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The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And How They Can Give it Back Hardcover – 1 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; First Edition 5th Impression edition (1 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848872313
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848872318
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 5.6 x 24.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 128,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Illuminating... Chock-a-block with fascinating facts, insights and theories. Willetts remains one of the few politicians who understands that Britain's social and economic history sets it apart from most other societies and that a form of individualistic capitalism predated the industrial revolution by many centuries. We have always been a nation of cash, contracts, commerce and nuclear families. This makes his book well worth reading... his primary thesis - that baby-boomers are dumping too many of their problems on the young - is spot on. --Allister Heath, Spectator Business

One of the most thoughtful and provocative books to emerge from a politician's processor in the past 20 years... Willetts writes with lucidity, elegance and wit. He has read extraordinarily widely... Any future government is going to be wrestling for some time with the after-effects of the great pinch he describes.
--Howard Davies, Times Higher Education Supplement

`The Pinch is a powerful personal credo, a mine of information, and a solid and remorseless argument. It is the sort of work that gives intellectual spine to a whole career. It assembles facts, it makes brave judgements, and it offers a conclusion that has large, obvious and quite immediate consequences... The author's logic is always careful, his terms defined, his evidence set out and his tangent from the central argument clear... He offers an engaging, sometimes startling tour d'horizon of research and thinking in socio-political theory since David Hume and Adam Smith... His exposition of theories of human altruism is beautifully clear... This book's argument stands comparison with the speeches and treatises of Sir Keith Joseph.' --Spectator

'Though David Willetts is a member of the Tory Shadow-Cabinet, his book takes the voter right above and beyond party politics, suggesting that the big underlying issue facing all major parties at the election - and the one which will face any incoming government - is to what extent we can or should push the costs of maintaining our own lifestyle onto the next generation. It's an intelligently but simply argued case, packed with surprising information. What politics really should be about.' -- Matthew Parris, selecting The Pinch as his 'One book to get to grips with the 2010 General Election' in The Times

About the Author

David Willetts is Shadow Secretary of State for Universities and Skills and has been the Member of Parliament for Havant since 1992. He was previously Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and has worked at the Treasury, and the Number 10 Policy Unit. He served as Paymaster General in the last Conservative Government. He is a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation, a member of the Council of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Senior Adviser to Punter Southall, actuaries. David has written widely on economic and social policy and his book Modern Conservatism was published by Penguin in 1992. David is married to Sarah Butterfield, an artist, and they have two children.

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert McCaffrey on 12 Aug 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an interesting, thoughtful read, but it suffers from criminally negligent editors - it would be twice as good if it was half as long. There is a huge amount of waffle, repetition and general wordage, all of which should have been chucked out by a better editor. It has also dated rather badly, with much of the book bang-up-to-date in 2009, but sadly lacking in the post-crisis world. The new 'Afterword' hardly updates the book, apart from to add in a basic graph of the number of live births 1930-2000, which really ought to have been in the original version. In fact, the later addition of this graph points up a flaw in the original edition - the total lack of graphics. David, a picture paints a thousand words - a lot of the verbiage in the book could be avoided - and better illustrated, with a simple graph.
Having said all that, this is a thought-provoking book, which was worthwhile reading (on holiday, as it happens). I'm not a Boomer, but 'Gen X' (1967), apparently. Worth a read if you are into that sort of thing.

David Willetts is admirably non-political throughout, but he should give in to his political instincts and publish that 10-point action plan if he wants us to do anything about it. Since he hasn't, I will:
1. Save for a rainy day;
2. Put at least half of your age as a percentage of your gross salary into a pension;
3. Lobby your MP to reduce inheritance taxes;
4. Decide what proportion of your lifetime income you want to pass on to your 'kids' (Note - can be zero);
5. Make a will;
6. Make sure you vote;
7. Invest in the future (bridges, motorways, high-speed internet, education, your own children etc);
8. Reduce money wastage (both government and personal);
9. Think about what would be a good course of action for you now for your children's children;
10. While doing all of this, don't forget to live your own life. You only have one life - live it!
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A. Brixey-Williams on 5 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
How lucky my generation has been. Never called up to fight a major war. A student-loan-free education. An indomitable feeling that we can do anything. A generation approaching oldie-ship that will look different, act atypically and feel unconventionally about ourselves. No lawn bowls for us, or fawn windcheaters, or sensible shoes (unless we choose to wear them with a sense of post-modern irony, of course...). Heli-skiing at 73 - why not?

In a characteristically scholarly but lucidly readable fashion, Willetts provides a sociological, economic and demographic grand tour of a generation that has amassed great wealth and power and, he postulates, pulled up the drawbridge behind it. Reading it as a BB evokes pride and guilt in equal measures, but Willetts, a baby-boomer himself, stresses that this is not a book attacking his generation, but merely asking it to use its power wisely and fairly.

As a financial planner I deal with many made-it-big-time baby boomers, but watch with dread the younger cohorts sleepwalking into great poverty in old age. Many start life in debt; often have a misplaced obsession with property (Willetts cites research that suggests our decisions about what to invest in are shaped for several decades by the types of assets that were booming in our youth), and even their bosses, whose own pension planning might have been derailed by reductions in tax-relief for the better-off, may no longer feel quite so inclined to encourage their younger staff to save prudently for their later years.

I related strongly to Willetts' idea of baby boomers who were allowed to be 'free-range children', and that the social contract between parents and children is less trusting these days, for reasons I still don't fully comprehend, even as a father.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. R. Munro on 6 April 2011
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating read but never has the saying " a picture tells a thousand words" been more true. The arguements are statistically based and are often difficult to follow but there's not a single statistical 'picture'. Even when defining the generations using birth rates there's no chart. It could have been so clear, but it's not!
A good story lost in the telling.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a concept. I still am able to sprout facts from this book. Overall provide information on a concept that is certainly not talked about much by the older generation. Well researched, can't say if all facts are true so have to take them at face value.
Gets a little repetitive as it goes on, and does not provide the solution. Would have liked the title to be 'and HOW they can give it back!"
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38 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A. H. Browne on 17 Feb 2010
Format: Hardcover
David Willetts has been talking about the generation war for a while, and now has put down his thoughts in this highly engaging book. He might be a politician, but his book is both well written and very non-party political. It is full of enticing, and illuminating insights - for example, that Britain has had small nuclear families rather than large extended ones for the past millennium; that sex was discovered before the 1963 and the pill - but as a result an astonishingly high proportion (one quarter from memory) of young brides were pregnant. The central thesis - that the whole economic and social system is geared to the interests of baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965, and those who come afterwards are disadvantaged as a result - is not just convincing, but politically salient. The baby boomers have won the tug of war with their children, with the result that they had free university education, while their children didn't; lower taxes; lower government debt; lower house prices. The post-baby boomers will struggle as they pay off the debts of their parents living beyond their means as though there would be no tomorrow (at least for them). The problem is the solution - although the grey generation need to pay their way more to lessen the burdens on the young, which government is going to risk the wrath of precisely the generation which is the most diligent about going to the polling booths? I think the generations may be warring for some time to come.
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