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Neil Howe joins us to talk cycles, generations, and the myth‐​making business of history.

Each new generation has the ability to dramatically improve upon their world. Neil Howe challenges us to think generationally. Neil Howe wondered why Boomers were so different from their GI elders. In the late 1980s, he developed an intricate yet broad theory of generational change. His model has been very influential, inspiring figures from Al Gore to Glenn Beck and Steve Bannon. Neil Howe joins us on Liberty Chronicles to talk cycles, generations, and the myth‐​making business of history.


Anthony Comegna: Neil Howe is a historian and consultant, a California native, graduate of Berkeley and Yale, and the author of over a dozen books. Perhaps most importantly, though, he is a baby boomer. With the late William Strauss, Howe wondered why boomers were so different from their GI elders. In the late 1980s, they developed an intricate yet [00:00:30] broad theory of generational change. Their model has been very influential, inspiring figures from Al Gore to Glenn Beck and Steve Bannon. Neil Howe joins us on Liberty Chronicles to talk cycles, generations and the myth making business of history.
[00:01:00] This is Liberty Chronicles, a project of lib​er​tar​i​an​ism​.org. I’m Anthony Comegna.
To start us off, are there any important personal biographical details that have gone into informing your work? Religious affiliations, political affiliations, some kind of cultural identity.
Neil Howe: The answer is no. I would say [00:01:30] one challenge that I faced is basically kind of shedding the affiliations of people project upon me.
Anthony Comegna: Okay.
Neil Howe: Which has often happened. When generations first came out and I would say in the early years when people associated Bill and me with millennial brand quote, unquote I think we had a lot of people who assumed that we must be democrats, [00:02:00] sort of on the left. We were talking about this brand new optimistic community oriented generation that would probably vote more toward the, for the democratic party, ethos of the democratic party, which in deed was a pretty good read. That was a good read because that’s ultimately how they did vote, right, by the time they started voting after the year 2000. So that was something originally. And then obviously more recently with the [00:02:30] admin of the Trump administration and the book The Fourth Turning and Steve Bannon, people have applied the opposite, some raving, right wing populist and I’m the master mind behind all of that.
And so a lot of it is been, and I would say our books are a little bit of a kind of roar shock test for the people who read them. They assume, they sometimes assume, “Oh my gosh, he’s speaking to me, he must sympathize [00:03:00] with what I’m thinking.“
Anthony Comegna: That tends to be one of the problems that libertarians or Austrians have with trying to model historical events that you end up projecting on to it whatever you like to see or whatever story that you feel like telling. And it’s interesting that people then read your book, which is an attempt to model historical change and end up doing the exact same thing with themselves.
Neil Howe: Well, partly too it’s that, and this is something we probably in all of our books [00:03:30] we discuss most in The Fourth Turning, but there is a penchant among particularly western thinkers and particularly in more recent centuries for linear interpretations of social change. All history is tending toward X with this Francis Fukuyama. It’s kind of liberal democracy and the fading of nation states around the world was popular in the 1990s or whether its Marksism or whether it’s some sort of social utopia, or whatever it is and this is something [00:04:00] that we got from the great monotheisms that history is linear. It starts in a particular place and it ends at a particular place and that ending is where we’re all headed. And we really ultimately have no choice about it.
And so that gets, that generates tremendous amount of argument and dispute because my gosh that’s where we’re gonna all end up. I hope it’s a place I like. [00:04:30] And our, the gloss or the layer that we put on it is something a bit more cyclical and that ends up either, that ends up often disappointing people. It, so it’s not gonna end up at one place for all time.
Anthony Comegna: I do feel uncomfortable with the idea that we’ll be going backward at some point, right? Back down this [00:05:00] cyclical curve, but then I thought to myself, well a cycle is not a circle, right? The starting point is not the same as the end point. If history is circular, then that’s a very big problem. We’re never gonna improve in the end, right? We’re right back to where we start. But a cycle is not necessarily shaped the same. It doesn’t have the same destination.
Neil Howe: Exactly. That’s why now if we lived in the ancient world, [00:05:30] the observation that all life is circular, history is circular literally was at it all the time. That seems to be a truism in the ancient world. This is why history did not interest Plato. History just was meaningless repetition. You studied the forms. History wasn’t even gonna change anything. What happened down here was [00:06:00] just sort of these idiots running from democracy to oligarchy to tyranny back. There was no interest in it. You weren’t gonna find out anything more about human destiny. So I think that’s when I talk about [mid‐​dare‐​dendy 00:06:17]. Again, with the rise of not only monotheism, but I think an extra after burner was given with the rise of Protestantism, which gave a whole new urgency to the end times.
And then obviously [00:06:30] with science interestingly, science rose after that, but science also makes us think of evolution happening in a certain direction. But this becomes a very popular paradigm thinking in the west. And so I often tell people, look, if you want to think about it that way, there’re obviously things that change secularly, our technology gets better, we tend to live longer. You can point out a number of things where life gets [00:07:00] ever better over time, or possibly, depending on your point of view, gets ever worse over time. But you can point out linear trends. So, if you want to think about it as a cycle, you can, a spiral maybe is a -
Anthony Comegna: Cork screw shape.
Neil Howe: A cork screw shape trend. So we don’t, we’re not exclusive, we don’t mean to think that you can’t find a lot of ways of interpreting history [00:07:30] in historical trends in a large sense. We just have one dynamic that we think especially important and intriguing that we are focused on.
Anthony Comegna: Okay. Now let’s flash that out because you specifically apply your concept of cyclical history, that’s hard to say, cyclical history to Anglo‐​American history in the early modern and the modern period. Could you break down that model [00:08:00] for us and tell us exactly what does produce change in your mind?
Neil Howe: Let me just preface that maybe by saying that Bill and I when we started writing about this, I think it is important you ask me about biographical considerations and so on. I think it is important to understand we did not set out to write about cycles and history. That was never our object when we started. We were really interested in generational change. We’re particularly interested in what kind of endowments different generations leave behind [00:08:30] for future generations and why different generations and we’ve seen this in our own life particularly with our own membership as part of the boomer generation and being so different from the GI generation that won World War Two and so forth, everything about our generational experience was so different. They were founding families and building battleships and boomers were keeping their lights on hold and going to Woodstock and just had a totally different way of looking at the world, right? [00:09:00] Something that later we forgot a little bit, but there was an enormous generation gap as we like to say back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and I think everyone alive at the time was very aware that different generations thought very differently about the world.
So our initial agenda was to figure out how this happens, how is it happened earlier in American history to go back and look at historically at that phenomenon of different generations [00:09:30] seeing the world differently because they’re shaped differently in time. And one of the things we found is we look back in history is yes it has always been a very strong generational consciousness. It goes all the way back to the founding of this country. We think it actually is true as well in many other modern societies around the world. And then it was only at the last further investigation that we see that there’s actually a certain cyclical [00:10:00] element to these changes. Know there’s not only that generations all different, they seem to be different in a way that in a recognizable pattern. Certain kinds of generations always follow other kinds of generations and only lastly did we connect that to history itself. Obviously since generations shape history young generations as they grow older is adults and leaders themselves shape history, right? So it’s a circle. So that was the last [00:10:30] realization or phase we went through.
And then in deed our first book, which came out in 1991 was called Generations: The History of America’s Future, it had a little bit of implicit pattern making in it but it was primarily a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. The overwhelming point was not cyclical, the overwhelming point was just to talk about these different kinds of experiences. [00:11:00] Later on in the book, we did in 1997, The Fourth Turning, the cycle became much more in the foreground and looking at cycle theories, the history of cycle theories and then looking at generations as a driver for that.
Anthony Comegna: So then you would say that your ideas are applicable outside of Anglo‐​American history. It’s not something peculiar to the culture started here in North America.
Neil Howe: No, and ironically, this is sort of a little bit the paradox, but it’s actually societies, [00:11:30] which are most intent upon the applying linear history are actually most susceptible to these kinds of cycles. That’s what makes it fascinating to us.
Anthony Comegna: Why do you think that might be?
Neil Howe: Well, I think it’s because [00:11:44] gives generations the hubris or the power and the confidence to actually change institutions in their own image. Right? So if you’re in a premodern society, everything is prescribed. So whatever happens, you’re not [00:12:00] gonna have the presumption of actually changing the institutions just because, well, you saw life differently. No, no. You’re always very observant of what has been handed down you or follow that.
On the other hand if you’re more of a modern mindset, your particular point of view, having been shaped uniquely by some big event like French Revolution or industrialization, something that you went through, you think, “No, no, we need to change these institutions”, right? Well, [00:12:30] the fact that you change them then shapes the experience for the next generation differently and you get much more of this push and pull through time.
Anyway, this is why, and I think, even in the ancient world I think generational phenomenon are observable. Ancient Greece between the fifth and third century would be a wonderful time to examine generational change from the Battle of Marathon through [00:13:00] Socrates through Alexander the Great, wonderful panorama of generational change. The mid to late republic and on into the early empire and the Roman history is a wonderful place to examine generational change.
It does occur when events in history actually change rapidly and you do have a sense of political civic events changing everyone in the same way. [00:13:30] But it is not the norm in the premodern environment.
Anthony Comegna: I presume that also you would want to adjust some parts of the model, right? If you were gonna, let’s say, write your next book on ancient Rome, would you have different archetypes, or do you think that the archetypes you see in American history would translate pretty well to other cultures that are experiencing this cyclical path?
Neil Howe: I think the archetypes would be the same. Absolutely. In fact, [00:14:00] the archetypes, which come from, everyone’s familiar with Myers Briggs and all the other these tend to be powers of two, two, four, eight, sixteen and so forth, these originally come from Hippocrates and Galen, these are ancient. The four humors and the four temperaments, these all go back to the ancient world. There is nothing new about fundamental archetypes, the only difference is is that instead of talking about people at any one given [00:14:30] time as belonging to different archetypes, we talk about generations across time belonging to different archetypes, which is a new twist on the concept.
Anthony Comegna: So, I’m wondering how much of the cyclical nature of history is dependent on biology. Is it based mainly on the average lifespan? If that were to change, would that substantially change the shape that history takes over time?
Neil Howe: It would certainly change the periodicity. There’s not question about that. [00:15:00] I think what’s interesting about what drives the cyclical nature of social trends as we see it is that people are shaped young in childhood and their youth and coming of age experiences, and then of course as they’re older, then they shape history as leaders and parents.
And what’s interesting about that is that there is a specific time period in most societies, [00:15:30] there’s a given amount of time both socially and biologically before you were deemed an adult and able to live a separate life you recognized as someone able to make your own independent decisions and make your own choices as a man or a woman. And then later on about the same period later about 20 years or so, to be deemed to be fit for a leadership phase of life. And what’s interesting about that is that so many cycle theories or so many people [00:16:00] who have talked very convincingly about cycles of drug use in America, cycles of changing trends in family function or dysfunction, cycles of political realignment to where the long wave in the economy or cycles of immigration and so all of these cycles, right, is that it’s often very difficult to understand okay, [00:16:30] it’s a very interesting and it looks like there’s a clear argument or it looks observable, right, in some respects.
But how can we understand the periodicity? Why is it 40 or 80 years? Why isn’t it all happened in two years or why doesn’t it take 500 years? You know what I mean? In other words, what governs the cycle? Well, this is what’s interesting about looking at generations is that generations is a natural governor of [00:17:00] the timing and I think one of the things you see in The Fourth Turning where we talk about all these cycles is that we think that these things are, these are all good and many of them valid, we think that the master governor is generational experience because it has a timing. That is to say one generation style becomes dominant, becomes so dominant it becomes dysfunctional, other generations have to rediscover the what we might call the [00:17:30] missing archetype, right, what is suppressed and bring that to life. And that takes a certain amount of time, which could be biologically defined.
So the answer to your question is yes, if we all live like mice, right, and it was all over from grandchild to grandparent in 10 years we would have definitely a [00:18:00] different kind of cycle.
Anthony Comegna: Could you give us an example of a set of turnings and a set of archetypes and the kind of narrative that you ascribe to it in your books?
Neil Howe: Kind of a basic schemata we lay out in The Fourth Turning is that we see a long cycle of overall social and political civic life cultural life lasting about the length of a long human life, right, which is about 80 years or so. [00:18:30] Maybe 80 to 85 years, something like that in American history. And that this is broken down into four periods, or what we call turnings, each about the length of a generation, about 20 years, 22 years, something like that.
And in deed in American history, we actually, there’s actually a whole field in anthropology, which talks about a revitalization movement. Actually, Anthony Wallace is the great source here, [00:19:00] but talking about awakenings [00:19:02] happens in every culture, right? But we’ve had them in America and we call them the first great awakening, the second great awakening, the third and many historians call the late ‘60s and ‘70s America’s fourth or fifth great awakening, depending on when you want to start your count with John Winthrop in the 17th century or with Jonathan Edwards in the middle of the 18th century.
But any case, that’s also interesting, right, that we have certain sequence there. And that [00:19:30] formed the structure for the sorts of turnings we look at, namely a first turning would be a post crisis era, which is usually characterized by high degree of institutional trust, strong institutions are relatively constrained domain for individualism both sort of culturally and socially not a lot of stress laid upon being an individual or heavy influence on conformity, [00:20:00] little bit of a band the wagons around these things that we’ve just defended. And that’s what we call a first turning and a good example of that would’ve been the American high after World War Two. You think of the presidencies of Truman and Eisenhower and John Kennedy as being that era, right? And by the way each of these eras has a certain generational location, right? That’s the era in which boomers or children, the silent generation is coming of age into adulthood and the GI [00:20:30] generation, the greatest generation was entering leadership positions in governors and governorships and state houses and along with Kennedy and on into the presidency ultimately toward the end of it. That’s the first turning.
The second turning is what we call an awakening, as just mentioned. And this is a period when people suddenly reject all the social conformity, the social [00:21:00] control, the political inhibitions, civic inhibition of the previous first turning and rebel against it trying to find a new sense of authenticity, individualism, room for the individual. Seed time for libertarianism I might say. And this is when boomers were coming of age. And I would just add here that I think boomers today are among the most, you think about today’s elder generation [00:21:30] of the gray champions of the libertarianism today are heavy among boomers, and they came of age during this period. But this is characteristic and it started in mainly in the culture on college campuses during the mid‐​60s and it ended up in economics in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s with tax revolts and ultimately the election of Ronald Reagan. But whether it’s in the culture, which was mainly at that time [00:22:00] on the left, or in the economy, which was mainly at that time on the right, it was always in the direction of liberation from all of this social control. And this is a very constant, a theme of awakenings.
By the way, the most recent awakening is largely secular, although it did have it’s born again off shoots certainly to say nothing of its hurry [00:22:26] movement and everything else, but it was mainly secular. However, historically [00:22:30] there’s been mainly a religion and it’s always been driven by the young and it’s always been predicated on salvation by faith not works who believed in salvation by works, their fathers, right? Who won all those awards, who believes in faith, they knew younger generations [inaudible 00:22:48] after the last great war. So this is always a great conversation. Back after the American revolution, it was the anti‐​Masons versus the Masons. The Masons were my father. [00:23:00] The anti‐​Masons were the young generations, the loco‐​foco movement. These were the peers of, well, maybe slightly younger than Emerson. Maybe more thorough than his crowd. Ultimately that was an incredible generation of feminists, poets, religion founders, commune founders all over much of the Midwest and New England. Incredible is probably one of the most [00:23:30] tumultuous awakenings in American history unfolded in the late 1820s, 1830s, early 1840s. But, okay, that’s the second turning.
The third turning is what you call an unraveling. An unraveling is much the opposite of a first turning. So you think of a first turning is institutions are trusted and respected, individualism is suppressed, distrusted. The unraveling is much the opposite. Individualism is [00:24:00] strong, institutions are weak and discredited. So, we think of the late 1980s, 1990s certainly, early ‘00s, we think of that as being unraveling period, and of course the generation coming of age during that period most recently was generation X. And typically this is, in archetypal terms this is what we often call a nomad archetype. [00:24:30] These were the throw away children during the last awakening, were basically left alone and developed great strengths of resilience, hard scrabble quality of being able to do alone without anyone helping them. After all, they grew up not only not depending on institutions, but not even on their families or not really trusting anyone. So these are great generations of individualists.
And [00:25:00] just as a first turning kind of accepts the wisdom of the recent crisis or the lessons of the recent crisis was we’ve all gotta band together and keep safe, right? The third turning, the lessons of the recent awakening we all have to atomize, right, and enjoy things on our own terms, not join, joining was disaster, we learn that in the awakening.
And ultimately the great unravelings of history ultimately [00:25:30] lead to the fourth turning and that’s the next crisis. This is in our world crisis. This is when we tear down institutions and rebuild them from scratch often overnight often suddenly. This is when public history begins to move very rapidly again. And I think that when you think of the kind of the two anti‐​podes of the cycle, awakenings are times when we rebuild our inner world of culture, values, [00:26:00] religion, literature and so on. The fourth turnings are eras when we rebuild our outer world of politics, economy, empire, those kinds of institutions more the secular material side. And very different generations coming of age we call it generations come of age during the awakenings to be the prophet archetype like boomers or like the transcendental generation during the [00:26:30] 1820s, ‘30s and ‘40s. The archetype that comes of age during the crisis is the hero archetype, much more oriented around secular goals, much more oriented around community and the need for community and reshaping everything they need, technology or otherwise around the need for community rather than as the case with boomers around the need for individualism.
And this is one interesting segue where possibly to talking about millennials [00:27:00] and their need for community and what that means about what they want in politics, right, which is where many people go with that looking at the future.
Anthony Comegna: Now speaking of the future, The Fourth Turning is explicitly at least half prophecy or at least that’s how it’s built. I wonder how strongly do you mean that. Do you see yourself in your work as history or as prophecy? And if prophecy, what do you mean [00:27:30] by that? Why make that word choice?
Neil Howe: The word choice was a bit provocative almost intentionally so. I think history should be prophetic to some extent. I talked to academic historians all the time. I was one, sort of. I spent enough time in graduate school, which I can think I call myself at least having contact with the academic community. One thing I noticed is that historians in academia will resolutely [00:28:00] protest history says nothing about the future, it has no predictive element at all and if anyone ever claims that, they’re a complete charlatan, in which case, I would argue then why not be just like Plato and ask why would you ever study it? Why does it mean anything, right? If there’s nothing you can extract from it, right? And anything useful can extract has to be something that can inform us about the future.
Now [00:28:30] when I talk about turnings, I talk about social moods. I talk about likelihoods of things happening. I’m not forecasting events, this isn’t Nostradamus. Nor am I a historical determinist. I think everything has to come out in any particular way. I’m talking about tendencies, moods.
I think it’s very interesting when you talk to people about what the world is going to be like in the year, say, 2035 or 2040, people instantly [00:29:00] think that this like a science fiction scenario. It could be anything. And I say, that’s crazy. We could know a lot about the year 2040, it’s gonna be all of us just older. And we already know a lot about all of us. And all I claim, and in fact I spent a lot of my own writing trying to discuss this, is trying to see is there anything you can tell about people in their 30s when you really look at them, how they’ve [00:29:30] been shaped, their attitudes and behaviors and so on, you can actually deduce something about how at age 30 you can already find out how they’ll be at age 50.
If you can, we already know a lot about the world in 2035 or 2040 and not only do we know how many they are, science of demography is pretty advanced, but I go beyond that and say we already know something about their personality. We know something about where they’re gonna go. If you ask people [00:30:00] will the next decade be more like the ‘60s or more like the ‘80s or more like the ‘90s, to say that you have no idea, I just think you’re tone deaf to history. You gotta be kidding you have no idea. There’s a lot we know about the ‘60s that was set up generationally, right? It was not just an accident that could’ve happened in any decade.
And I think that is what I’m trying to bring back to looking at history. To understand that it is a, it [00:30:30] can’t be deduced necessarily analytically, it is a little bit of a tone poem, but it absolutely has causation, it has a certain direction, it has, it is a train of events, a train of mood shifts, which is broadly causal in which does allow you to make [00:31:00] certain conclusions about where we’re going.
And I’ve been writing about this long enough to actually have a track record at this. So, I think I can speak with that with a little bit of authority. We came out with our first book in 1991 when we, after Xers, and you have to remember back then even generation X had not been yet been named. We just called them 13th generation, we called them 13ers. [00:31:30] The next generation that labeled did stick. We named millennials. We thought their first cohort would be the high school class of 2000, so we thought that was a great name to give them.
But we made some predictions about millennials and what we did predict was that totally unlike the Xers that we were getting to know around 1991 and 1992, who I think impressed everyone by being risk takers, edgy in the culture, certainly [00:32:00] violent, we had almost the peaking of the crime rate. Crime rate peaked right around 1994, so this is certainly among risk taking with propensity for personal confrontation and risk taking in that sense. Alienated from family life, generally collectively pessimistic about their future.
All of these things we knew about this was back when people in their early 20s were all wearing black and grunge rock and gangsta rapper still begged people till [00:32:30] listening to Kirk [Cobain 00:32:31], and so anyway you just have to imagine what things were like. And what we predicted we said this next generation we could see how differently they were being raised, right? All the baby on board signs, all the protective clothing and all the bicycle helmets and all the lamaze books. and everything about them was different and we said we have seen this drama before. We had seen this play out before. Every time we have that dark to light change in nurture we think we knew what happened.
So we predicted [00:33:00] that by the late 90s, early 00s, we would see a decline in personal risk taking, we’d see a decline in the crime rate, we would see parents much closer, kids much closer to their parents. We would see a lot more collective optimism about the future, and we would see this desire for a new sense of community, which we didn’t see at all among Xers. And I would say arguably statistically you could see all of that having happened now among millennials.
So that’s [00:33:30] why I say you can’t tell things, right? You can look ahead just even seeing a new generation emerge. You can make educated guesses about how they’re gonna come out. And I think if one looks back at our book, I think any [inaudible 00:33:48] guesses were pretty good.
In terms of events, I think a better place to look in terms of looking forward was probably our book The Fourth Turning where we talked [00:34:00] about how the fourth turning would unfold.
Anthony Comegna: For libertarians, the individual is the fundamental unit of social analysis. You can’t describe collectives as acting entities because they’re simply composed of individuals who generate their own actions. They, it’s always one person who applies means to fulfill whatever ends they have in mind. Groups don’t actually do anything, only individuals do. What do you think about that? Do you think that’s true?
Neil Howe: I think it all depends on [00:34:30] your perspective. I think if you’re a scientist, or a social scientist, you apply whatever tools of generalization work. People often say, “Doesn’t generations take away free choice?” I get that all the time. I say, “That’s ridiculous”. I said, “I know what you’ll be doing 4 weeks from now at about 3 a.m. I bet you’ll be in bed. You’ll be sleeping”. High probability [00:35:00] and it’s, so I take away your free choice, I just made a prediction. Do you feel diminished by that? No, I think you probably don’t. I think, yeah, like lots of other people, that’s how we operate. And I could go down a huge list of those things. I could say that if you’re skier, you’ll probably be skiing maybe in December or January. You won’t be skiing in July.
Anyway, marketers do that all the time. People who sell, anyone who in companies, they know a lot about how you behave. [00:35:30] They’re not taking away from your free will. They’re just observing. They’re just looking at large numbers of people doing things together.
I think when we look at, what I find interesting is not that it’s people, it’s not that they’re blown away that people think well you can be categorized as a member of a group. If you’re rich or poor depending on your race or nationality, your region, you could probably say things probabilistically about you, right? [00:36:00] How you speak, how you relate to other people, do you send your parent to a nursing home or not, that’s strongly dependent on your ethnicity, which area of Europe you came, anyway we know a lot about this.
What’s interesting to me is that generations are singled out for that, right? In other words, people who talk a lot about blacks versus Hispanics versus whites, or talk about French versus Germans, talk about rich versus poor or the educated, non‐​educated, make generalization [00:36:30] all the time. Then they come to me and say, “How can you generalize about people born in a certain time?” and I’m just saying, I’m just using what works just like you do, right?.
So I find that I am unfairly singled out, right, for using a cohort period, which arguably is actually a stronger determinant of many of ways and many social trends than necessarily a racial group or an income group [00:37:00] or a regional group depending on what you’re looking at. So I look at what works.
I’ll tell you what’s one thing that’s really interesting about generations that other categories don’t have. And this has always fascinated me. Generations are mortal.
Anthony Comegna: Right.
Neil Howe: They’re born and they eventually die. They have a sense of finitude and a sense of urgency. A generation knows that there are certain things that if they’re ever gonna do, they have to do it before it’s over, right? That’s [00:37:30] something that no other category has.
And it’s also generations I think are so interesting to look at history precisely because of that timing. They’re shaped in history in a very predictable time scale. They will be the leaders. They will make certain decisions in public life, which [00:37:49] a lot of other people. Perhaps even in war, perhaps even huge events. And that will happen on a certain schedule. That gives it that [00:38:00] interesting forecasting dimension.
If I know a lot about Hispanics or Californians or rich people, I don’t know what that tells me in terms of looking forward time wise. There’s nothing in that information that does anything in time. Generations are different. They do have a schedule.
And just as a demographer, and I’m familiar as a demographer, they, people tell you all the time, and I do standard demography [00:38:30] all the time and I often tell people, it’s one of the few things we really do know about the year 2060 that absent a global war a Martian invasion we know pretty accurately how many people are going to be around. Fertility rate doesn’t change very much and a lot of these people have already been born and the migration rate doesn’t change fast. We can tell a lot about the shape of the population quantitatively in the [00:39:00] year 2060.
I just add that we also know through looking at generational change and how cohorts are shaped, we also know a little bit something about the attitudes and behaviors of those who will be around in the year 2040 or 2060 and that’s what fascinates me. It’s the fact that generations have a timetable. That’s what I find fascinating about it.
Anthony Comegna: [00:39:30] Whatever you might think of Howe’s brand of history, or his models validity, he has challenged us to think generationally. Each new generation has the ability to dramatically improve upon their world. The tragedy is that so few actually have. In my view history is like purgatory. We learn it sad stories to burn away the sin and emerge better people. Purgatory has its uses, yes. But it is definitely not the final destination. [00:40:00] When we have learned enough history, perhaps we will finally stop being so cruel to one another.
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