They've been the best of times, surely, free of war and famine, well fed and medicated, never needing to bother about things that make life miserable, and now the Western world's in a mess. What happened?

We're checking out on our last student party, that's what, all cheap plonk and cannabis, strangers shagging in your bed, and your boyfriend brawling with a bunch of gate-crashers. We were never exactly sophisticated; maybe too many of us were much too stoned to be; and we never took politics or religion seriously.

They're what got the world in a mess before we were born, which was all we needed to know.

We never wanted to grow up. Who does? As one bedraggled old hipster we once lusted after told a friend the other day, "I dropped out and never managed to drop back in." The years flew by.


We bought houses and more houses, learned to drink decent plonk, married, or didn't, had kids, divorced, had more kids. A bit of gardening was done, I guess, and we still have The Rolling Stones, which is what really matters.

Keith Richards is heroically wizened, 68-year-old Ronnie Wood's girl bride has just produced twins, Paul McCartney has become Paul McCartney's elderly aunt, and we're going to live forever.

This thing in Europe and the Middle East, and everywhere for that matter, will pass, right?

Politics wasn't cool, and we've been rewarded with Donald Trump, the ultimate expression of the greed-is-good mantra that replaced the hazy peace-and-love thing.

And we brought this circus on ourselves. While we drifted in a comfortable haze, the business guys took over, and because Trump has made a lot of money he knows all a world leader needs to know. It's all about takeovers, right? And name-calling. He's not sophisticated.

Business language has replaced the language of ethics, with its boring focus on fairness, and the world has never seemed more dangerous - in our lifetime - than it does now. Trump is scary, but his followers are terrifying.

Mass shootings in America have become routine, but he's going to sort out Islamic State in a few minutes when he becomes president.

That's the guy's sense of humour talking.

This week, in an example of how the business model extends into real life, police are considering offering money to people who report on child abuse. Why would you do anything to protect an abused child if all you got out of it was knowing you did the right thing? What kind of useless model would that be?

Many children in this country experience utter misery, surrounded by adults who witness what's happening to them but can't be bothered doing anything about it. What's a child worth, after all? You can't even sell them.

A public health nurse once told me about kids on her caseload who were given the water saveloys were cooked in for dinner, which they knew as soup, while their parents ate the saveloys. We now know they were probably no worse off at home than they would have been in state care. Either way, looking after kids is expensive, and it's fair to ask whether the effort pays off. It's ages before they can pay board.

The business model is looking a bit shaky, so far, for legalising the national drug of choice. A Treasury official has produced a document suggesting the Government could save $500 million a year if it legalised cannabis. Tax gathered by the newly legal trade, they estimated, would yield an estimated $150 million, with annual savings of $400 million for policing. And think of the business opportunities for investors bored with renting out hovels.

However, the New Zealand Drug Harm Index estimates the social cost of drug-related harm in the year 2014-15 at $1.8 billion, a chunk of that involving dope. Perhaps the balance sheet wouldn't look so hot after all.

As an aside, I'm much taken with Long Bay High School principal Russell Brooke, who has asked parents not to smoke dope in front of their kids. Another guy with a sense of humour. How they must have laughed.

- Rosemary McLeod is a journalist and author.