Wired magazine's May cover presents Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, while the accompanying article salutes the "hacker culture" that "conquered the world." Amid the political paralysis we now witness in Washington, it's a timely reminder of how all the top talent of the Boomer generation went into business and technology, while the dregs went into politics. Don't believe me? Try to imagine a politics-oriented magazine offering a similar cover: You couldn't get more than half of America to agree upon a single Boomer politician of Gates' historic stature.
Boomer business leaders and technologists rebooted the world, playing seminal roles in globalization's stunningly fast expansion around the planet over the past three decades. Meanwhile, try coming up with a single historic piece of legislation passed by the Boomer politicians, whose primary manias revolve around thwarting their political enemies in a painfully myopic zero-sum fashion. Until the recent health care bill, the only contenders would be the 1990 update of the 1970 Clean Air Act, and the 1986 income tax reform act.
That two-decade gap coincides with the political ascendancy of the Boomers, as reflected in the two Boomer presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. For us finger-crossing optimists, that frustrating era appears to be coming to an end with the election of perceived post-Boomer, Barack Obama -- our first president born after 1960. But that's probably too optimistic. Guys like Gates and Steve Jobs may have inspired an entire generation of innovative geeks and entrepreneurs to follow in their path, but the Clintons (Bill and Hillary), Bush and Newt Gingrich have not done the same in politics, where the pickings look slimmer by the day -- and the mindsets more narrow.