The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Nov 022009

This is an interesting and creative essay by Jim Quinn, who writes for a financial newsletter:

Quinn says the Fourth Turning (Crisis) started in 2005 and that we have several more years of worsening wars, higher energy prices, and towering deficits before we reach regeneracy. He still sees a Boomer (born 1943-1960) Gray Champion in our future (which generation is he, I wonder?):

We are years from a final resolution. The cast of characters who will decide our fate is unknown today. Barack Obama will not be a major player in the climax of this Crisis. He will go down in history as the James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover figure that only insured that the Crisis would grow bigger and more painful through his actions. The country is likely to turn to an aging Boomer to lead the country through the violent phase of this Crisis. The initial phase of this Crisis has passed, much like the stock market crash in 1929 and the appearance of a recovery in 1930. The “solutions” that have been implemented thus far will drive our deficits skyward, drive the dollar downward, and ultimately push the economy into a depression. The confluence of a deepening depression with the onset of peak oil shortages in supplies and soaring prices between 2010 and 2014 will plunge the country into chaos. As the world loses confidence in the leadership of our country, they will exit our debt and our dollar. The collapse of the U.S. currency could result in a number of calamitous scenarios.

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  • Mr. Reed

    So, someone else thinks th Crisis started in 2005. However, I don't necessarily agree with his predictions about America's future.

  • Mr. Reed

    Also, he makes the mistake that Boomers often do that the 4T will be some unmitigated disaster, although history shows that this is not necessarily the case.

  • Mr. Cooper

    Interesting article. Sounds like he is (barely) an Xer. I don't know about the theory a Boomer will lead us OUT of the crisis.

  • Sherry Austin

    I found the comparisons of Obama to Buchanan and Hoover historically to be exactly what I envision, and that is a President who worsens the problem and leads the country further into the abyss.

  • JPT

    I personally think the accuracy with which you predicted a major terrorist attack and the resulting reaction in society argues strongly for 9/11 having been the start of the "fourth turning". If history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme, it looks as if we've had the last one in reverse – Pearl Harbor happened first, the stock market crash happened second. 1929-1945 is (obviously) 16 years. If I understand correctly, "turnings" can last as much as 20 years. That would mean we still have 8-12+ years left to go.

  • BoomerXer

    Mr Quinn obviously isn't a friend of Mr. Keynes. 😉 This sounds like another right-wing revenge fantasy (popular genre right now) – I'll put my money on "Boomer."

    @ JPT.
    I agree totally. I used to believe that 2005 was the start of the Crisis, but have since reconsidered. I think we, as country, are in denial about 9/11 and what it meant and means. I think the nightmare time period from late 2001 to 2009 – Bush, Cheney, WMD, Iraq, Gitmo, Blackwater, 24,Tillman, Plame….all scream Crisis to me. Even the literally unregulated greed and orgy of spending of the time period could be construed as an internalized stress response. The ugly level of political and cultural discourse? It's still there and seems to be getting worse – but are the tea-partiers the "major mood shift" that accompanies the start of a crisis? Gosh, I hope not…how inelegant. I still see the the major mood shift as 9/11. Maybe this Crisis isn't about "coming together," maybe not right now, at least.

  • BoomerXer

    A couple other things came to mind as I looked over the rest of this blog and T4T forums:

    If we have settled for the name "Homelander" generation for the new Artist generation, haven't we dated the Crisis, by default, to 9/11? If not, then shouldn't they be called the "Katrina" or "The Great Recession" generation?

    Another question…In 10 or 20 years, what event will people – who have never heard of Strauss & Howe, Generations and T4T – look back upon as start of "the bad times" or the point at which things suddenly changed? That's probably more important than all the analysis of those who are conscious of the Cycle. Somehow, I don't think its going to be Katrina.

  • Mr. Cooper

    I believe the Global Financial Crisis could be the start of the next 4T. If correct, we are less than one year into the next 4T. The GFC was like the first jolt in an earthquake – the one that starts the heart pounding and causes people to brace for the next; and often larger, jolt behind it. I hope it was 9/11, because if so we are further through it , but all the other variables of the last 8 years seem more cultural than crisis.

  • Jupiter

    With years of historical study behind them, several books, excellent panels, tv & radio debates/interviews, Howe & Straus ought to know what they're talking about. Debunkers haven't listened or read to what their saying. All things in the universe have a pattern & that includes chaos, order.

  • Thanks, you guys, for participating. I am going to put up some longer comments on the issues you all raised in a regular post.

    P.S. Jupiter, thank you so much for your supportive remarks. i was in a debate about a month ago and really could have used your support then! –NEIL

  • Pingback: More on American Pie and the Fourth Turning | Lifecourse Blog()

  • Sid Davis 1944

    On the issue of the energy crisis, I think the magnitude of the consequences of reduced energy is substantially understated.

    Consider that at the time of the American Revolution (1776) the world population was 3/4 of a billion people. Up to that point the principal sources of energy were wind, water, wood, and draft animals. Coal was just at the beginning of being exploited, and oil did not come until the mid 1800's with natural gas and uranium arriving on the scene even later. These new sources of energy fueled the industrial age and the output from the industrial age drove an explosion of human population up to the present level of about 6.7 billion worldwide, all now hopelessly dependent on the continued output of this age. Think about this a second; all of human history and only 3/4 of a billion could the planet support, and then in 230+ years an explosion up to 6.7 billion hungry mouths.

    Oil production will decline at some rate. The decline of oil production in Mexico has been a double digit rate, but let us be conservative and guess that the worldwide decline will initially be 7%. This means that production will be cut in half by the end of 10 years, and cut in half again at the end of another 10 years, again and again into the future. Could the industrial age survive even the first halving of current production? And remember that we are just talking about production without having even mentioned how much energy must be expended to acquire that production. That energy cost has been doubling about every 20 to 23 years and currently is about 8% of production. Stack the energy loss from increasing cost to acquire oil on top of the declining production, and the disaster is magnified. And remember that the grossly bloated human population is hopelessly dependent on the production of the industrial age to survive. All this equals POPULATION CRASH perhaps down to 1 billion by mid century (4 out of 5 dead), much of the loss coming earlier rather than later. The advance through the last 230+ years was relatively orderly because there was plenty of energy to fuel each new way of life, but as we enter the near perpetual contraction of economic activity there will not be adequate energy to fuel the steps backward and build the less advanced tools for survival. Crashes are always disorderly, seemingly sudden and sharp.

    My bet is civil war beginning around 2020. What government could possibly remain in power during such a disaster, particularly one already morally and financially bankrupt?

  • Steve

    we have not seen the worst of it yet. The Crisis is still to come. My understanding is the 4T starts well before the actual crisis. I'm not sure when the actual start date of 4T was, but in the years following 9/11, the mindset of many americans did start to change . But I think the generational groups were not yet ready to make the shift. In a sense, 9/11 was too soon give us an immediate shift. looking back, we can see that 9/11 got us into various challenges such as Iraq, but those are not yet the crisis. But it it kind of spread out over a period of time. In order to really enter 4T we needed the millenials to come out of school, the 13ers to decide they are tired of corporate BS, etc. I think by now we have made that shift, though Obama is clearly still of Boomer mindset. By having 9/11 happen a little early and by electing Obama this round mistakenly thinking he would be an agent of change, I think we have smeared out the start of 4T and possily prolonged the time until when we will reach the crisis(and probably made it worse too).

    In my mind, our dollar is about to collapse to nothing. There is only one more market bubble to bust, its the bond market and when that happens watch out. No we haven't see the worst of it yet. We are in the early stages of 4T only.