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The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future - And How They Can Give it Back [Hardcover]

David Willetts
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
Price: 18.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Feb 2010
This provocative and thought-provoking book argues that the baby boomer generation have thrived at the expense of their children. The baby boom of 1945-65 produced the biggest, richest generation that Britain has ever known. Today, at the peak of their power and wealth, baby boomers now run our country; by virtue of their sheer demographic power, they have fashioned the world around them in a way that meets all of their housing, healthcare and financial needs. In this original and provocative book, David Willetts shows how the baby boomer generation has attained this position at the expense of their children. Social, cultural and economic provision has been made for the reigning section of society, whilst the needs of the next generation have taken a back seat. Willetts argues that if our political, economic and cultural leaders do not begin to discharge their obligations to the future, the young people of today will be taxed more, work longer hours for less money, have lower social mobility and live in a degraded environment in order to pay for their parents' quality of life. Baby boomers, worried about the kind of world they are passing on to their children, are beginning to take note. However, whilst the imbalance in the quality of life between the generations is becoming more obvious, what is less certain is whether the older generation will be willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a more equal distribution. "The Pinch" is a landmark account of intergenerational relations in Britain. It is essential reading for parents and policymakers alike.

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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 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 265,505 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave and well thought-through 5 May 2010
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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37 of 49 people found the following review helpful
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Benaut 6 April 2011
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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1.0 out of 5 stars The Pinch 5 April 2014
By samfam3
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I hated this book, I put it down, and discarded it for ever and ever. I then found out who the writer was and that clinched it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent coverage of intergeneration issues 1 Feb 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a really excellent book dealing with intergenerational issue. Full of useful facts and figures. It is very well researched and written.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pensions industry view 17 April 2010
A bit over-simplified in places - for example, not convinced that, just because modern mums have more labour-saving devices, children nowadays have more parental attention than when most mothers didn't go out to work - but it's still very unusual to see a politician who believes in researching the evidence before venturing an opinion and there's a lot of fresh evidence that he's marshalled to support his arguments.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Richard Murphy VINE VOICE
An excellent read for anyone interested in getting behind shallow press coverage and political rhetoric on social issues, and into the detail of how best to run the country in the interests of all its inhabitants.

David Willetts has a reputation as a thinker, as well as a politician. The book looks at the impact of the baby boom on modern Britain, and the challenges we face as this group move into retirement. The book is heavy on analysis and light on conclusions, and is all the better for that.

He resists anecdotes and popular myths, and concentrates on the numbers. For example he stresses that in Britain property tends to be bought and sold as needed, and not passed down through the generations. Importantly this is not a new trend - 87% of land transactions were between unrelated people back in 1400, and this is very different from other countries and cultures. He highlights that what will stop a habitual 20 year old criminal is not prison, but for him to get a job and a steady girlfriend. And what do Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Congo and Somalia have in common? All these global trouble-spots have a median age under 20, compared to the world median of 29 and UK one of 39.

What has this got to do with the baby boom? You need to read the book to find out, but what he sets out to demonstrate is that a country's cultural traditions and population profile have a huge effect on the wellbeing of its citizens. The political solutions to Britain's problems over the next few decades will need to take both into account if they are going to succeed.

Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in politics, and in particular social policy, but also a fascinating book for the general reader.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong premise
By lumping all baby boomers together the authors comes up with highly debatable conclusions. Given that wages in real terms have been falling for years or decades (the latter in... Read more
Published 5 months ago by tandem5551
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest in it half way through
Some thought provoking material but not the kind of book to take on holiday, overall it was repetitive and failed to keep my attention.
Published 7 months ago by John R
3.0 out of 5 stars Social Housing would solve most problems
If only this coalition government with a majority of Tories could be a bit more understanding to the fact that mortgages cannot be afforded by everyone and that our home is the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by ColinJ
1.0 out of 5 stars Populist Garbage from a dolt who can't change a lightbulb.
The Pinch and the other books from David Willets are just recycled regurgitated nonsence he picked up from his Politics, Philosophy and Economics degree. Read more
Published on 2 April 2012 by Mr. K. Breslin
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a British politician saying something meaningful
A very interesting and thought-provoking read. It is however hard to reconcile the author's views here with his actions in government as Minister of State for Universities!
Published on 20 Aug 2011 by John
1.0 out of 5 stars Cucumber
Dr Johnson said of cucumber that, after elaborate dressing, it should be discarded as worth nothing. And so with Willett's premise and argument. Read more
Published on 23 July 2011 by M.I.
1.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy analysis leading to an incorrect predetermined conclusion
If this book had been advertised as a description of the importance of inter-generational cooperation, accompanied by useful social statistics, I would have given it more stars. Read more
Published on 23 July 2011 by Barry C. Pearson
1.0 out of 5 stars Too expensive
Love to read this on Kindle, but the publishers are having a laff if they think I'll buy an ebook at that price.
Published on 25 Feb 2011 by Mr. K. Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars The Pinch: How the baby boomers took their children's future
I bought this book thinking that it would give me an inside into my own generation and how "the grey pound" was being used at the expense of younger generations. Read more
Published on 4 Dec 2010 by Mr. Philip Woolley
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and non judgmental
Details on the facts, not so much pointing the finger of blame, but still identifying how the boomers have let us all down.
Published on 10 Sep 2010 by Gary Frost
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