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on 3 October 2010
Well written, informative, thought provoking and deeply depressing for anyone unlucky enough to be born too late. This book explains why we are where we are. Unlike many of the current offerings which jump on the band wagon of blaming the bankers, this thoughtful and well researched text holds back from the easy blame game and uses authoritative statistics to explain carefully the various difficulties Britain's young adults have been experiencing for the past few years. What many thought was just the result of reckless lending policies over the past decade, leading to overinflated house prices, a financial crash causing recession and unemployment, is shown to have its ultimate roots decades earlier. The realisation of which is that unless there is a paradigm shift in British politics then this will be a lost generation, paying for the short term decisions of our elders and denied many of their advantages.
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on 1 May 2011
Everyone under 30 needs to read this book. For so many years I've been feeling so frustrated without clearly understanding why. Why is it I'm 27, earn almost as much as my parents combined and can't afford to buy a house? How can I have a stable relationship when my partner and I are constantly moving to find work? How come I can't find a great job when I have a 1st class degree? This book takes all the half formed thoughts that have been flying around my head, and articulates them fully, providing a wealth of research to support their argument.

It's somber reading, but somehow reassuring to know that actually, it's not just you, you are trying hard, and this situation has been decades in the making. Asides from being interesting reading, and essential cannon fodder for the next person who tells you that young people have it easy, this book, if anything, shows why young people need to rekindle their interest in politics
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on 18 September 2010
Written by two twenty-something journalists this very readable book has a good go at explaining why the prospects for Britain's young people haven't looked so bleak for a long, long time and why much of the predicament they now find themselves in is as a result of the changes in society brought about by their parent's generation - those now over fifty, the so-called 'babyboomers'.

The book is divided into four chapters with each covering what the authors regard as the most pressing issues facing young people growing up in Britain today:- "Housing", "Jobs", "Inheritance" and "Politics". Every gripe you'd expect to see is here. The ridiculous price of houses, job insecurity, low pay, crap education, tuition fees, over-taxation, over-indebtedness, rampant consumerism and, of course, the appalling state of the public finances and that looming £1.3 trillion of government debt that the jilted generation correctly assume they'll be paying off for the rest of their lives - courtesy of one Mr G. Brown and the Labour Party [as voted for by - yes - you guessed it, the babyboomers!]. However, armed with numerous graphs and tables Howker and Malik set about sticking it to post-war governments of all persuasions especially Thatcher's Tories and Blair and Brown's New Labour - as well as giving their parent's generation a bloody good hiding along the way too.

For me, as a member of so-called 'Generation X' that sits between the babyboomers and the jilted generation, I thought Chapter 4 - "Politics" - was the most interesting. I found the authors' assertion that the origins of today's self-centred society lie in 1960s Marxist counter-culture to be a particularly well articulated and persuasive argument and one I hadn't come across before.

Anyhow, if you're a young person growing up in Britain today or, like me, you just care about what happens to our young people and feels they're getting a raw deal from the new liberal-left establishment then please do read this book. Perhaps the old cliche "blame the parents" is right after all.
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on 11 September 2010
In Jilted, Shiv Malik and Ed Howker take the debate on intergenerational justice to the next level. The culture of unaffordable housing, insecure jobs, student debt and our toxic economic inheritence are all subjected to critical appraisal by the two authors.

However, rather than taking a sectarian 'us vs them' approach to the boomer generation, Malik and Howker set their sights on the culture of political shortsightedness that is endemic in our political system. The topics covered in this book need urgent attention and the sooner the Jilted youth start rallying together the sooner they will be able to put a stop to the ongoing erosion of their economic situation.
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on 1 January 2013
This book is unashamedly a polemic rather than an unemotional analysis. This provides the emotional energy to carry the topic, and no doubt resonates with many young people today. It is a rallying cry for "something must be done!" (And perhaps "heads must roll!")

But more analysis would have revealed that things are not always as stated, and seeking solutions (rather than debating problems) needs a more focused identification of underlying causes so that they can be fixed. The book is better at casting blame (sometimes wrongly) towards the past than at proposing solutions for the future.

"Jilted Generation"? "Jilted" typically means "loved then discarded". Perhaps that it how it feels. But was ANY other generation "loved but NOT discarded"? I think people in earlier generations had lower initial expectations and so didn't feel such a loss whenever it was a case of "life's a bitch and then you die". This is a problem with any assumption that each generation will be better off than the previous one; why should people think that? If the life-features of generations are a combination of trends + luck, then "regression to the mean" will typically make some life-features worse in the next generation!

"Generation" really only means much within a family. It is a poor way of talking about a set of people born over some 25 year period (or whatever). There is rarely a fully plausible definition of the generation, nor do all the identified people have much in common. The generation of this book is the one born after September 1979, because that identifies those who had to pay more to go to university. For a minority of people that matters a lot. But nearly two-thirds of this generation didn't go to university, so this distinguishing factor is irrelevant to them! This is also the generation of most Premier League footballers and their WAGS, and of most of the Olympians and Paralympians who are the British heroes feted in the recent New Year's Honours list. Lots of people are fond of SOME of the members of this generation!

This book gets the demographics of "baby boomers" wrong, like most books on this topic. There wasn't a baby boom in the UK from about 1945 to about 1965. 1965 was undoubtedly the PEAK of a baby boom, not the end of one! Unusually, the book even includes a graphic from the Office of National Statistics that shows this! (There was a "baby pop" from about 1946 to about 1948, then a more significant baby boom from about 1955 to about 1974).

But more important is unwarranted blaming of the baby boomers (whoever they are!) An example from the book: "We know that our parents didn't want it this way; we know that when they accepted the terms of their society they were only trying to do what was best for themselves and their families. But we also know that they could have done better if more of them had remembered that they weren't just individuals but citizens too".

What on Earth does "they could have done better if more of them had remembered that they weren't just individuals but citizens too" mean? Assuming that this is supposed to be about me too, (I was born in 1947), what should I have done that I didn't do? What did I do that I shouldn't have done? That statement is abstract waffle, not grounded in the real actions of real people living a real life. I suspect it is based somehow on the assumption that we had at the time at least the knowledge that the authors have with hindsight, and had our hands on the levers of power. Hardly any of us had such power, and none of us had such knowledge.

Obviously the book discusses housing and jobs and having children: All of these involve life-style choices, some of which make life harder for the people who make particular decisions. The authors set the constraints too high. Some people want to live near where they were raised. Some people want to have children and bring them up in a "family house". Some people struggle to find a suitable job. Sometimes these choices are inter-connected. The more constraints that are placed on the location and quality of houses the harder it becomes to satisfy all the constraints.

There is a theme in this book about being able to live near where people were brought up (even in the South-East!), and wanting a family but having to delay it until a "family house" can be afforded. While those are obviously desirable to those concerned, they are certainly not all necessary. I feel that the authors are setting the bar too high, and getting angry at failing to achieve "modern" expectations that some people in earlier generations never had. I accept the consensus that there are too few houses. I accept that jobs are hard to find. I accept that this makes having children harder. But my sympathy is limited where people constrain themselves in ways that I didn't.

Since the book's "generation" is based on university fees, I'll comment on education: When I went to university in 1965 only the top 5% of each year got their tuition free. That is because only the top 5% got to university! Now it is more like 35%. I think apprenticeships will prove more suitable for many people like those who currently go to university then struggle to find jobs. I'm not the only one who thinks that some university courses are a waste of valuable resources for all concerned.

I found "Politics" one of the most interesting parts of the book. It has caused me to revise a statement I have made a number of times that only 1% of us had our hands on the levers of power. That is optimistic; I now think less than 0.1% of us did!

I now see that all government is an ongoing experiment! The situations that have to be catered for have never arisen in the same way before. There is no rule-book that is known to work. Prior ideologies were probably designed (perhaps only in theory) for previous cases. Much of the time, politicians, who don't really understand one-another fully and haven't got time to negotiate with everyone concerned, make things up as they go along. Arrogance (or impatience or ignorance) prevents the running of controlled experiments.

Furthermore, things that may have been easy to give are hard to take away later. It is almost impossible to make a fresh start with a particular topic, but instead "course corrections" are made to existing policies, and then sold as new initiatives. It looks like bad management, but the media and the public are partly to blame for this. "U turns" are condemned; programmes on which money has been spent tend to continue too long (the "sunk cost fallacy").

I wondered whether to give just 2 stars, but although parts of it are inaccurate and/or irrelevant it is thought-provoking and paints a useful picture of the problems that will be faced by young people of this and future generations in an ageing population. The trick will be to focus on solving the inevitable problems rather than blaming people in history for them.
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on 6 September 2010
All too often, important political books are terminally dull. Not this one. The subject matter is significant, but just as imporant, the book is great fun. It charges from astonishing fact to mind blowing statistic. It is a polemic of the best variety - possessing a pace only achieved through skilled word-smithing. No dull padding. No spare paragraphs. You'll read it in a day or two, then talk about it for weeks.

I loved this book. I lent it to a friend, and she loved it even more. Another friend read it in one night, and is going back through with a highlighter pen. So, whether you are one of the jilted generation wondering why you and your friends haven't got what you were promised, or if you are a baby boomer, wondering what's gone wrong for your kids, this is the book the read. Because it tells a story everyone should know. And it tells it so compellingly, that you will love ever second.
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on 4 October 2011
This book contains some very well put together statistics, although the style of prose badly lets it down. As a fellow member of the "jilted generation" myself it was eye-opening to see some of the facts (about social housing, employment prospects, tax breaks etc) but the hard work of compiling the statistics is undone by the authors coming across as moaning teenagers, disappointed that their pocket money has been stopped, which tends to trivialise an otherwise important topic.
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on 18 October 2010
This is, in my opinion, an important book, which should be read by all UK politicians, as well as by journalists and other opinion-formers. It examines the extent to which the younger generation (meaning the 20-something and 30-something age group) has lost out in the present socio-economic climate in the UK. However, the book goes beyond a merely inter-generational discussion to look at the general state of society at present.

The general thrust of the book is that, when compared to the generation born in the 1940's, 1950's and even 1960's, that younger generation born after, say, 1979, has lost out in a big way. However, the book is also relevant to those of us of older years whose "road less travelled" has led away from becoming part of the fake "property-owning democracy" and buy-to-let theme park that is much of modern Britain.

I learned a lot from this book in terms of facts and statistics. It seems that in 1990 about 8% of "home-owners" (with or without mortgage) in the UK were under-25-y-o's, while the number of that age owning homes today is negligible. Indeed, even those in their 30's are now in the small minority of home-owners. That this is the result of more than the recent "credit crunch" etc is brought out well. Some of the factors which applied in the 1960's and up to the 1990's no longer help the aspiring home-buyer: mortgage payment tax relief and cheap money are now gone, there is a paucity of well-paid work and there remains the spreading of the buy-to-let movement. Unlike me, the book does not use the word "parasites" in relation to these speculators.

As I read the book, I noted from the TV satellite news that the average age of a first-time house/flat buyer in the UK is now about 38.

I noticed long ago, in the 1990's, that speculative builders were trashing the green and pleasant land to develop what for the most part were very poor-quality houses and flats. The lack of space was apparent even driving past: "four bedroom homes" turning out to have the same space as three or even two-bedroom properties built before 1979. The facts and figures given in the book have been brought to public attention previously but with little lasting effect: France and Germany have been building homes with ever-greater living space, while the space available to British families and individuals has been decreasing markedly.

Another trend I noticed in the 1980's, which accelerated in the past two decades, is the extent to which property prices have exploded while pay has remained, if not static, then sluggish by comparison. Other things have decreased in price in real terms (air fares, booze, some food etc) but there is little more important both to the individual and to society than a home.

While the book's foundation in the inter-generational conflict (most renters being under 40 and most property-owners being over that age) did make me think of Rudolf Steiner's prophecy of The War Of All Against All (which he claimed would bring to an end the last of the seven post-Atlantean ages --and so the whole post-Atlantean period-- in several thousand years' time), the problems exposed and detailed are a lot more contemporary than that.

As Will Hutton and others are trying to bring to public attention, the UK, albeit not alone in Europe, is in danger of trying to, so to speak "compete with China and India", meaning no/low pay and welfare (including pension provision), insecurity of work and home, falling living and indeed public/political standards. The problem is the shrinkage, not of the State as such, but of the space available to the citizen qua citizen. The citizen's space, his/her rights as a citizen, not as a consumer or producer within the economic sphere. This is something of importance not oonly to thhe 20-40 age group but to all citizens. There seems to be a hidden hand trying to create a kind of economic-slave society in the UK. Examples of the experimental phase? The London Olympics (work as "volunteer" without even getting a free ticket to the circus...meanning peerhaps "volunteer" or lose even peanuts benefits? We shall see...) Then what about the plan to make Metropolitan Police recruits work for free for 18 months? Straws in the wind, methinks...A society where the top-owning-of-assets 10% of population (average assets £4 million) control the rest and particularly the 10-15% reliant on welfare via a kind of East German Stasi regime of control and surveillance.

This question is not (unlike so many in the Uk of today) a race or culture issue fundamentally; neither is it a question solely of age. One has to accept, surely, that it is one of, in the Marxist sense (i.e. leaving out what Marx called the "superstructure" of cultural factors) class or social stratum also. To say that does not make me a "Marxist", but is simply a statement of fact.

Highly recommended.
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on 8 October 2013
Ed Howker is an investigative journalist on Channel 4's Dispatches programme and Shiv Malik is a Guardian staff writer.

In the 20 years after Thatcher came to power, public housing spending fell by 64 per cent. Buy-to-let boomed, to 1.5 million buy-to-let mortgages. London rents rose eight times faster than incomes in 2012.

In the three years to 2015, £35 billions of housing benefits will go, not to those who need it, but into the pockets of private landlords, while just £4 billion of public money goes to build homes. The largest development firms keep build rates low, to keep their profits high. The government's Help-to-Buy scheme will add to demand, fuelling the bubble. But the problem is supply - lack of - not demand.

In 2005, Blair told the Labour party conference, "Our purpose is not to resist the force of globalisation but to prepare for it, and to garner its vast potential benefits." When he said `our', some at the conference might have thought he meant them, but Blair meant his people, the tiny minority of capitalists. Wages for those aged 16-29 fell between 2003 and 2011. The authors note that immigration "adds to the labour surplus and drives down earnings."

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith wrote in the Daily Mail, "It's small wonder that businesses have hired so many foreign nationals in the past decade or so. The fact is that they can't find the employees of quality that they need from the available British workforce." This insulted the entire British working class, more than 90 per cent of the population, and backed the free movement policy, which at other times Duncan Smith affects to deplore.

Britain spent less than Spain or Portugal, as a share of GDP, on getting people into work, less than the OECD average. Yet Michael Portillo wrote in the Sunday Times, 30 August 2009, "Idle young should be entitled to nothing."

The OECD found in 2009 that British companies' investment level was 35th out of the world's 37 richest countries. Public sector investment was low too, down from 7.3 per cent of GDP in 1967-8 to 5.6 per cent in 1975-6, and, since 1979, never above 2 per cent.

The authors point out how the free market has failed. They conclude, "The jilted generation needs homes. Build them. They need skills. Train them. They need jobs. Employ them and please pay them."
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on 19 January 2014
This book contains some excellent and challenging ideas, its critique of the structural problems facing British politics and how they have severely harmed my generation is robust. Furthermore the book is well laid out and very easy to read.

However it is far too short and looks unfinished. There are only 4 (detailed) chapters focusing on housing, jobs, inheritance and politics. More controversial issues in the debate such as there being more workers, due to the rise in female employment rights or immigration, are effectively ignored. The writers actually fall into a self-set hypocritical trap: in order to criticize the short term populism of modern politicians they have written a populist book.

Furthermore their central thesis, that the young have never had it so bad, is undermined as the narrative they construct requires a history lesson. Consequently they allude to previous generations having to fight World Wars, live under the threat of nuclear wars, suffer mass strikes, power shortages etc.

More annoyingly only about 5 pages towards the end of the book actually suggest solutions and these are very weak. The result is that the book comes across as an extended teenage strop which weakens its otherwise sound core message.

These short comings however don't completely undermine the argument and I will be recommending this book to my friends and possibly my parents as well.
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