Mike Kueber's Blog

January 15, 2013

Money as a force for good, and the Strauss-Howe generational theory

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about candidates in San Antonio spending a lot of money to secure a position as city councilman.   I concluded the post with the following comment:

  • Although I’m tempted to criticize these candidates (especially Briones) for trying to buy the election, I have previously declared, semi-seriously, that my life would not be greatly different if I won the lottery except that in my next political campaign I would provide significantly more self-funding.  So, if I had the money, I would probably spend it on my campaign, too.  If I don’t have the money, I will probably see if social media can level the playing field.  That is a principle worth getting excited about.  Anything that makes for a smarter voter.

Today, the NY Times reported on a study that found generous financial support from parents for their kids’ college education was a predictor of lower grades.  By contrast, kids who did not receive such windfalls from their parents secured higher grades. 

I find that these two financing issues (campaigns and college) are similar – i.e., whether having lots of money can become a negative factor because it diminishes motivation.  The problem is, as I previously noted in my blog post, if you have the money, you are probably going to use it even though it might have a negative effect.

There is an old saying about families going through a predictable cycle of success or failure, based on the successful generation having drive and initiative, but being only partially able to pass on those traits to the next generation.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find that saying anywhere on Google.  But while looking for it, I found a similar concept – the Strauss-Howe generational theory – that seems to apply broadly to generations throughout American history.  According to the Wikipedia description:

  1. The First Turning is a High. This is a post-Crisis era when institutions are strong and individualism is weak. Society is confident about where it wants to go collectively, though those outside the majoritarian center often feel stifled by the conformity.  America’s most recent First Turning was the post-World War II American High, beginning in 1946 and ending with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
  2. The Second Turning is an Awakening. This is an era when institutions are attacked in the name of personal and spiritual autonomy. Just when society is reaching its high tide of public progress, people suddenly tire of social discipline and want to recapture a sense of personal authenticity. Young activists look back at the previous High as an era of cultural and spiritual poverty.  America’s most recent Awakening was the “Consciousness Revolution,” which spanned from the campus and inner-city revolts of the mid-1960s to the tax revolts of the mid-1980s.
  3. The Third Turning is an Unraveling. The mood of this era is in many ways the opposite of a High: Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. Highs come after Crises, when society wants to coalesce and build. Unravelings come after Awakenings, when society wants to atomize and enjoy.  America’s most recent Unraveling was the Long Boom and Culture Wars, beginning in the mid-1980s and ending in the late 2000s. The era began during the second term of (Reagan’s “Morning in America”), which has developed into an edgy popular culture, a pervasive distrust of institutions and leaders, and the splitting of national consensus into competing “values” camps.
  4. The Fourth Turning is a Crisis. This is an era in which America’s institutional life is destroyed and rebuilt in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression redirects towards community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group. Fourth Turnings have all been new “founding moments” in America’s history, moments that redefined the national identity.  America’s most recent Fourth Turning began with the stock market crash of 1929 and climaxed with the end of World War II.

Sounds like we have stumbled into an exciting time.  Rahm Emanuel was correct in wanting to take advantage of our current crisis, but he and President Obama are not the two people I want steering our ship of state.


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