Longevity and the End of Empire

Empires end when an entrenched elite can spend from the public purse and take on debt without immediate consequence or forethought, destroying the value of their currency in the process. Assuming (perhaps optimistically) that present economic empires survive the next couple of decades, a combination of foolish promises and increasing human longevity will be the rock that sinks them. From Reuters: "Like the subprime crisis faced by banks in 2008, the risk of people living for up to 20 years after retirement seems to have crept up on an industry based on using historical data to calculate people's chances of an early death. Now, pension funds and insurers say the mounting burden of protracted pensions payments is increasingly concentrated on a small group of providers: them. ... Nowhere better can the process be seen than in Britain, which is facing a crisis resulting from a combination of pension reforms and increased life expectancy. ... The many arguments in favor of a sovereign bond linked to longevity rest on one fundamental expectation: if pension providers can't pay, or become insolvent, governments will have to. Longevity bonds could make the process neater, and more politically palatable, than the collapse of a pension provider." The problem is not that some groups made bad bets, or that many people relied upon those bets being good. The problem is that these groups and their supporters can conspire with governments to bail themselves out with public funds and debt heedless of consequences.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE6360LP20100407

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