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The Big Global Crack Up: Generational Shift Causes Economic And Political Shake-Down

Remember when associations and other membership organizations, like Rotary and chambers of commerce, enjoyed a lock on their markets? The Baby Boomers joined associations in droves. Now, participation is changing, fueled by social changes, generational shifts, a recession-prone economy, and rapidly-changing technology.

Remember when associations and other membership organizations, like Rotary and chambers of commerce, enjoyed a lock on their markets? The Baby Boomers joined associations in droves. Now, participation is changing, fueled by social changes, generational shifts, a recession-prone economy, and rapidly-changing technology.

I just authored a book on this very conundrum —The End of Membership As We Know It.

While I’ve spent a great deal of time in recent years researching changing demographics and changing membership models and educating people on these topics, it’s important to note change is happening on substantial scale with radical proportions everywhere. Absolutely everything about the way everyone lives, works, and does business is changing. And most of that change can be attributed to one generation’s not-so-gracious fall from power.

Thomas Friedman authored a column in The New York Times on August 27 which addresses change on a global level. It states:

“The European Union is cracking up. The Arab world is cracking up. China’s growth model is under pressure and America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink. Recasting any one of these alone would be huge. Doing all four at once — when the world has never been more interconnected — is mind-boggling.”

In Europe, large government welfare programs in some countries, without the revenue to finance them from local production, has led to a piling up of sovereign debt —mostly owed to European banks — and a lender revolt.

The old model of power based on kings and military dictators in the Middle East has been blown apart by an Arab youth bulge that is no longer ready to accept being behind, undereducated, unemployed, humiliated and powerless.

China has relied on a model built on Communism featuring a deliberately undervalued currency and export-led growth, with low domestic consumption and high savings. Persistent unemployment is making this model less sustainable and has fallen under threat.

China also has another challenge on its hands: to get rich before it gets old. It has to move from two parents saving for one kid, to one kid paying for theretirement of two parents.

As for America, we’ve thrived in recent decades with a credit-consumption-led economy. It’s put us in a deep hole, and we’re seeing the emergence of new, hybrid politics that mixes spending cuts, tax increases, tax reform and investments in education, research and production.

So what exactly is causing the global economy to ‘crack up’?

According to Mark Goulston, Vice Chairman of Steele Partners, it’s generational.

Goulston authored an opinion article for the Huffington Post in response to Friedman’s column. Gouldman takes Friedman’s economic assessment a step further to pinpoint demographic shifts as the real reason for the global economic and political shake-down:

“When you read Friedman’s column about the institutions of various countries, continents and cultures of the world, it appears that they are breaking down as the younger generations globally are seeing what others have and how others live and how they could have and live the same.

Friedman doesn’t say it explicitly, but if you read between his lines and then look around you at the different generations, you will see that a revolution is brewing. But it is not brewing between democratic and totalitarian regimes. It is between generations.”

Back in February I authored a blog about Generation Y’s global revolution—the young, unemployed, and unhappy who are revolting against governments and workplaces the world over. Goulston focused his commentary on Generation X—the adults who are currently ages 30-46 and will soon assume power.

He wrote:

“In the year 2020 the Gen X’ers will be coming into their power and judging from what I hear from them now, they are not going to be interested in or willing to give more to the Boomers who will be heading toward the final chapters in their lives, nor will they be interested in or willing to let the Millennial children of the Boomers off the hook when it comes to being accountable.

To the Gen X’ers, blaming, complaining, finger pointing, excuse making and especially feeling sorry for themselves by Boomers and Millennials are like “nails on a chalkboard” and Friedman hasn’t said it explicitly, but has implied that Boomers and spoiled Millennials are on notice because of it.”

Goulston and Friedman bring to light that nothing in this world is stable, similar, or secure right now. We’re rebuilding, reorganizing, and redesigning our governments, workplaces, and entire economies. The question is whether we will we be able to accomplish these feats by working together.

Friedman projects that a global crisis is in our midst if America doesn’t get its act together.

Goulston projects that if Baby Boomers continue to hang on to positions of power,  they will find themselves facing the same fate as the fallen and falling dictators around the world at the hands of the generations who follow them.

One thing is certain: All over the world, Generation X and Y are hungry for a chance to thrive. And our governments, economies, and workplaces need these generations to survive.

The sooner we realize that we need each other and make this more about collaboration and less about power, the sooner we all will experience civil rest and prosperity.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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