My wife and I were both born in 1969. Here is a short list of debacles, missteps, and failures that we’ve witnessed in our time on the planet: stagflation, the energy crisis (gas lines), the tech bubble, the 2nd Iraq war, the housing bubble, and the great recession (and you can add to this list). Another way we could describe the past 40 or so years, if feeling negative, could be: rising inequality, stagnant real wages, rapid increases in health care and education costs, growth in structural unemployment/underemployment, and political polarization and ineffectiveness in the face of these challenges.
Christopher Hayes, editor-at-large for the Nation, thinks that many of the problems listed above can be traced back to the failures of elite decision making. These are problems that could have been avoided, or at least mitigated, if those in charge of the political and financial levers had demonstrated a modicum of clear thinking and firm leadership. Perhaps the 2003 Iraq invasion and failure of post-occupation planning is the most obvious elite failure, but in retrospect those policies that pumped up the housing bubble (lax regulation and non-existent oversight of sub-prime loans) constitute a clear example of elite malfeasance.