The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About America’s Economic Future by Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns

Economist Laurence Kotlikoff and his co-author, Scott Burns, warn of a “God-awful storm” when the boomer generation enters retirement. In 2030 there are likely to be twice as many retirees as today, but only 18 percent more workers. To support this huge elderly population, the government will have to borrow money beyond its capacity to repay. The nation will confront higher taxes, slashed retirement and health benefits, and reduced defense and social services. “Unless we adults make large sacrifices very quickly, our kids will face lifetime net tax rates that are twice those we face!”

What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry by John Markoff

New York Times writer John Markoff captures the rollicking creativity of engineer Doug Engelbart and other baby boomers at Stanford University who developed the personal computer in the 1960s and early 1970s. Young computer freaks in the Bay area picked up on Engelbart’s vision for augmenting intelligence via PCs. This generation of techies took psychedelics, smoked pot and published about the coming computer revolution in engineering journals and Rolling Stone.

Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter

Hippies brought VW Beetles, rebelled against the Establishment, took drugs, protested against the Vietnam War and rejected mainstream culture. So what happened to the revolution? Canadians Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter show that “the counterculture was from its very inception entrepreneurial.” Rock ’n’ roll, hip clothes, poster art, and anti-Establishment movies quickly became big business. By the 1990s the spirit of rebellion had faded to a taste for expensive German cars, designer jeans and big houses. These gluttons of consumption expressed concern about the sad state of the world.

Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe and William Strauss

Pop historians Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of the bestselling Generations, focus on those born between 1982 and 2001: the Millennials. “Given the generational forces at work,” they write, “an era of crisis seems unavoidable.” The authors predict that Millennials will reorganize the political, economic and cultural landscape and take a tough stance on looming budget deficits. “Cutting old-age benefits for Boomers would be an easy call if Millennials are anywhere on the line of fire.”


Originally published in the February 2010 issue of American History. To subscribe, click here