Aging’s Diminishing Returns

I recall a conversation I had with an older gentleman (older by a generation) who adamantly declared that, as he aged, he was more and more entitled to some cache of healthcare privilege. As if by aging he was warranted a greater piece of society’s pie.

I suspect many of us think this way. That by age 70 or 80, if we make it that far, we should be due the expense of whatever healthcare we require. That we’ve accrued some virtual healthcare-credit. That we are owed.

I countered this fellow’s argument with the notion that, as far as society was concerned, his healthcare would be money poorly spent. His usefulness was nil. That if anything, society should take the money spent on him and spend it on a newborn. That would be a much wiser investment. That that child represented a potential 50+ years worth of contribution to society. Your potential? Zip.

He didn’t like that much.

I pointed out that in every other social species, elders who could not keep up were a liability and were shed from the clan, the group, the colony. “Your final gesture to the health of the tribe would be to sacrifice yourself to the predators trailing behind us.”

Of course, his position could not be shifted. He’d paid into this imaginary bank and was dead-set on withdrawing his balance. Yeah, he was a total Republican.


There’s this public speaking futurist and political analyst, Peter Zeihan, who I can’t quite tell if he’s a charlatan or prophet. A bit of both is my take. He tries to use statistics to his favor, but, we all know how that works out. He’s not like Hans Rosling who didn’t try to prophesize, or sensationalize this theories. Rosling’s Ted Talks are worth watching (elevate women is his theme).

Zeihan has (through youtube) been harping on the global fertility rate—most recently, China’s which stands at 1.3:

We all prolly know that a country needs 2.1+ to retain their current population levels. That the world, as a whole stands at 2.3 (population is still going up). The fact that this number is that high is almost entirely due to African & Middle East nations having 4+ rates. But, the rest of the world’s countries have far lower rates. Japan’s, also at 1.3 and South Korea’s at 0.8? Is societal collapse on the table?

That’s what Zeihan might have us believe. Elon Musk as well. Malthus was wrong.

And here comes the tie-in…

The elderly, across the globe—myself included now, can’t possibly think they can sit back and collect on some fanciful reserve of goodwill they’ve garnered over their lifetime. They have no choice but to continue to be productive in a society that cannot afford to let them retire and luxuriate in repose.

So, get back to work, you old geezer!

(Of course, if the promise of total labor automation comes along soon, as I’ve predicted in other posts, we might all be saved from having to work until our minds fail, our hips crack, our fingers curl in arthritic claws incapable of gripping a kitchen spatula.)

10 thoughts on “Aging’s Diminishing Returns

  1. Interesting, because as a Canadian, there’s no pie of healthcare to divide–everyone gets the treatment they need–everyone is ‘entitled’ to it, no matter their age so that they really can sit back and enjoy life–at least until the Conservatives (our version of the Republicans) ruin it for everyone!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, interesting indeed! There’s no “pie to divide” mentality about health care in Europe either. I wonder how many Americans think of national defense as a pie to be divided. Or fire and police protection and highways, for example. (Although in the U.S. public schooling is paid from local property taxes. So, those who live in Beverly Hills get a bigger slice of pie than those who live in East Los Angeles.) A public good is a hard sell in the America these days.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Most states have enacted “Robin Hood” laws where school tax money is redistributed to “less fortunate” districts. However, if the parent base is affluent the “booster clubs” can raise money for the “extras”. Not to mention in non-union states districts can set the pay scale for their teachers. All of which has put American education at the lowest common denominator and kids aren’t learning shit.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. You’re correct about funding. In the US only about half of school funding is from local taxes. However, that still makes funding unequal between wealthy and poor districts though less so than if public schools relied only on local revenues. My point, however, was that the value of public goods in general and in specific terms, for example, the collective care for our elderly citizens takes a back seat in our policy discussions. That is, public goods have to be justified not on their own terms but in terms of economic productivity.

          Liked by 3 people

  2. Soylent Green is People! Run, Logan, run!
    This discussion has a much broader impact zone than geezers. While I applaud the medical community’s advancements, they are often made on the backs of human lab rats. My dad’s VA file looked like a phone book (you’re old if you remember them). Unfortunately a “feed the lions following us” methodology reaches into many of the “just $19.00 a month” “charities”. Just because the 6 million dollar person is a possibility it doesn’t make it requirement. Mammals walk away from what ain’t right from birth to geriatric. Except us. I know the “throw em back” or “leave ‘em there” sounds similar to some Arian master race junk, but we aren’t talking race or religion or gender identification. Simple, okay we blow off pick up the pieces and spend millions of dollars and employ a small army to empty this being’s poop bag so we can say “it’s a living spirit!” or throw it back” seems incredibly harsh. Wait till all this procreation butts heads with the food supply. There goes the $19 a month blanket, cap and reusable shopping bag business.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve had similar thoughts, but here I am enjoying pensioned leisure. I’m not a burden on our creaking health care system as yet, though. I have thought that at some point one should choose not to get flu shots or similar preventive measures. Better to go out quickly with pneumonia than hang around for years with a brain and body that no longer function well enough even for selfish pleasures, never mind any sort of contribution.

    Liked by 1 person

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