David Heinemeier Hansson

February 13, 2024

Every generation needs their own apocalypse

Danish 8th, 9th, and 10th graders vote in a mock election every year in Denmark. The results for 2024 were a startling refutation of the idea that young people must be inherently left-leaning. The dominating winner was Liberal Alliance, a center-right party that speaks to the virtues of individualism, entrepreneurship, tax cuts, and a limited welfare state. They took just about every third vote.

Some of that is being ascribed to the star power of the party’s young leader, Alex Vanopslagh. At an age of just 32, he has managed to lift his party to incredible heights amongst not just the kids, but the adults too. In large part, it's claimed, because of his presence on TikTok (where he’s known as “Daddy Vanopslagh”) and other social media.

There’s enough material here for a decade’s worth of social study PhDs to analyze for the how and the why this is happening in Denmark. I’m not going to do any of that. I’m just going to zoom in on one aspect of this phenomenon: The kids in this cohort – the 8th, 9th, and 10th graders who voted – are the ones coming after the Greta Thurnberg years. The ones who failed to see the world come to an end in short order, as at times breathlessly predicted, and, perhaps as a result, no longer list climate alarmism as a central concern.

Which shows the trouble with predicting the future. Whether it be of the climate, the economy, or politics. The weather, the money, and the people have a funny way of proving experts wrong time and again. Just when they think they have it all figured out, the story takes an unexpected turn. And you really don’t have to live through too many of such turns before you start developing a healthy skepticism for the people who are so sure about what’s going to happen next.

And if there’s anything this cohort has lived through in their formative childhood years, it’s world events humbling the experts. 

So maybe that’s what happening on the climate question too. Having lived their entire childhood under a story of imminent climate calamity, they’ve become young adults without seeing that doom’s day come to their calendar.

Or maybe it’s even simpler than that. Maybe no generation wants to inherit the favorite apocalypse of the one that went before it.

Who the hell knows. But it’s interesting!

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.