The Monthly has published an interesting article about the political and cultural power the baby boomer generation is exerting in Australia.

Its main thesis is boomers control political discourse in Australia, and in so doing:

  • misinterpret contemporary challenges as inherent failings of lazy and profligate younger generations; and

  • create policy which serves their interest at the expense of younger generations.

The article refers to lockout laws in Sydney, property market taxation as well as the demise of vibrant Sydney.

Having lived in Sydney recently for two years I agree Sydney is not vibrant. It always astounded me how many Sydney shopfronts were empty. And I never found small bars or drinking spots in the CBD like Melbourne.

I agree policy is controlled by boomers in Australia: mainstream media now is geared to boomers, people my age or younger don't listen to radio, read papers or watch TV. Yet politicians respond to these outlets constantly. It is interesting the politic has not yet adopted an internet communications strategy (at least to my knowledge) unlike the Obama administration which communicates extensively online.

Reflecting on the context of the article, I don't think Australia has great prospects in a 20 year timeframe.

The world is changing so rapidly. Judging by popular discourse most people are oblivious. The major pillars of liberal democratic society are captured by short-term incentives: quarterly reporting, two to four year election cycles, continual "news". The world the politicians and media argue about is the 20th century world, not the 21st. The transition to the Information Age from the industrial era will cause terrific unrest and transform society. Yet the horizon of policymakers is so close they're edifying from the wrong vantage point. It is as if they've been arguing about the rules of ice hockey for so long, they've failed to notice the ice has melted.

Culturally, Australia is ill-equipped to manage change. I perceived conservatism and risk aversion doing new things there. Its myth is Australia is a place of opportunity. But this is a British story of 1950s Australia when it rode on the back of sheep, protected by tariffs. At present to international finance, Australia does not have anything valuable to export which is ultimately why the Aussie dollar is trending down.

Interestingly, its fellow British colony Canada is perceived by international markets in a similar vein. For the last few months I have been living in Canada, and despite its American facade, like Australia a reserved British culture is evident. Over the longer-term, I don't know if the US will withstand the demise of the petrodollar, yet its dynamic entrepreneurial culture has shown incredible means to remake. I don't see British culture providing anything like the dynamism necessary to compete this century.