More on Life Extension and Entitlements

To go along with yesterday's post on the economic disaster of entitlements, here's another piece from someone who sees this as a defining issue in which longevity is important. Yet even if life spans were not increasing and even without the prospect of radical life extension in the near future, states would still be on a path to eventual collapse through growth in entitlements, forced transfers of wealth, and the accompanying corruption that arises with the centralization of power. This is the historical outcome resulting from the growth of a state in its late stages, even in periods of history without ongoing increases in life expectancy.

Truly historic discoveries and therapies are coming online right now that will radically decrease the threat and cost of autoimmune disorders, cancers, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, arthritis, obesity and diabetes, as well as dangerous influenzas, HIV and other virus-borne diseases. [Clearly], this is good news both for humanity in general and investors specifically. However, these changes will be, by definition, enormously disruptive. As is always the case when big changes create new winners and dethrone the old ones. How big will these changes be?

Consider the fact that already, life extension is our No. 1 public-policy challenge. It is, in fact, the root cause of our current mortgage and debt fiascos - both only symptoms of successful life-extending technologies. The technologies that have precipitated these crises, however, will soon be overshadowed by the wave of revolutionary biotech innovation. Even those who have no personal interest in life-extension strategies, beyond those supplied by conventional medical networks, will have to deal with the social and economic problems they cause. Our lives will be profoundly affected by emerging biotechnologies that will push maximum healthy life spans up much faster and further than ever before.

Typically, when I say that life extension brings problems, the default assumption is that I'm referring to traditional fears of resource depletion and overpopulation. I'm not. [To] be clear, there is nothing about longer lives that is inherently adverse. Personally, I'm completely in favor of much longer health spans. Rather, the problem has been the failure to recognize and adjust to accelerating increases in life expectancies. This failure has led to ballooning expenditures and unsustainable debt. I should clarify and restate this thesis: Obsolete actuarial tables and expectations about the length and cost of retirement, especially on the medical cost front, are the proximate causes of the international fiscal meltdown.

Though many people portray the crisis as ideological, especially if their proposed solution is raising taxes, it's actually about math. And it's pretty simple math at that. The working young, who have always paid a disproportionate portion of the retirement and medical costs of the older and generally wealthier population, cannot bear that load in a demographically transforming world.

I would be one of those who see this as ideological. Present economic crises are caused by the ideologies that say its fine to force people to create a communal pool of funds under the control of elites, to suppress free markets in insurance and medicine, to force people to use fiat currencies that allow enormous levels of debt spending by elites, and so on and so forth. All these things trace back to the existence of a coercive state, its inexorable growth, and its inevitable corruption.



Of course the entitlement programs have to go away when we get radical life extension. Post-mortal people will be youthful and will not need those entitlements in the first place. However, I think you are correct that our politicians are too dumb to realize the problem until it get way out of hand.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at May 8th, 2013 9:47 AM
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