The Grasshopper Generation

Walter Williams rightly condemns the so-called “Greatest Generation”:

There is a distinct group of Americans who bear a large burden for today’s runaway government. You ask, “Who are they?” It’s the so-called “greatest generation.” When those Americans were born, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was about 3 percent, as it was from 1787 to 1920, except during war. No one denies the sacrifices made and the true greatness of a generation of Americans who suffered through our worse depression, conquered the meanest tyrants during World War II and later managed to produce a level of wealth and prosperity heretofore unknown to mankind.

But this generation of Americans also laid the political foundation for the greatest betrayal of our nation’s core founding principle: limited federal government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers. It was on their watch that the foundation was laid for today’s massive federal spending that tops 25 percent of GDP.

As much as I despise the Baby Boomers, it has to be admitted that they did not spring into being ex nihilo. They were created, they were permitted to become what they became, by the generation that preceded them. This means that the so-called “Greatest Generation” failed at their secondary role, that of raising up the succeeding generation.

And it can even be convincingly argued that they failed at their primary role as well. For while the “Greatest Generation” provided the cannon fodder for World War II, it was not their generation that was responsible for any of the decisions involved in fighting it. It would have been impossible for the USA to lose the war given its massive industrial advantage, manpower advantage, air superiority and naval supremacy. The only real question concerned the U.S. decision to involve itself in European affairs, and once the decision to go from passive support of Britain and the Soviet Union to active involvement was made, the fate of the Axis was sealed.

It doesn’t take anything away from the bravery or the sacrifice of the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima to recognize that there was no way the Axis forces could possibly have withstood the combined might of the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States.

So, the “Greatest Generation” not only wasn’t primarily responsible for its one historically significant achievement, but in its failure to keep faith with the U.S. Constitution, failed in its primary responsibility of preserving the strength and stability of the nation for the generations to follow. In keeping with this verdict, it suddenly occurs to me that neither set of my grandparents left so much as one single dime to any of their children. So, it seems to me that it is much more accurate to describe that generation as “Grasshopper” than “Greatest”