There's a cheering amount of controversy around my new book, What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do For Us?

Baby boomers tend to think I'm a traitor to my generation. The young feel I've confirmed their long-felt grievances. Neither of them are quite right.


Guardian columnist Catherine Bennett feels I've cynically crawled to the generation who will ultimately control my (and her) old age. "Will his personal contribution be enough to stop a future young carer lashing him to a commode or similar?" she asks cynically.

She does hit on a real, and inescapable, flaw in my srgument - in any argument that seeks to attribute actions and characteristics to a whole generation.  And that's that a generation is made up of individuals.

As Catherine Bennett writes: "It is futile for non-rentier members of this cohort to wheedle to their impatient critics that, like the occasional good German, they did not personally speculate in property or raise tuition fees. Quite a few of them, history suggests, must have actively opposed Blairism and Thatcherism."  Yes. Me for one, and Ms Bennett, I think, for another.

The New Statesman's Laurie Penny, who is younger than Ms Bennett, thinks the opposite.  

"When I closed the final pages of Francis Beckett's new book, What Did The Baby Boomers Ever Do For Us?, I found myself shaking with indignation" she writes. The book "lays out an incisive case for how my parents generation squandered the good times and betrayed the courage of the Attlee settlement."

And the Evening Standard's Rosumnd Irwun - nearer in age to Ms Penny than to Ms Bennett - says: "Another boomer has belatedly woken up to the problems they have left us — Francis Beckett in his brilliant new book, What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do for Us?"  She quotes this from the book:  “One half of the baby boomers was too busy to notice, and the other half too greedy to care.”

All these comments have a part of the truth, but there's a key missing.  I don't just say what happened, but I try to say why it happened.  It happened because we baby boomers may have been children of the sixties, but we were children IN the fifties.  And the fifties were awful.

We had the freedoms of the sixties and the Attlee settlement - but we were not educated for freedom.  We were educated for a closed-up, deferential society where everything that was not forbidden was compulsory, and vice versa.  No wonder we did not know what to do with our freedom.

Like every generation, the baby boomers were creatins of what went before - both the good and the bad in them.