What's politics? Something our parents did in their wild, naive years of long hair, soft drugs and communal love. As for our generation, we're making it where it counts--not in creed or controversy, but in shares and silicon. Internet start-ups, daytrading, IRAs, 401(k)s--those are our buzzwords. The "Bill" we love is Gates, not Clinton, and when you say Washington, we think Seattle. As for our center of power, it isn't where Capitol Hill meets the White House but rather where Madison Avenue runs into Silicon Valley and Wall Street bumps into Hollywood. You want to change our world? Change our World Wide Web.
At least, that's how many young entrepreneurs feel--or should I say felt. Slowly but surely, our generation is overcoming our distaste for politics and understanding that what happens in Washington affects us and our businesses. A proliferation of associations, nonprofits and institutions are capitalizing on our need to understand government. Have these groups been successful? Are they carrying our message to Washington? What is our message?
Our message, perhaps, emanates from one of the most prominent aspects of our generation--the desire to be our own bosses. Young adults start more businesses than any other age group in America. People under age 35 are responsible for 70 percent of all new businesses in the United States, according to a study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Wells Fargo Bank. And more of us are self-employed, free agents or guns-for-hire rather than corporate employees--25 million of us, to be exact.
What does this new lifestyle have to do with our politics? Everything. It dictates the need for brand-new government policies in every field, from taxes to corporate regulation to health care.
Meredith Bagby is the author of Rational Exuberance: How Generation X Is Creating a New American Economy (Dutton, $24.95, 800-631-8571). She was the Gen X correspondent for CNN in New York City and has testified before Congress several times on issues affecting young adults. She is currently working on a young adult voter's guide for the 2000 presidential election.