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.)