A Strong Sign Of Brokenness

When affluence causes problems, it's a strong sign that the system is broken. Such is the case in wealth transfer schemes such as social security in the US or pensions in Europe; the affluence in question is the increasing length of healthy, productive life span. What a mess has been fashioned whereby longevity begats problems!

Belgium was shut down Oct. 7 by a general strike. Unions didn't want the retirement age lifted from 58 to 60. Yet Belgium, like many rich nations, has little choice. People are living longer and too many will soon be drawing benefits. In Britain, too, unions threaten a national work stoppage over a plan to raise the retirement age for public-sector workers to 65 from 60.

In America, poll-conscious politicians haven't raised the age for receiving full Social Security in a couple decades. (For workers born in 1960 and later, the age will rise from 65.5 by about two months a year until it reaches 67 in 2027.) Yet the first baby boomers hit 60 this year, and that generation - 78 million strong - can't possibly have their pension and medical costs subsidized by fewer, younger workers.

The culture of entitlement combines with the leverage provided by ever-growing government to make problems where none should exist. Humans are selfish, jealous creatures, but competition, rule of law, strong property rights and the requirements of responsibility can make virtues of these urges, harnessing them in service of progress. Sadly, there's all too little of that going on these days - it's a battle in many countries simply to gain the liberty from repressive laws to work as you would like in later life.

The institutions of retirement must change, indeed will change as medical technology adds ever more healthy years. The key to removing the entirely artificial "problems" of increasing human longevity is very simple: freedom. Freedom to work if healthy, freedom to voluntarily provide for the frail either directly or by supporting medical research, and freedom from forced wealth transfer to those older, and on average wealthier, than yourself.

These are things to bear in mind when planning for your long term future. It's not just health and savings - it's ensuring that medical progress and prosperity will continue in the face of what most modern nations are becoming.

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Its really amazing how in the span of less then two generations western nations went from creditors to deeply in debt and incredible entitlements that they can't hope to pay out.

And all this during a time of large productivity increases.

99% of people think forced pensions are a good idea and that everyone who has payed in anything deserves the full pay out.. so it will be very hard to reform in democratic nations.

Its another in a long list of examples of how stealing money from some people to give it to others fails miserably.

Posted by: AA2 at October 14th, 2005 2:03 PM

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