Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction

Click here to learn more about Slackonomics on Amazon.

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve posted here, but this quote is just too good to pass up:

“It’s plain to see there’s a ton of slack in the economy,” said [Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs]. “We’re not managing to generate enough demand to absorb all these
productive resources in the economy.”

This comes from a Times article featuring two economists with different points of view about where the economy is headed. It’s no surprise that the Gen Xer (although I’m sure Mr. Hatzius would reject that moniker) is much more pessimistic than the Boomer. Regardless, the fact that Slackonomics is still relevant two years after publication. Buy it here cheap!

I’m just going to repost the Slackonomics jacket copy  — including a brief excerpt and short bio — which was written in May and published in July, 2008:

Generation X grew up in the 1980s, when Alex P. Keaton was going to be a millionaire by the time he was thirty, greed was good, and social activism was deader than disco. That was before the Great Middle Class Squeeze and a roller coaster of economic insecurity and technological innovations changed everything. Two back-to-back bubbles later, many Xers find that living in a time of “creative destruction”—when an old economic order is upended by a new one—has deeply affected their everyday lives; from how they work, where they live, how they play, when they marry and have children, to their attitudes on love, humor, friendship, happiness, and personal fulfillment.

But what’s more, after spending years in the shadow of baby-boomers only to find themselves facing the prospects of economic ruin and environmental meltdown, Xers are realizing the time may finally have arrived for them to be in charge.

One part Freakonomics, one part Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Chamberlain’s debut deftly weaves together the disparate forces that have shaped a generation and defined an era. Exploring the connections between Douglas Coupland and Melrose Place, dot-com insanity and the riot grrrl scene, Donnie Darko and the current housing crisis, present-day graffiti artists and an early twentieth-century Austrian economist, Slackonomics is a wry and compelling must-read for anyone interested in our post-Boomer future.


Ironically, before this generation was known as Generation X, the prevailing wisdom (circa 1985) was that this group would have it pretty cushy in almost every way: as babyboomers aged their way through society, vast opportunities would open up for the smaller demographic coming up behind them; colleges would be competing with each other to attract the best students; as boomers moved out of the workforce there would be more jobs available than could be filled, increasing pay and benefits; and—get this—there would be a flood of affordable housing as boomers traded up! As the saying goes, prediction is very hard, especially about the future…

Lisa Chamberlain is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the executive director of the Forum for Urban Design. Her writing has also appeared in Salon, New York magazine, and the New York Observer. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of a Village Voice-owned weekly paper. She lives in the East Village in New York City.

The Slack Blog has been on hiatus. (Lelia Colette was born Nov. 22 — a month after I turned 40 years old. Very Gen X, that. But I digress.) It’s a new year and shit is still sucking big time! But don’t despair, because Gen X is all about resilience. For a primer on what Slackonomics is all about, check out an article in the Times titled:

Former Bankers Turn to a Creative Plan B

MICHAEL TERRY led a double life for many years.

“During the day I worked at Morgan Stanley as an executive director, overseeing a group that raised money for hedge funds,” he said, “and at night I performed in comedy shows.”

Then, last February, his company announced a round of layoffs. Mr. Terry, motivated to pursue his goal of becoming a “Daily Show” correspondent, raised his hand.

“At the time, I figured the severance package would give me a couple of years to try comedy, something that was getting increasingly hard to balance with my day job.”

Since leaving Morgan Stanley, Mr. Terry, 37, has shot two pieces as an on-the-scene reporter for the Onion News Network, and his sketch comedy group, Party Central USA, has been given a prime spot at the coming Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.

With Wall Street hemorrhaging jobs, bonuses disappearing and the financial sector going through a seismic shift, some bankers and lawyers are switching lanes to more creative career paths. They are putting down their Wall Street Journals and picking up Variety as they try their hands at comedy, filmmaking and writing. …

There you have it.

And here is my perfect little girl, Lelia (pronounced LELL-ee-uh).

The paper of record for New York’s young and ambitious has a piece about the legions of twenty-somethings that are losing their jobs and maybe their shirts in the financial debacle. Here are a couple paragraphs and my quote in the piece:

The 90,000 laid-off office workers that the city anticipates by the end of 2009 will include many of these younger New Yorkers. A lot will hail from the city’s more lucrative fields, including finance, advertising and law.

The city could, then, soon experience a glut of the young, the talented—and the idle; and it may not be so easy to unclog before there are serious repercussions, particularly for real estate and the very real fabric of certain neighborhoods.

“People in their 20s, I feel for them, I really do,” said Lisa Chamberlain, 39, author of Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction.

“It’s not like this is cyclical job loss,” she said of the financial implosion, which reminds her of the dot-com bust and the accompanying loss of jobs. “It’s not like these jobs are going to come back when the economy recovers. A lot of these jobs are going to be permanently gone; and that was true with the dot-com thing. … I mean, I don’t know who’s going to be selling derivatives in five years.”

Read the whole piece here.