroad, to act right? To shows him initiative to take now while the taking is good. So and remember, these countries too, are going through their own generational change. I mean, there’s a reason why we have a leader like Xi Jinping in there and why we didn’t have a leader like that, you know, back in 2000, or 1980, and 1980. Those are much more deferential technocrats, we have a new kind of leader and that too, is explained generation.

James Connor 39:43
There was a Gallup poll conducted recently which said that 49% of Americans are independent. So they’re not Republican. They’re not democratic. But and what’s really driving those numbers are this younger generation that you referred to earlier, there’s a real sense of disillusionment among them How do you think? How do you think they’re going to vote? I mean, I know she can’t really answer that, but I’m sure you have some sort of idea how that might impact the upcoming election.

Neil Howe 40:11
I, you know, that’s a great question I’ve written about her recently on substack. I think there’s definitely a a swing toward Trump. I mean, there’s no question about it. In fact, if you look at the New York Times Siena poll of the, you know, six, seven battleground states, among over age 45, there isn’t much change since 2020. All the changes made younger people. And what younger people are saying is no, we certainly don’t like Trump on abortion, we’d prefer Biden there another is a various cultural issues, they drip but the the issues that matter, most of them the economy, overwhelmingly prefer Trump. Now you could you could ask how much they remember of Trump or how much they, they really know about it. But anyway, this is their perception. I think that the vibe session is underrated. I think there is serious obstacles for young people today in the economy, I think they feel it. We don’t count mortgage interest in the CPI as you now. So that’s sort of out there. And the fact that people can’t even begin to finance the home that they want, or even change location America, because everyone’s locked into these to these Long Term Lending arrangements is a real problem, particularly for young people. And obviously, one big issue, which is rising and salience now for all age brackets is immigration. And that is definitely helping Trump. And I think also the widespread perception that this is news to now when that Biden’s too old, he’s no longer effective. He can’t believe, you know, he can’t show strength through determination to, you know, foreign leaders, all of the other complaints that people have about Biden, but the biggest shift we see among young people, I will say, interestingly, on this question of independence, yes, they are independent of political party. But if you actually pull them as you know, leaning conservative, or leaning, you know what I mean, sort of leaning Democratic leaning conservative, these usually, no doubt on most of them, you know which way they go? In other words, they don’t affiliate with the party. But they’re usually pretty clear on which which side they go. It is true that these independents include most of the kind of undecided. And a lot of these undecideds are low motivation types, right? So you know, that the big debate among all every political scientist and every sort of political adviser is, what do you do? Do you go more to motivating your base? And making sure that all those people who may not vote get out there? Or do you? And then that would, of course, you know, amping up your message, you know, becoming if anything more extreme? Or do you tone down your message and try to go more toward the middle? That’s an old debate? There’s no question. I think Donald Trump has surprised everyone, and surprised a lot of people in all of his elections by being amazingly successful of getting a lot of working class people, particularly non college working class people who never had voted in the past to come out and vote. I mean, that’s his signature. Right? He’s been very successful at that. I and, you know, we’re gonna see it’s, it’s still a long time. Until Until November. A lot can happen around the world. A lot can happen at home. I don’t know in, in, in, in trial courts, so much out there.

James Connor 43:45
So you touched on the economy, and why don’t we go there now, because you’re suggesting a lot can happen in the next 10 years. We have so much going on right now. I mean, we have a presidential year, but there’s a lot of back and forth with interest rates, are they going higher, and they go on lower? Lots of chatter.

Neil Howe 44:05
So we do we do maybe I should tell people about by the way, our substack it’s called demography unplugged. So if anyone’s interested, just you know, type in my name, Neil have a demography fan plug. But we do all kinds of things. We do a weekly podcast, we do a bunch of sort of demographic reports and demographic trends around the world. And we one of the things we do is a all about the indicators, which comes out every month and goes into detail about all of the sort of they, you know, recession indicators, you know, where are we right now in the business cycle. But over the last two or three months, I think the big news in the economy that has been underreported is the the credit at least according to the CPS data, a huge slowdown in employment growth, right? Employment, it’s no longer growing and everyone is mesmerized by what they calvess ces number, which is this, you know, establishment survey, you know, but this establishment survey is increasingly out alone, all the other surveys showing no growth in employment anymore. And interestingly, foreign born employment, which by the way has been the supercharged reason why this expansion lasted so much longer than economists think. Two thirds of all employment growth in 2023. In the United States economy was foreign born workers, right? We show that I mean, you know, CPS has it every, every month, you can follow it, it’s no mystery. This is remarkable, right. US born workers have showed virtually no growth since January of last year. Well, that’s kind of amazing, you know, for the so called superheated American economy, but even now, foreign born workers is beginning to peak. And it’s beginning to level off right? At a very high level, we’ve had this enormous surge post post COVID, I understand a candidate you’ve had something a little similar to so be interesting to compare experiences on that, I think in general, Canada, as ABA has a very high net immigration rate higher than than the US, you know, as a share of population. But we are definitely ourselves, America, the United States is is far above its its, its historical, even its recent historical average, in terms of immigration, I think there are two things are going to happen coming up. Either the economy continues to decelerate, and we go into recession territory, or the things begin to tighten up for foreign born workers. As you know, Biden is beginning to put in place he’s totally playing defense now on immigration, right. So he is beginning to put in place all these new blocks and all these these new policies. Obviously, if Trump gets elected, we all know what he’s gonna do. Right. So that’s going to accelerate that. As usual, we do things that the worst possible moment, I suspect that but if Trump is elected, and comes in and puts all these, you know, blocks or reversals on immigration, it probably is gonna be a time when net immigration is gonna be going reverse anyway, if the economy has slowed down, right. It’s it’s probably at the same time when the economy is slowing down, that we’ll finally decide to get serious about the budget deficit. You remember, that’s what we did after the GFC. Right. We had this huge a high unemployment was okay, now’s the time to cut the deficit. Well, that probably extended economic stagnation for another two or three years. But it’s interesting that I think that just proves the lesson that the political timing is is it rarely matches economic timing, right? People Sunday’s become roused to act politically, at probably not the optimal moment. That would make sense.

James Connor 48:05
And so that’s what you’re expecting the short term. But what if we look out five years? I think so long,

Neil Howe 48:11
I think the long term is one of diminished GDP growth around the entire high income world simply because of the fact that the look, by 2027 2028, going by the UN projections, amazingly enough, the working age population of not just the high income world, but the emerging market world is is no longer going to be growing, it’s actually going to be declining. I’m throwing in China here, right. That is incredible. I mean, ever since Adam Smith, right. The whole premise of a, you know, capitalist growth was always predicated on demographic growth, which is usually contributed about half of overall GDP growth, you know, yeah, there have been productivity, right. So labor productivity, well, that whole part of GDP growth is going to be missing. And increasingly, when we look at these, these countries, which no longer have growing working age populations, working age, populations have declined. I’m looking at Japan, Southern Europe and so on Eastern Europe, what we see is the presence of a what you can call aging recessions, which means even in a normal year of full employment, and maybe 1% of pregnant, you know, 1% per year productivity growth, if their working age population is declining by over 1%, which is true for a lot of these countries now, they will experience a recession. So you’ve noticed right that Japan seems to just be dipping in and out of recession now, but in kind of a normal year, but that is what we need to get used to the concept of an aging recession. We are now the the The emerging market world and the high income world is now below replacement rate fertility. And it’s inevitable that this whole world is going to start experiencing depopulation. First in its working age population and ultimately go out, you know, two or three more decades, ultimately, in its entire population, it’s gonna be a very different world, very different demand for investment, less demand for investment, perhaps less productivity and learning by doing because we won’t be investing as much. In other words, looking at the long term is a very different kind of world. I’m speaking here now, as a demographer, not so much as a historian of cycles. But I think long term, I do think that one thing that may happen in the next first turning, we talked about now to come back to turnings come back to cycles here is that if we create strong institutions and a more, you know, stable, family focused social world, which typically happens after a crisis, right, we will see a fertility recovery. We’ve seen that every time after big crisis. So you know what I mean, I’m kind of looking at this not just as a secular trend, but as as a rhythm as well. I do think there will be some recovery and fertility, as there was after World War Two as there was after the Civil War, you know, and so on, as you as you can imagine.

James Connor 51:22
Well, Neil, that was a fascinating discussion. And as we wrap up, if someone would like to learn more about you, or follow you on your various social media platforms, where can they go?

Neil Howe 51:34
The The best place is just retail, it’s demography unplugged, it’s on substack, but just just type in demography unplugged, and you will get there. And we we have, we’ve been really delighted by how many subscribers you have. And I mean, you know, listeners we have, but we can always use more. And I always invite more people to listen to us.

James Connor 51:59
And I’m sorry, did you also mention that you have a podcast?

Neil Howe 52:03
Yes, same thing. It’s all on demography on plug. So you just sign in there. A substack is great, because they have a little you know, app you put on your phone, so you can just listen to all of them. It’s it’s just like the Apple app or anything else. So you know.

James Connor 52:16
And if somebody wants to check out your various books, can they find them on Amazon?

Neil Howe 52:21
They’re all on Amazon. They’re all in print, believe it or not even the ones that were long, lanky? Oh, I think the only one that may not be in print is a is a book we did on Gen X, in 1993, called that 13th Gen. But all the rest are in print. And and obviously the one that’s selling best right now is the fourth turning is here that came out last July. And there’s an audiobook. It’s my voice on on all of it. So you can get the whole thing read that way. I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden an audiobook, but it’s a grueling experience in the studio. You know, I can imagine I can say, yeah, it’s a good, it’s a good two weeks all day, you know, just grinding away, so

James Connor 53:10
And so can I assume your next book is going to be on Gen z’s.

Neil Howe 53:16
I don’t know what my next books gonna be. Could be on something very different. I don’t know. I that’s that’s a great question. I’m still recovering from the book I just did. That’s that’s hard enough.

James Connor 53:30
Well, that was a great discussion. And once again, I want to thank you for making time for us today. And I look forward to our next conversation.

Neil Howe 53:36
Thanks so much, Jim. Great to be here.

James Connor 53:38
Well, I hope you enjoyed that discussion with Neil Howe. And as Neil suggests that there’s a lot happening in the economy right now. And if you need help in preparing for your financial future, consider having a discussion with a Wealthion endorsed financial advisor on There’s no obligation to work with any of these advisors is a free service that wealthy on offers to all of its viewers. Once again, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel, and hit that notification button to be kept up to date on future events. We have a lot of great content coming out in the coming weeks. Once again, thank you for spending time with us today and I look forward to seeing you again soon.


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