In defence of millennials

Trisha Jha

28 October 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

millennials avocadoI’m under no illusions about the CIS demographic, so I know this is a provocative topic for this newsletter. After all, aren’t millennials busy complaining about house prices in one breath and bemoaning developers in the next — in between mouthfuls of smashed avocado on toast?

Well, no. Some of us are busy dragging government into the twenty-first century. CIS was joined this week by the NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet, who is perhaps unusual among cabinet ministers in that he openly refers to himself as a millennial, rather than frantically editing his Wikipedia page lest anyone find out he was, in fact, born in 1983.

Mr Perrottet has a relatively high opinion of his fellow millennials, pointing out in his CIS speech on Tuesday that they are the strongest supporters of projects such as asset recycling, where an old and unproductive asset owned by the government can be sold and the proceeds dedicated to building new infrastructure.

This is not really surprising. After all, younger generations are more liberally minded — one poll suggested those over 55 are the most likely to oppose investment by Chinese companies. I’ve got a hunch this follows for other key measures of economic openness, such as free trade, and immigration and population.

Furthermore, young people are the early adopters when it comes to new technologies and services — like Uber and Airbnb — that disrupt the carefully-engineered sweetheart deals between government and industry. They are also at the forefront of establishing start-up companies providing fresh competition to stale industries that haven’t changed shape for the past 50 years, such as real estate.

There are whingers and cribbers in every generation. But we have very good reasons to think that new technology, with its ability to carry information farther and wider, can reinvigorate the market and serve as a challenge to the role of the state in people’s lives. If that happens, millennials can say: “you’re welcome.”

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