Debunking the Myth that An Aging Society and a Falling Birth Rate is Bad for the Young

One widely accepted nostrum is that falling birth rates, particularly when accompanied by rising life spans, are bad for economic growth and therefore bad generally. The assumption is that a shrinking pool of 20 to 65 year olds will be forced to support a larger and larger cohort of unproductive citizens, namely, the aged. That vision, of young people hostage to parasitic elders, is also one of the foundations of boomer hate, which is actively stoked by major Republican party funder Stan Druckenmiller, who has been touring college campuses to sell the false notion that Social Security and other social safety nets for the elderly are bad for them.

There has been some opposition to this idea from those with environmental concerns, who argue that we are running up against resource limits. They contend we need to learn to live with low or no growth and also need to learn to manage the social challenges of a stagnant or declining population.

Adair Turner, in Project Syndicate, argues that the falling birth rate/aging population alarmists are all wet. Their forecasts are inconsistent with what is actually happening in aging advanced economies. I urge you to read the entire essay. Here are the critical parts of his case for what he calls “demographic stabliazation”:

Is a shrinking population always a bad thing? Judging by the lamentations of some economists and policymakers in the advanced economies, where people are living longer and birth rates have fallen below replacement levels, one certainly might think so. In fact, the benefits of demographic stability – or even slight decline – outweigh any adverse effects…And, perhaps more important, the benefits of increased longevity and reduced fertility are considerable.

Rising life expectancy is the welcome product of medical and economic progress, and additional increases are almost certain. Indeed, the average life expectancy for children born in prosperous countries could soon exceed 100.

That implies an ever-rising ratio of those over 65 to younger cohorts. But as long as average retirement ages rise to keep stable the proportions of life spent in work and in retirement, the fact that working and retirement years are growing at equal rates has no adverse economic effect. There is, moreover, strong evidence that rising longevity can mean more years of healthy active life, not unhealthy dependency. Only bad policies, such as the recent German commitment to reduce retirement ages, can turn longer lives into an economic problem.

Declining fertility, including in some lower- and middle-income countries, such as Iran and Brazil, also reflects hugely positive social developments – particularly the empowerment of women. Wherever women have the right to an education and to choose how many children to have, fertility rates fall to or slightly below replacement levels.

Falling birth rates challenge pension systems more than rising longevity, because they imply a rising old-age dependency ratio even if retirement ages increase in line with life expectancy. But as long as birth rates are only slightly below replacement level, pension systems’ sustainability can be ensured by means of affordable increases in contribution rates. And lower birth rates deliver the offsetting benefit of lower child dependency ratios, reducing education costs or enabling increased investment in education per child.

Slower population growth might also reduce the increase in wealth-to-income ratios, and the resulting increase in inequality that Thomas Piketty recently highlighted. In many countries, the increase results primarily from the rise in real-estate prices relative to income, as more prosperous people devote a growing share of their income to purchasing property in desirable locations.

Continued population growth would intensify competition for such “positional goods,” which are not easily supplied in greater volume. A stable population, or actual decline, would reduce their importance somewhat. It would also make it easier to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions at an acceptable cost, and to preserve and enhance local environmental quality, which people increasingly value as their incomes rise.

Yves here. This view may strike some readers as unduly optimistic, but based on observations of my colleagues, as well as reader comments, there are plenty of people in their 50s and 60s, and some even in their 70s, who’d like to continue working, not just for the money, but for the sense of purpose it provides and the engagement with other people. But scaremongering about what might happen down the road is also a convenient distraction from the failure of the officialdom to devise policies to create enough employment right now.

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161 comments

  1. Jeb

    Great, so the fossils can work into their seventies, robbing the younger generations of gainful employment.

    Sorry, but the Eskimos had it right. Find an iceflow and set them on their own way.

    They are dead weight, but have the majority vote. That sucks, but since they basically genocided my generation with abortion, then turned us into latch-key kids so they could fuck like drunken monkeys not seen since the days of Babylon, and voted in every social benefit imaginable for themselves, my sympathy falls just a little goddamn short! What really pisses me off though, is the asshats defending their life choices as some sort of old age wisdom. This is the most fucked up generation to have ever lived in the West. For Centuries to come, historians will talk of this bullshit.

    Fuck the boomers, and fuck boomertopia. They took thousands of years of collected wisdom, rejected it, and now want everyone else to man up and make their dreams real – at an extreme expense to all others. I give them as much sympathy as they gave us when they labelled us “Gen-x”, or the lost people, the losers, the rejects.

    They are the richest people in society, so let them fend for their selves in their old age. They abandoned their children in their youth… do they really have a right to expect those same abandoned children to support them in old age? If daycare was good enough for me, the old age home is good enough for you. GFY.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Wow, have you fallen for elite propaganda.

      The problem is the lack of demand, which is due to poor government policies post crisis and rampant short-term-ish among major corporations.

      You don’t even know who your enemies are. You’ll shoot at your natural allies rather than focus on the real sources of our economic woes.

      Pathetic.

      1. BITFU

        Jeb, your comment is ridiculous! Yves is right on when she writes: “Wow, have you fallen for elite propaganda.”

        YES! Because the “elites” propagating that propaganda are comprised of…well, they are made up of…ummm, gimme a second Jeb, I am going to debunk the shit out of what you wrote, but first— about those damn Elites…hmmm, let’s see here…

        Elites, by and large are comprised of Baby-Boomers…so…the “Elite Propaganda” that Yves writes about would be propaganda written by the Elites (who happen to be Baby Boomers) that unfairly demonizes…Baby Boomers?!?!?!

        Well, that doesn’t make much sense: Yves seems to be saying that Baby Boomers, in their exalted position as The Elites have been spewing bigoted propaganda against Baby Boomers.

        Oh, wait a second. How silly of me: The crack team at Project Syndicate obviously has data showing that the Elites are actually Gen-Xers posing as Boomers. And these posers are mindlessly devoted to a cadre of Super-Elite-Boomer-Kochs who tell them to spew the hateful propaganda.

        I have no doubt the The Elite Gen Xers concocted this ruse because they didn’t want lose all their old Grunge Friends. [And this makes perfect sense when you think about it–given the Gen-Xer apathy towards achievement and their sniveling, incessant need to fit-in, while pretending to rebel.]

        So anyways, Jeb–it really is pathetic how you’ve been duped by this propaganda.

        1. James Levy

          You think Jeb has got mommy issues?

          My parents, and the parents of the vast majority of people I knew, did not abandon their children. In fact, unlike generations gone by, they paid for the extended adolescence of many by allowing us to finish high school (millions before WWII never did–at some point between 14 and 18 they went to work) and then sent us on to college and paid for that. Granted, my parents were older when I was born (dad was 42 and mom 36 when I was born in 1965) and my dad did this little thing called fighting in WWII (trust me Jeb, you owe those people). But for every boomer screw-up there were probably 5 or more solid parents. To throw them under the bus (or threaten, as you do, to euthanize them) is just mean, greedy, and sick.

          1. Mermaid Seamstress

            I’m a GenXer and I share a similar sentiment with Jeb.

            I do have Mommy issues. My mother was a 1951-Boomer and was (or is worse) than what Jeb wrote above. There was seriously something narcissistic that happened in the 70s & 80s and early 90s. Perhaps it stems from all the broken families and working Moms who’s kids grew up ignored, addicted, pregnant in their teens, have no clue how to behave or failed to take their education seriously. There are so many of us hollowed-out individuals.

            Where I work my coworkers are Boomers. After realizing they all could retire within 5 years I started asking my boss about turnover planning. Our budget is limited, so unless they leave in stages I could find myself with a new boss and new team by 2020. A lot of wisdom will leave the department. When to run off to enjoy their pension, we will face a deprivation of knowledge. As much as the Boomers piss me off, the Millennials I think are worse. From what I’ve seen they work in cliques and as teams but can’t function giving or receiving negative feedback. Leadership is not a strength. Being a buddy is valued most, and they only give praise (as did their helicopter parents).

            I am however betting my healthcare premiums will go down at work.

            I don’t know if it’s propaganda, but sure as hell hate being sandwiched between Cialis-Retirement Community generation and Nikki Minaj-Selfie generation. It’s hard to find real people. It’s hard to find facts. It’s damn impossible to find good teachers. The best advice I was given by a fellow GenXer and former cop was this: “always ask ‘why are they lying to [me]’?”

            I’m not optimistic about the future, but like a cockroach I’ll probably survive. If my pension is taken away, I will wonder why I didn’t just move to a dairy farm and shovel manure and bale hay all day.

        2. Gentlemutt

          The underlying strength of your sarcasm depends on the strong assumption that all Boomers have identical interests. One counter-example and it fails. It fails.

          1. BITFU

            No.

            The strength of my sarcasm relies on the fatuous notion that finding fault with Baby Boomers means that one has simply been duped by “elite propaganda”. And it succeeds. It succeeds. Oh boy, does it ever!

            [The fact that your disdain serves your mind as a counter-example proof of the success of my sarcasm merely reinforces the awe-inspiring, mind-blowing, epoch-altering, paradigm-demolishing power of my virtuoso talent for contemptuous mockery.]

        3. Stelios Theoharidis

          Firstly, I think we need to get away from the obsession with economic growth and move on to other indicators that have more importance related to quality of life, health outcomes, education, etc. Furthermore, a steadily declining population may be helpful for mitigating the environmental catastrophes that we will likely be facing in the upcomming years, since the western world has the highest rates of consumption.

          However, I do have some gripes with the older generations.

          They have been governed through a succession of irrational fears whether they be based on propaganda regarding death panels and reduction in care quality to oppose national healthcare programs to prop up our healthcare industrial complex, stupidity related to the war on drugs and tough on crime idiocy to support our prison industrial complex, and terror alerts / communist scares ad absurdem to support the homeland security and military industrial complexes. Their susceptibility to the politics of fear has been an overwelming problem in America.

          On a similar note related to the politics of fear, they have predominantly voted for and supported a conservative agenda which has focused on idiotic “values-based” (against gays, immigration, gun control, abortion, etc) speech while actually engaging in looting and turning our economy into a predatorial system.

          They have abandoned many of the municipalities that paid for and raised their children in the school system and moved to over-50 communities under the pretext of tax sheltering. For the most part they have failed completely at end-of-life planning to prevent old-age care facilities from looting their possessions in order to keep them alive in insufferable states of progressive health decline.

          1. Pig Farmer

            You are 10 years off. The people you are talking about are the in between the wars notch kids born in the decade before the boomers. Lots of them still around but dwindling rapidly. And the X-ers are their kids, the entitlement expectation current boppers their grandchildren. The children of the better grounded of the boomers will walk us out of this. Just around the corner. Take out a pencil and a piece of paper and do a flow on the people you know.

        4. Yves Smith Post author

          Who are the individuals most responsible for our current financial architecture?

          Paul Volcker. Alan Greenspan. Bob Rubin. Rubin the head of a cadre that has so infiltrated the Washington policy apparatus that it’s referred to as the “Rubino gang” in some circles

          The private equity industry, of which KKR (now headed by Henry Kravis and George Roberts) was the key “innovator,” was the key non-official player. They pioneered the practice of using financial engineering and cost cutting to raise profits, which screws workers by lowering wages and greatly reducing job stability.

          None are boomers.

          Nor were the boomers responsible for the suburbs, another charge I’ve bizarrely seen attributed to them. America has traditionally been rural. People liked having land. The suburban sprawl started in the 1920s and 1930s, and was well established when boomers were babies.

          There is such a thing as existing conditions, which you airbrush out of the picture. Reality on this plane is path dependent.

      2. kgasmart

        Yves, my experience with those who are working into their 70s is that they HAVE to work, they have no economic choice, they don’t have enough to support themselves otherwise.

        And while it’s great that life expectancies rise, as no one wants to die, consider health care expenditures for this aging population, and how does that bill get paid, and by whom? Do we assume the aging population will be able to pay its own way?

        That’s not elderly hate, it’s just the way things are. I have older parents; they are not self-sufficient. The bottom line is that an older population requires more fiscal resources, and where they can’t provide those resources themselves, everyone else has to chip in, and where there are fewer “everyone elses,” then the math is what the math is.

        1. rusti

          There’s a difference between working a menial job to make ends meet and working because you find meaning in it. We should be concentrated on making the latter possible by guaranteeing a pension allowing for a dignified retirement lifestyle, opening the door for things like community volunteer work.

          And while it’s great that life expectancies rise, as no one wants to die, consider health care expenditures for this aging population, and how does that bill get paid, and by whom? Do we assume the aging population will be able to pay its own way?

          That’s not elderly hate, it’s just the way things are. I have older parents; they are not self-sufficient. The bottom line is that an older population requires more fiscal resources, and where they can’t provide those resources themselves, everyone else has to chip in, and where there are fewer “everyone elses,” then the math is what the math is.

          This might be a logical calculus if we would actually struggle to provide for people under a system where resources were distributed somewhat equitably. If you genuinely believe that there’s not enough left over for medical care for the elderly because we need to pay out billions to private equity kingpins and buy new smartphones we probably aren’t going to be able to reach common ground.

          1. kgasmart

            But exactly how are you guaranteeing that pension unless younger generations are wiling to pony up?

        2. diptherio

          All of us have been and will be “not self-sufficient” for large parts of our lives. That the idea is so widespread that only those who are “self-sufficient” deserve a decent standard of living and that the “not self-sufficient” are a drag on society, is a sad, sad commentary on our society.

          There was a time when the elderly were valued for their experience of life, and when people understood that they too would grow old…that time seems to have passed. {sigh}

          1. tim s

            Agreed, but I must say that among the many things that we have lost in the west is the ability to approach dying of old age in a dignified manner, and dignity is found not only in how but possibly when we die.

            There have been cultures in the past who did “force” out into the wilderness those who were too old to help the tribe survive. This sounds brutal, but it was a necessity in their eyes, and likely they were right at that point in time. I am going off of memory, but there were native american tribes where the social norm was that the wife went out into the wilderness once the husband died (just relating facts here, don’t crucify me). So the Eskimo example may not be too far of a stretch. Different periods, sure, but still human conditions.

            You must admit that many lives today simply go on too long – long past usefulness and even wisdom sharing. Many lives become an unbearable burden to people who are already struggling to survive. Age is not the only factor here, but is a major one. We must distinguish between periods here – life used to end with the 1st major biological malfunction, but not anymore. This is both good and bad, but you must admit that the downside is pretty bad.

            I personally know that my parents, who have living wills (shows intent at least), do not want to extend their lives unnecessarily. Nor would I ever want to do anything to harm my kids and/or their kids. I do not want to miss out on the chance to see them grow well into adulthood and help them as much as I can along the way (including sharing wisdom in old age), but there is a limit to all of this. This limit should not be seen as selfishness on either side.

              1. tim s

                Yes, but this imbalance among many are what have driven the Jeb’s so far out toward the edge of the cliff. It’s all related somehow.

          2. Todd Smith

            I see a general societal push for short-term gains, a band-aid approach. We no longer look at youth as continuations of ourselves. We went from a desire to build a civilization, to lazy pop culture, comfort and convenience. On top of that an increasing fear for mortality or a naivety of the consequences.

            Soon we will see the option of robot bodies, or cryostatis, I wonder what excuses people will use in that future time.

            The boomers are known for one thing: championing the cause of individual expression. Almost unbridled.

            What we need seems to be a return to long-term practical thinking, refortifying the family, and the general basic tenants of our society. That involves a lot of selfless action and observance of mortality, limits, and the burden of responsibility. I question if the boomers have the capability to champion this cause in their old age? Will they save their future kin? Or will they throw us to the debt-owning dogs?

        3. bh2

          I really must ask: during what specific generation of civilized mankind has there been no recognized duty of younger people to support the elderly?

          Certainly the Eskimos didn’t subscribe to that ethos, as someone observed above, but even though exceedingly clever people, the Eskimos founded nothing which would strictly qualify as a “civilization”.

          While I’m among those least likely to admire the Boomer “culture”, such as it is, the generation they have downloaded into the world to replace them seems no better equipped for real life, apart from having achieved routine mastery of improved technology which the industry and invention of (mainly) Boomers made available to them.

          Have these new arrivals yet discovered diapers get dirty? Or that somebody regularly changed theirs for them?

      3. Linus Huber

        “The problem is the lack of demand”

        I have a slight problem with this analysis.

        Demand or the will to acquire one’s own residence and matters that enhance a comfortable life style is an inherent human quality that does not require any promotion by governments. Government policy, using e.g. the promotion of home ownership backfired with hazardous consequences as we all now know. Instead of letting the market find its new equilibrium and instead of writing off bad mortgages, the government (I consider the Fed as part of government) goosed up the housing market again without considering the affordability aspect for the young who simply depend on their work to create wealth, whereas those who owned a multi-million home were saved.

        I do have a certain sympathy for Jeb’s words in this context as it is probably to a high degree the baby boomers that benefited most from this policy to the detriment of the younger generations. It may well have saved the economy for another boom-bust cycle but does not show any wisdom in terms of a sustainable development.

        1. zapster

          @jeb
          Lack of demand resulting from the lack of money enforced by the .01% who are preventing the government spending we so sorely need. Some of those .01% are boomers, but the vast majority of us are not part of that tiny elite, and are hurting just as badly as everyone else. Many of us are over 50, unemployed, running out of money and too young to retire, since congress keeps raising the retirement age. No one will hire anyone over 50 now. Many of us supported our kids into their 30’s, and are now on the edge of homelessness (or already there.) There are already many boomer suicides happening because of it.

          One might mention, also, that many of the richest (and most corrupt) traders on wall street are gen X. Of course, that doesn’t do any more for the rest of gen X than a few wealthy boomers does for the rest of the boomers.

          As for not having enough kids–considering the job situation, I’d think you’d regard that as a good thing. Everyone is also forgetting automation–we produce more now with less effort than ever before. The job for gen X now is to wrest the proceeds of that automation away from the financiers that control it (it’s not the inventors that are getting the dough, of course.) There is no reason that all of us can’t be living well on the output of the robots and automation lines. And there are enough resources that are sitting idle now that could be employed, again, if the financiers did not control and suppress government investment in our collective well-being. There’s plenty of work to do, and people to do it. Just add money and stir.

    2. Ben Johannson

      Yeah! The only way to fight our national problems is with hate!

      I give them as much sympathy as they gave us when they labelled us “Gen-x”, or the lost people, the losers, the rejects.

      If you’re from Generation X then you aren’t young, you’re closer to boomer than Millienial. Will you be putting yourself on that flow or setting up a death squad to eliminate you professionally?

    3. DakotabornKansan

      Ageism is as odious as racism and sexism. Duty to die? The image of the Eskimo on the ice floe — the old person abandoned by society — is a parable of America’s hostility towards the elderly. Aging is the new fate worse than death.

      The elderly are now who you will one day become. Respecting their wisdom, knowledge, grace and fortitude should be second nature to younger generations. You need reminding of why it is so important to respect your elders for what they have to impart that will help ease your journey through life. They should always be respected just as you would want them to respect you.

      Many Americans start developing stereotypes about older people during childhood, reinforce them through adulthood, and enter old age with attitudes toward their own age group as unfavorable as younger person’s attitudes.

      “What is being under-reported in the official unemployment numbers is that being “too old” is a disastrous trend, extending over decades but worsened by the ongoing economic crisis. Losing midlife people from the workforce has dire consequences, and not only for them. It ruins the expectations of the young. It shreds the American dream of making progress over the life course…

      Many people have no idea how likely they are to lose out because of age — which means they blame themselves rather than American middle ageism…

      People who lose jobs at midlife typically earn much less afterward. Boomers — so often touted as privileged — have a ten percent poverty rate between the ages of 40 and 50, when they should be approximating their peak wage…

      Now, despite our boasted longevity, many Americans suffer from a viciously truncated working-life course. Younger people learn the value of the life course by observing their elders; What many are learning now is that they have less of a future than they thought.” – Margaret Morganroth Gullette, “Losing the American Dream of Progress: Getting Fired at Midlife”

      As we age we shed many skins: egotism, arrogance, self-opinionated and uncaring attitudes, selfishness.

      “One loses, as one grows older, something of the lightness of one’s dreams; one begins to take life up in both hands, and to care more for the fruit than the flower, and that is no great loss perhaps.” ― W.B. Yeats, The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore

      As you grow older, may wisdom be the reward for surviving your own stupidity.

      1. kareninca

        I have a friend who put it well. He said that he has seen age and wisdom together – in the same room.

        Don’t get me wrong, I am not ageist. I don’t think old people are less wise (and so forth) than the young. But your sense that they have all those wonderful attributes that the young lack – that is totally wishful thinking. I see NO correlation among the people I know, between their age and their degree of wisdom. The old people I know are just as likely to be egoistic, arrogant, self-opinionated and uncaring as the young ones. The old people I know have no more (or less) wisdom, knowledge, grace and fortitude than the young people I know.

        I think you are seeing what you hope is the case, not what is in fact the case.

    4. Robert Kelly

      Jeb,

      It’s an ice floe, not flow.

      It was the Gen-xers who created all of the fancy financial instruments based on leverage on leverage that created the GFC in 2007-2008. The gen-xers are the true “me first” generation acting with no concern for the common good. True the Boomers set the stage, but it took the gen-xers, will all of there self esteem, to really get the ball rolling on true unadulterated greed.
      The boomers are happy to inherit wealth from the silent generation parents. The gen-xers are actually creating the frauds and ignoring the laws while stealing the wealth from the rest of society, creating the 0.1% oligarchy.

      (Now if you believe all of that then you are ready to join Drunkenmiller’s intergenerational conflict. Millenials to the rescue!)

      1. lambert strether

        Oh, gawd. Again, again, again, generations don’t have agency. “The Boomers” didn’t “raise” Gen-X.” Or the “Millenials.” Or whatever.

        1. Pig Farmer

          Lambert. As.much as I admire all that you bring to this amazing website you re wrong on this one. I understand that you are trying to be magnanimous and purely democratic, but those loosely attributed “groups” are framed by well defined sand recorded events. Primarily wars and the Depression (not really that long ago considering that millions who lived though them still walk among us). Every American who has people in their legacy who lived through that procession could find evidence of how that all fits if they looked at the comprehensive experiences of those people in that context.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            You are utterly missing the point. That is not the same as those groups having agency, meaning acting in an organized manner to advance the interest of their age cohort.

            You have people who vote ONLY based on the interests of their religion, particularly on abortion. You have Israel only voters. You have NRA loyalists who will fervently oppose anyone who is pro gun control Do you not pay attention at all to politics in America? It is dominated by two things: money (Tom Ferguson is the expert on this, and America has been like this since at least the Great Depression, for Roosevelt critically had the backing of multinational companies) and appeals to narrow interest groups, usually along social lines. As Lambert stressed, but you refuse to acknowledge, generational cohorts have NEVER been organized in politics. The AARP is the lone exception, but even that now spans people born BEFORE the Depression, Depression babies, and early Boomers. So it does not represent a generational cohort either.

            1. Moneta

              The thing is that we have a demographic bulge that votes vs. a bulge that can not vote yet and another one that probably does not go to the urns even if they are of age. So our demographic situation is so skewed and political that democracy is now an empty word. Democracy associated with justice and fairness makes sense when the population is quite homogenous in terms of expectations but that is not the case today.

              There are 3 HUGE issues that will generate different expectations out of the 50+ or 50-. Those are: pensions plans, health care, education.

              The 50+ as a group will want to maximize the first 2 and minimize the last one. The 50- will want he opposite.

              That is why it is easy to see that notwithstanding insults there will be a generational divide.

            2. Pig Farner

              My apologies for not doing a better job of saying that. I wasn’t referring to organized politics and should have specified that. I was commenting on local and regional economic power and influence which do, I believe, ultimately affect dis-organized politics as they play out in large voting blocks.Organized politics is very few people.

      2. Pig Farmer

        The boomers were NOT the children of the silent generation Many may have been younger siblings. The parents of the boomers were mostly 1st and second generation immigrants who did the heavy lifting in the first few decades of the Industrial Age and the terminal breaking up of the sod and cultivation of the land.
        Track your families back for 4 or 5 generations did and pay attention to what you find out about what those people did. To the levels of education that they (all branches) achieved.

    5. IdiocracyIsAlreadyHere

      Jeb,
      I don’t even know where to start with your ignorant troll-rant. First, you treat “boomers” as some sort of monolithic group that conspired all together to destroy the prospects of Gen X’ers like the world’s worst conspiracy theory taken to its (il)logical extreme. Second, you yell about the “genocide” of abortion (nice to see you are a sucker for more than one type of propaganda) but then want to ship your elders out on an ice floe (yeah, you don’t even get your words right) to die. How f***ing hypocritical!

      I am Gen X to and guess what? I can place a lot of blame on my (our) generation too. I saw many of my peers fall hook line and sinker for the false promises of Reaganism, the destructive Gingrich “revolution”, the neoliberalism of the Clintons and Obama, and the reactionary zealotry of the Tea Party. I was like “my parents got divorced – waaaah!! I think I’ll embrace reactionary politics”. Your whine about being a latchkey kid is exactly that. Maybe you’re the one who needs to be cast out on the ice flow. Pathetic

    6. tim s

      Jeb,

      You are obviously hurting, and the stress appears to be eating your mind. It does happen, and is happening to many these days. But keep in mind that with this frame of mind, you are only the flip-side of a single coin, and on the other side is the equally single-minded individual who is trying to keep his pile safe from all of the “lazy, worthless, mooching kids” who they see in the same light as you do. Neither one of you is as right as you think. Lack of communication (& related skills) is one of our biggest problems. Narcissism – yes, pretty big too (they are very closely related, I believe).

      Realize that there is a giant shit sandwich that most of us, regardless of generation, will be eating in common. This sandwich has been built over many generations (nay, eons), so don’t be so quick to place the blame on a single cog in the machine.

    7. Paul Tioxon

      Jeb
      Does Mrs Bush know something about her son staying out of presidential politics that we don’t know? No wonder she says Jeb Bush shouldn’t run, with this kind of talk, you make Mitt look like a nuanced silver tongued devil.
      By the way, I am reporting your internet address to the Eskimo Anti-Defamation League. How dare you denigrate these original Native Americans! They are a loving family oriented folk who treat their dogs better than you would treat the old and they treat their old with reverence.

    8. lambert strether

      Thanks for sharing your hate, Jeb.

      * * *

      For the amenable, Jeb’s comment is an impressive compendium of hateful tropes. So if you see any of ’em used, you know they’re coming from the same place as Jeb. Contra Yves, I think Jeb’s “natural allies” are on K Street or at the Peterson Foundation; I don’t see a reason to credit hate that burnished with good faith.

      Leaving aside the obvious flaws in Jeb’s seemingly reasoned comment, it also contains a category error: He assumes that generations — Boomers, Gen-X — have agency. It should be easy to show that this idea is true: Simply point to the Boomer (say) lobbying organization on K Street. See it? No? By contrast, the FIRE sector and the squillionaires do have lobbyists, and one of the things they would like to do is force every public purpose into markets they’ve rigged. Jeb’s hateful screed is simple a teeny component in their “Look! Over there!” public relations strategy.

    9. Rostale

      “robbing the younger generations of gainful employment”
      Something I have to comment on is this idea that due to technological advance, there is a worldwide shortage of employment. If you look at the world, you will see that there is no shortage of things that need done. Our infrastructure is crumbling, there is massive environmental damage that stems from far more than just CO2, we are facing large scale soil depletion that will require completely rethinking how we do farming, peak oil will require us to either go back to a middle ages level of technological development, or preferably, launch an apollo scale project to develop safe (no currently operating commercial nuclear reactor is “safe”) thorium reactors and build them worldwide, rising fuel costs will render our current modes of transportation uneconomical, requiring building more efficient forms, such as much more widespread rail transportation, if our industries are not to collapse. and this is a short list

      The problem is not any lack of work to be done, the problem is that all the resources needed to do this work are hoarded by .1% of the population. I personally believe that the .1% are perfectly aware that these things need done, but that they are currently engaged in a widespread program of economic sabotage to collapse democratic governments, and that once this is done, and they have 100% control, then we will see widespread efforts to fix the problems, not that this will benefit 99% of the current population. Most people will probably consider this be a paranoid and conspiratorial view, but if you look at everything going on the only other rational conclusion is that .1% are completely oblivious to the near certainty of economic and environmental collapse, which strikes me as utterly implausible.

    10. Stratos

      Gen X is actually shorthand for Generation X. The X is the Roman numeral 10. Persons born after the Baby Boom years represented the tenth generation of Americans born since the founding of the (former) Republic. Reaching the tenth generation (a generation is a twenty five year cohort of people) was viewed at the time as an achievement.

      Unfortunately, while the Boomers grew up during “Summer in America”, the next cohort grew up during a time of diminishing opportunity and increasing mean-spiritedness in public discourse.

    11. Stephanie

      wow! You sir are a clearly misinformed person of entertainment. “The baby boomers” have paid into medicaid and social security their entire adult life. Companies use to absorb the cost of retirement once again the almighty Government passed a “tax” to create government ran retirement. once again the almighty Government screwed things up. Yet you want to send humans to float down a icy river? How about we hold the Government accountable for their actions. How about we stop taxing “The boomers” at the rate of 31-50% of their wages. Then turn around and tax their retirement earnings as well. Then they could PAY THEMSELVES. I am gen-x you sound closer to gen-y!

      1. Lambert Strether

        Maybe we could just agree that putting people onto ice floes isn’t humane and we as a society should avoid it. That said, “boomer,” “gen-x,” and “gen-y” are virtually useless categories analytically — Where is the Gen-X lobby on K Street? — except insofar as people can be induced to identify with them (and why would that be? Plenty of answers on the thread).

    12. ds

      Another point is that a lower birth rate in the first world is meaningless when the West, unlike any other racial-cultural group, does not self-identify itself with racial or cultural groups. Any deficit in domestic birthing will just be off-set by increased immigration. This will cause the system to collapse quicker, but in the short term keep those profit returns over the magical 12 percent! Birth rate in the non-West is ever increasing, just the rate of increase is decreasing… The result is clear!

  2. John

    I see this discussion quite often, but I want to see more empirical data on outcomes. I’ve been to parts of China and Japan where I could see first hand the impacts of an aging population where entire villages “disappeared.” The young left long ago but grandma and grandpa stayed behind. Schools, hospitals, etc became ghost towns. What impacts is this to society?

    1. Ben Johannson

      That’s not necessarily an indication of an age problem but of bad resource distribution and social dysfunction. Young people move for lack of opportunity, jobs, education to find mates, etc. And a lot move because the community culture they were born into is just screwed up; they’re escaping from places like West Virginia, where the population is aging faster than the rest of the country as young people do the sensible thing and get the hell out. I think the phenomenon of an aging ghost town is usually going to be a symptom of much deeper problems, but like any social issue it’s one that can be addressed if we really want to.

  3. The Dork of Cork

    Well if you work under the assumption that labour has value in the current system then in Euroland older workers in established positions are supporting unemployed and underemplyed young people.
    A sort of strange inversion of conventional thought on labour value.

    Of course this is a incorrect assumption although I guess most people will not understand the true reason why.
    The complete .dominance of capital makes much if not most of the labour pointless in the current system of control.
    So for example older people are not supporting young people in Spain and Greece – with live in a world swamped in capital – this is therefore a absurd bankers meme.

    1. Moneta

      Here in Canada, you have a whack of boomers with huge houses and huge mortgages scratching their heads wondering why their kids are living in the basement.

      They don’t see that they are living above their means and sucking resources away from the young. All the resources are being sucked into real estate and cars. Our economy is a one-trick pony.

      1. Moneta

        And if that was not bad enough, a large percentage of boomers are using the equity in their already leveraged homes to help their offspring buy a house. What a disaster.

      2. lambert strether

        It’s amazing to me that people who would never say “niggers” or “faggots” or “[pick denigrating name for women]” have no qualms about saying “Boomers” or “Gen-Xers” or whatever the next marketer manufactured identity after “Millenials” might be.

        And yet the analytical flaws of all these categories of identity politics are the same: They’re fuzzy sets that (a) inevitably make massive false generalizations about some of their members, (b) helpfully get people in different or overlapping categories fighting amongst themselves, to the vast amusement of those who by virtue of their wealth, hold the real power in our society, which (c) these categories conceal. Another giant exercise in “Look! Over there!” or “That guy stole your cookie!”

        1. Moneta

          What about housewives? Teachers? Retirees? Nurses? Students? Soldiers? For sure, they are not all alike!

          Generalizations serve BOTH good and bad purposes. It’s interesting how generalization or anti-generalization can be used to crush arguments.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Yes, and it’s especially interesting to watch arguments that deserve to be crushed, like yours, be crushed. The employment or social status of every single one of your categories is easy to determine; the edges of the category are crisp.

            Not so with “niggers” and “faggots” — or your particular hate target, “boomers.”

            1. Moneta

              For me boomers are people born from 45-65. Pretty good descriptor if you ask me!

              The problem now is that the word boomer is slowly becoming like the word you can now not use on the internet! As soon as you use it, many think you are a boomer hater instead of just analyzing demographic situations.

              If others want to pin other characteristics, that’s THEIR prerogative.

              A decade ago, I was talking to a friend of mine in marketing about trends. She tried to convince me that the plastic surgery phenomenon would grow to the moon. I told her that it would slow down in a couple of decades when the boomers would not be able to 1. use the equity in their home, 2. go through surgery because of a chronic ailment. Then just because of th sheer size of the boomer cohort, the cult of youth would start to get questioned. In fact, I was adamant that we would see the birth of an “ageing is beautiful” movement.

              Posts like this lead met to believe that the campaign is budding.

  4. Mark P.

    ” …. based on observations of my colleagues, as well as reader comments, there are plenty of people in their 50s and 60s, and some even in their 70s, who’d like to continue working …’

    My father is 87 and still working six days a week, running a small 10-employee plant in the UK that he owns and whose products he sells across the world (he has recently learned to deal with Google page ranks, SEO, and so forth). He communicates by Internet with a friend with whom in 1947 he served with the British forces in Palestine-Israel, and that friend now lives in South Africa and plays tennis most days.

    My mother died young at 80 from cancer a couple of years back. She nevertheless worked till she was 78.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      My great uncle hauled lobster traps well into his 80s, without a winch. He was mystified why he could only work half a day, since he’d been able to do that all day when he was young.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Your uncle has me beat; I’m still working as a landscaper at 68, just a lot less than I used to. And I’m not at all mystified about the limits I encounter.

        I do have a broader problem with the article: to avoid demographic catastrophe, we’re going to have to induce RAPID population decline, China-style, or suffer the conseqences. That, I think does bring with it significant problems of an aging population.
        Of course, the challenges of even getting rapid decline are much greater (like several world religions), so the problem is pretty theoretical outside China and Japan. Frankly, it’s a problem I wish we had.

  5. Alex Hanin

    On the other hand, if productivity keeps rising, why should retirement age rise with life expectancy?

    1. hunkerdown

      Very good question! It borders on disingenuous to discuss raising the retirement age until we ask ourselves why it hasn’t been *reduced* for just that reason.

      1. Moneta

        Productivity measures standard of living not quality of life. Just like every disaster generates a boost in GDP, productivity measures (which are based on GDP measure) that we are given are empty of meaning.

  6. Man in a Barrel

    “… there are plenty of people in their 50s and 60s, and some even in their 70s, who’d like to continue working, not just for the money, but for the sense of purpose it provides and the engagement with other people.”

    On the other hand I was delighted to be able to retire at 45, living frugally on investment income but able to live my life for myself and my own purposes rather than labouring for the benefit of others, and engaging with those I choose to rather than those I am required to. I’m now nearly 65 and as I live in a more advanced country than the US will at that age qualilfy for the universal state pension, which will allow me to live slightly less frugally although in fact I’m slightly better off even today than I was 18 years ago.

  7. Moneta

    My problem is that I think our society is living above its long term material means. A large percentage of boomers are enjoying a lifestyle that should shrink. Most of the housing stock is too big and spread out in a unsustainable way long term. So the boomers are asking the young to support an energy and resource sucking lifestyle that should be forced to change, not propped up. If the younger generation supports them so they can maintain this over-consumerist lifestyle that means they are eating into their own future consumption or that of their children’s.

    What we are seeing is the consequences of bad planning since the boomers were born.

    1. Moneta

      So the Turner argument makes sense if we can wipe the slate clean. However, in reality, we are stuck with a costly legacy and the young are being asked to prop up boomer lifestyles that were badly designed from the get-go.

    2. James Levy

      I agree to a certain extent, but that lifestyle is bad for all of us and is often not what the young are insisting the old give up, but that the young are demanding for themselves. My wife and I shrunk out living space and bought a small house on some land that is providing firewood, a vegetable garden, and a lovely little coop for three gorgeous chickens who can roam around the grounds and gobble up about half of their food intake. In every way a better, more ecologically and financially sane life than moving to La Boca Vista by the Golfcourse in Florida or Arizona. But it is not subsidized (power, water) the way those places are, and it involves a different attitude towards the future. Instead of running down the old, we should be encouraging people of all ages to think smaller, think independent, think greener, and take pride in their lives and not their things.

    3. rusti

      So the boomers are asking the young to support an energy and resource sucking lifestyle that should be forced to change, not propped up.

      Seems to me like you’re endorsing the generational warfare that NC always tries to explain is a distraction. There are knobs that could be turned to promote building a society that isn’t so rooted in immediate resource extraction, but the people preventing effective reform are those with the goal (and means) to weaken democratic processes and neuter governmental regulatory authority.

      There are a ton of boomers (and older yet) who post here in their 50’s and beyond who campaign for the ideals you’re fighting for and want to pass a world worth living in on to the generations that follow. How often do you see someone here posting “I got mine, buy some hurricane insurance, kids! ha ha!”

      1. Moneta

        Since boomers are a large cohort, democratic process sounds nice and fair.

        Try to put yourself in the shoes of Gen-X and the young and imagine how democracy looks to them.

        1. rusti

          Uh, well, I’m in my late twenties so that’s a bizarre thing to say. I guess I don’t share the same Randian take on human nature that you do.

          1. Moneta

            Democracy is an idealized concept. But depending on your population distribution, it can take on many different meanings which don’t always lead to justice.

          2. Moneta

            It’s based on the foundation that resources are limited, that our lifestyles are unsustainable and that to give everything promised to boomers, the young will lose out. Maybe I am wrong and resources are not limited and I am worrying for nothing.

            According to my readings, Randian thought is not centered around the principles of a fair distribution of resources.

            1. rusti

              Randian in the sense that you’re under the impression that people will only act to promote their own short-term self interest.

              What was promised to the older generations with the implementation of pension programs wasn’t the claim to driving a gas guzzler in the suburbs, but an equitable enough share of resources to live a dignified lifestyle in retirement as a tradeoff for having paid into the system for those that came before them. If communities need to be re-shaped due to impending climate disaster (and they do) their lifestyles can adapt with the rest of us. You’d be surprised how many of them want to be part of this positive change, my parents would happily retire tomorrow and spend big portions of their time volunteering and sharing their passions with the next generation even if it wasn’t as materially comfortable as their current lifestyle.

              Stripping the older generations of any claim to resources is kicking the can down the road and counterproductive to actually building the sense of community required to implement major changes.

  8. Jesper

    I really dislike his phrase:
    “to devise policies to create enough employment”
    If it a work needs to be done then employ someone to do it, pay for the job and do NOT call it job creation.

    Trying to remedy the problem of resource allocation (the actual problem) by ‘creating employment’ ignores time as a resource.

    My time is a resource that can be substituted for money (work) or be spent at my leisure. If I do spend it at my leisure (I can currently afford it) I am being looked down at by the ‘create employment’ crowd who assumes me to be both unfortunate and unhappy. They are using the same moral argumentation as the ‘austerians’……

    & a good pension allows the ones who don’t love their job to have the choice of retiring. That would keep spending up and also create a flux in the work-market allowing young people a bigger chance to find employment.

    So, share the valuable work among many or continue with the made up (almost worthless) work to justify sharing the proceeds of the valuable work?

  9. Ben

    In the uk we have big problems. Boomers vote for any politician promising to pump house prices which then transfers money between generations. Same for benefits, unemployment pay slashed, pensions untouched.

    In the uk the boomers are a huge problem and sorry to say but it’s fundamental cause is they are a horrible, selfish generation. They hate the young, stigmatising us as blacks once were: lazy, stupid, greedy. Anything to justify their wealth as the kids toil.

    Boomer pensions are based on productivity growth that has not come – why should the young work longer to fulfil their greedy projections and continue their defined benefit pensions? Where is their haircut?

    1. Ben

      Forgot to add. The main enemy of the young is the goverbankment. Trouble is the boomers are very happy to be bribed by them.

    2. jonboinAR

      >>>>>
      … they are a horrible, selfish generation. They hate the young, stigmatising us as blacks once were: lazy, stupid, greedy. Anything to justify their wealth as the kids toil.
      <<<<<

      Who's stigmatizing, generalizing, stereotyping, hating, propagandizing as to prepare a scapegoat for sacrifice?

      1. Ben

        Oh god why oh why did our education system teach that if you generalise about something it’s the end of the world…if it’s in the majority true it’s fine.

        1. jonboinAR

          What experience has taught ME, is that when people start generalizing negatively, stereotyping, what we call “demonizing”, it’s in preparation for making war on that group being demonized, making them appear sub-human so they’re alright to hurt or to kill. In fact, hurting or killing them becomes righteous. So your demonizing the baby boomers alarms me, for good reason, I think. But what’s hilarious in your post is how you condemn the boomers for having demonized the blacks and the younger generation (although you haven’t begun to prove the second, only connected it in your rhetoric to the first which is well documented), and THEN, you proceed to whole heartedly demonize US. It looks to me for all the world as though you’re preparing, propaganda-wise, for conflict with me.

          1. Moneta

            and the younger generation (although you haven’t begun to prove the second, only connected it in your rhetoric to the first which is well documented),
            ———-
            I am betting it will be well documented in 30 years.

          2. Ben

            > making them appear sub-human

            well I’m sorry but people have a right to critique groups without you extrapolating a descent into anarchy. You seem a little extreme on all of this TBH. Talk of conflict is just silly, stop wasting my time.

            1. jonboinAR

              Your words: “…they are a horrible, selfish generation. They hate the young, stigmatising us as blacks once were: lazy, stupid, greedy. Anything to justify their wealth as the kids toil.”

              That sounds a little extreme, to ME, kinda like demonizing, or, your term, “stigmatizing”. So how is my characterization of what you’re doing silly?

              If it’s a waste of your time to read what I write, don’t.

            2. jonboinAR

              Ben, I repent of my response to you, although I DO find your demonizing of my age group alarming. These folks on other parts of this thread have much wiser replies than the ones I have made.

              Here’s tim s’s response to a post from Jeb that’s similar to yours:

              >>>>>
              Jeb,

              You are obviously hurting, and the stress appears to be eating your mind. It does happen, and is happening to many these days. But keep in mind that with this frame of mind, you are only the flip-side of a single coin, and on the other side is the equally single-minded individual who is trying to keep his pile safe from all of the “lazy, worthless, mooching kids” who they see in the same light as you do. Neither one of you is as right as you think. Lack of communication (& related skills) is one of our biggest problems. Narcissism – yes, pretty big too (they are very closely related, I believe).

              Realize that there is a giant shit sandwich that most of us, regardless of generation, will be eating in common. This sandwich has been built over many generations (nay, eons), so don’t be so quick to place the blame on a single cog in the machine.
              <<<<>>>>
              …Splitting people with wedge issues like gay marriage, gun rights, or dividing up the increasingly small piece of the pie left to the majority is a great distraction while you plunder the commons.
              >>>>>

              You and I will do much better if we stick together rather than allowing ourselves to be 1st divided, then conquered.

              Peace.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Some generalizations are necessary and turn out to be right. That’s what science, even social science, is all about. Others are not. Of course, some generalizations are wrong in useful ways.

          1. impermanence

            Science is not about that at all. This methodology simply provides this moment’s answers to the last moment’s questions, each future moment stocked with new questions and answers.

            1. Lambert Strether

              For some definition of “right” (for me) and “moment” (really?) for you. No doubt the coffee grinder I ground my coffee with this morning will prove to work, at some future date, on some physical principles (generalizations_ other than those its designers understood. If so, new questions will have been asked and answered, as you point out.

    3. rusti

      Matt Taibbi summarized this well:

      Today, the same Wall Street crowd that caused the crash is not merely rolling in money again but aggressively counterattacking on the public-relations front. The battle increasingly centers around public funds like state and municipal pensions. This war isn’t just about money. Crucially, in ways invisible to most Americans, it’s also about blame. In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.

      Not only did these middle-class workers already lose huge chunks of retirement money to huckster financiers in the crash, and not only are they now being asked to take the long-term hit for those years of greed and speculative excess, but in many cases they’re also being forced to sit by and watch helplessly as Gordon Gekko wanna-be’s like Loeb or scorched-earth takeover artists like Bain Capital are put in charge of their retirement savings.

      Splitting people with wedge issues like gay marriage, gun rights, or dividing up the increasingly small piece of the pie left to the majority is a great distraction while you plunder the commons.

  10. Ben Johannson

    You can always pick out the Peterson/Druckenmiller drones by the repeated anti-“boomer” remarks. As though everyone is guilty solely by the fact of their birth. In fact if we swap out the slurs we can get cool comments like:

    Jeb: [Blacks] are dead weight, but have the majority vote. That sucks, but since they basically genocided my generation with abortion, then turned us into latch-key kids so they could fuck like drunken monkeys not seen since the days of Babylon, and voted in every social benefit imaginable for themselves, my sympathy falls just a little goddamn short!

    Moneta: [Jews] don’t see that they are living above their means and sucking resources away from the young. All the resources are being sucked into real estate and cars.

    Ben: [Welfare programs] are based on productivity growth that has not come – why should [whites] work longer to fulfil their greedy projections and continue their [welfare checks]? Where is their haircut?

    Which goes to show that bigotry is alive and well, so long as it’s directed at the current “out” group. It’s ok to tar and feather people for an accident of birth over which they have no control. One day it’s hispanics, another day african-americans, today people born after WWII.

    Lame.

    1. Moneta

      I am saying that current lifestyles as set up over the last few decades are creating a huge divide between the young and old. And propping it up will perpetuate the problem. The reality is that over the last few decades the per capita wealth in the 25-45 group has barely budged in Canada while the 45+ has ballooned.

      You are the one deviously inferring the bigotry in there and putting oil on a fire.

      1. Lambert Strether

        That’s not what you’re saying because “boomers,” as a category, does not and cannot say that.

        As I said above, there’s as category error; generations don’t have agency. Your own comment betrays this sloppiness, doubly:

        current lifestyles[1] as set up[2] over the last few decades are creating….

        So, wait, now [1] it’s “lifestyles” that are the problem? What can that possibly mean? And [2] “as set up” is in the passive voice. So who did the setting up? You can’t say “boomers” … because generations don’t have agency; they don’t “set up” things.

    2. Moneta

      I would like to note that the young were born into a situation over which they have even less control than those who could vote over the last few decades.

      I will help my parents in their old age. But if my parents lived beyond their means, I would not live in their basement, getting taxed so they can pay off their mortgage. I would make them sell their house so they can room in my home.

      1. skippy

        Moneta, by yours and mobs, own standards, the entire history of western civilization is complicit or the actual precursor. The ethnic groups you point at were minding their own business or insignificant of numbers to create such a mess, until, your ancestors started giving orders.

        Skippy… That now you try to increase injury, by making them scapegoats, further highlight your mobs insane vulgarity.

      2. Lambert Strether

        Are you sure you’re not projecting your parental issues onto an entire age cohort?

        I’d also remark that “I will help” is one thing. To actually do it and have done it is another. Just saying.

        1. Moneta

          Well my parents lived in my house for free for a few months already so I know where I stand on that one. I have talked about getting a multi-generational house and both sets of parents laughed in my face… just saying…

          I’m intrigues as to why you want to believe I am an ogre.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I didn’t say you’re an ogre. I did mention I thought you were projecting your parental issues onto an entire age cohort. The intensity of “laughed in my face” reinforces my view.

            [A touch of snark removed.]

            1. Moneta

              Laughed in my face because they think they will always be in control of their destiny and my suggestion was preposterous. Not sure how you interpreted it.

            2. Moneta

              Just like one can usually easily spot an American in Europe even if all Americans do not look alike, older people do have some defining characteristics that differentiate them from the younger group. So yes, I think generations do share some attitudes.

              1. Lambert Strether

                “generations do share some attitudes” Which is a far cry from saying “Boomers did this,” or “Boomers did that.” Incredibly sloppy and shifting language. And no wonder, for the fundamental category error still persists.

    3. Ben

      No idea who any of these people are – peterson/druckenmiller. If they didn’t start 9 years back maybe they got their ideas from me? Your post is poor. The silly appeal to group discrimination is lazy.

      The UK has massive problems which can in large part be laid at the door of the boomers. They are insatiable and we cannot improve the lives of the UK young by appealing to their conscience. We must force them to stop taking all the resources.

      Housing is the bribe from the goverbankment. The boomers are disgusting because the UK establishment, although immoral, would never sell their own kids down the river for asset appreciation.

      1. skippy

        Neoliberal Free markets…. not all cracked up to be what its promoters envisioned… eh.

        Skippy…. Wonky self serving propaganda has a bad habit of screwing heads on backwards, yet, some will go down with the ship… just to prove a point…

          1. skippy

            I know you can’t understand it… because your use of can[n]ed reductive logic is so over simplified… its more akin to bias indoctrination… and not rigorous examination…

            “Not sure why you put your own name in your posts?” – Ben

            This is a classic tactic by your stripe imo, thought collective 101 consumerism identity preferences mapping. Pro tip – that you are put off by the lack of identity to deal with, says more about you and your thought collective, than myself or possibly us.

            “Really can’t comprehend this.” – Ben

            That you can’t grok the damage done by near 60 years of neoliberalcon agenda, but, scapegoat low socioeconomic ethnic groups and the elderly as profligate – degenerate corrosive agents in society – is – more akin to a fundamentalist religious argument, than that of astute forensic sociological observation.

            Seriously, if you take your argument and incorporate the just the last few hundred years, whom has veraciously consumed planetary resources, to the breaking point?.

            “The poorest 10% accounted for just 0.5% and the wealthiest 10% accounted for 59% of all the consumption.”

            http://public.wsu.edu/~mreed/380American%20Consumption.htm

            E.g. from a global perspective you are part of the problem too, but, your observer bias negates that little fact.

            Skippy… too funny… actually have had an AET sort offer myself a large sum of money [gifted to charity] to divulge my[s?] identity. The psychology behind that kind of offer is truly twisted…. eh.

      2. diptherio

        You are soooo right: boomers are totally the only materialists in our society. Thanks for pointing that out. Anyone born post ’60s, as everyone knows, is only interested in world peace and unicorns and rainbows and sh*t. Hell, I’ve never even seen a gen X/Y/millenial with (figurative) hard-on for every new gadget that corporate Amerika spews forth–only the ‘boomers’ are guilty.

        [/sarc]

        1. Lambert Strether

          Well, again, you can’t have, because you can’t see a boomer. It’s a marketing category propagated by journalists, useful for idle conversation, but analytically destructive and disempowering brain candy (as Druckenmiller and Peterson know very well, which is why they fund that style of discourse).

    4. Ben

      > Ben with your block comments: [Welfare programs] are based on productivity growth that has not come – why should [whites] work longer to fulfil their greedy projections and continue their [welfare checks]? Where is their haircut?

      > Ben: unemployment pay slashed, pensions untouched.

      Also this reply is even more absurd as I specifically put in my post that welfare was being cut for the young in the UK whilst pensions are not. It’s about fairness. The goverbankment are holding power by bribing the majority voting block.

      You clearly just quickly posted without thinking about it or reading my post.

      1. Lambert Strether

        “the majority voting block” right, but that’s not a fixed category, a la Boomer. This country did the same thing by two-tiering Social Security, so that the younger you are, the smaller the check. That’s unconscionable and should be reversed (along with lowering Social Security eligibility to, say, age 60. (The door to the “Social Security is going bankrupt” hackery is over there.)

        “When I was your age,” I got suckered into accepting that two-tier system to “save Social Security” by Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, where they raised the payroll tax and made the benefits slightly worse the younger you are, a “two-tier” system. (Because of that deal, I also ended up paying, if you believe that Federal taxes fund Federal spending — the door to the MMT discussion is thataway — not only for my own retirement, but that of my parents, which the “greedy Boomers” ******** on this thread would do well to remember.) My motives were good; I trusted my betters, and surely saving Social Security was a good thing?

        Well, as it turned out, I got conned, and in two ways. 1) I understand now that the two-tier system is not only unjust and immoral, but unnecessary ( over there; thataway) 2) we ended up with a big pile of money labelled “Social Security” which the FIRE sector (Peterson, Druckenmiller, et al) is anxious to loot.

        NOTE Before anybody says “you’re generalizing!” about the FIRE sector, yes, I am. I’m not against generalization as such; science can’t proceed without it. I am against thinking that involves category errors that generalize about sets without clear set membership functions, especially those used for tendentious, not to say nefarious, purposes.

  11. JaaaaayCeeeee

    Dean Baker, at his Beat The Press blog, often debunks claims that falling birthrates are bad for upcoming generations, noting that the ratio of retirees to workers in 1960, at 5 to 1, was much worse than today’s 3 to 1, and lower population, with even slow productivity growth, lets people select jobs with higher wages and improves living standards (Reducing upward distribution and monopoly prices in healthcare would indeed help upcoming generations, not telling them granny is stealing their future, when she’s not):
    http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/msnbc-finds-its-hard-to-get-good-help-abby-huntsman-on-social-security

    Baker does these on the fly often, so you can see what flavor zombie idea he debunks in various posts, by searching his blog for generational war, falling birth rate, or social security broke.

    1. Carolinian

      Thanks for that. It’s practically his beat.

      I am a boomer, and while I’ve made some remarks in comments about our boomer politicians (in particular the Clintons–please go away already), it should be said that after the SS rate increase of the 80s we boomers did a lot to support OUR parents…a generation who on the whole certainly didn’t put into Social Security the amount that they got out of it. So post-boomers welcome to the club (although Baker also keeps pointing out that the SS trust fund is now flush for several decades).

      That said I agree that we are all going to have to dial back pointless extravagances. So in that vein lets start with the one percent. They are the ones stirring this up.

      1. RUKidding

        Good point re Soc Sec & the “Greatest Generation.” The parents of Boomers (and even some of our grandparents) got way more out of Soc Sec than what they put in. Was this, in fact, a bad thing? I don’t really think so.

        Rather than cut Soc Sec, the cap should be raised. There’s more than enough in Soc Sec – if it hasn’t been ROBBED by the 1% (always a concern) – to be sustainable for quite a few more decades and could be better if the cap on the Soc Sec was raised.

        I agree that it makes sense for *everyone* to cut back and lead a bit less luxurious lifestyle. Tell it to the 1%, indeed. Ever been to Silicon Valley or San Francisco recently? I have. Most of those living VERY VERY VERY LARGE (way beyond much of anything that I saw Boomers do with some notable exceptions) are all GenX or younger.

        It’s NOT just Boomers who’ve indulged themselves in conspicuous consumption. I could also talk about some of my younger relatives who’ve decided to have HUGE families and insist on living in mansions and driving very very very expensive cars. Trust me: Boomers they ain’t.

        That’s why intergenerational warfare is so useless. It doesn’t fix one damn thing. Pointless distraction. Plays right into the hands of Wall Street who simply want to get their greedy grubby mitts on Soc Sec so they can rip it off.

    2. Vatch

      I have a very hard time believing this:

      “…the ratio of retirees to workers in 1960, at 5 to 1, was much worse than today’s 3 to 1”

      5 times as many retirees as workers in 1960? 3 times as many retirees as workers now? No way! Perhaps “1 to 5” and “1 to 3” were intended instead of “5 to 1” and “3 to 1”.l

  12. BigRed

    So,

    “Social Security and other social safety nets for the elderly are bad” is a “false notion” but

    “the recent German commitment to reduce retirement ages” is “bad policy?

    Honestly – to me it doesn’t matter whether you fuck elderly over by cutting their pensions/healthcare, or by forcing them to participate in the labor force and pay them a pittance/sanction them if they don’t.

  13. Sue

    Thank you for publishing this article, Yves. When will people acknowledge to obvious? When Ebola explodes in Lagos, which had a population of about 1.4 million in 1970 and has a population of about 21 million today? When we have to watch helplessly as an increasingly overpopulated Bangladesh succumbs to global warming-induced flooding? I have long thought that economists should be studying how to adjust to changing age demographics rather than bemoan this positive development.

    With increasingly high unemployment rates among the young, more underemployment and decreasing real wages, how would more younger people help support the old anyway? In fact, fewer younger people might mean a tighter labor market and higher wages. And it might lead to less age discrimination in employment. My grandmother worked into her 80’s and loved it. Many of us older people would to come out of retirement if we could find jobs.

  14. Eleanor

    I am a couple of years too old to be a boomer, but I really resent many of the comments above. Americans after WWII did what was expected of them: they bought houses, often in suburbs, appliances and cars. As a result, the US did not fall back into depression, something that very much worried many economic thinkers of the time. Advertising and government policy encouraged this buying. State and federal highway programs made suburbs and a car-based society possible. The mortgage interest tax deduction was a huge encouragement for home ownership, as were GI loans after the war. (I don’t know when the mortgage tax deduction came in. It should probably go out.) The American economy is consumer-driven, and a huge social effort has been made to get people to spend. They did it. They were good citizens and did exactly what was expected of them: worked hard, spent money and did not question the system. When their wages stopped rising, they went into debt in order to keep spending. And in the process, they kept the American economy alive. They were not greedy, they were obedient and helpful. Now they are blamed for doing what they were told to do.

    1. Ben

      > When their wages stopped rising, they went into debt in order to keep spending. And in the process, they kept the American economy alive

      And in the process they pulled forward demand from the future that their kids would have to pay down. Governments offered them jam and they voted for it, to hell with the long-term consequences, because it preserved their standard of living.

      1. diptherio

        Hmmm…so I guess there must have been someone also warning them of the long-term consequences–someone with equal authority and voice as the government–right? Otherwise, you’re blaming people for not having hindsight in advance.

        Ever occur to you that if we want to fix our problems now, that we’ll need everyone on-board, regardless of generation? Ever think that maybe telling people you think they should be put on an iceflow and left to die might make them not want to listen to you, much less work with you on anything?

        Have fun being mad at an abstract group people, most of whom you’ll never even meet. Let me know how that works out for you….actually, on second thought, don’t.

        1. Ben

          > Ever think that maybe telling people you think they should be put on an iceflow and left to die might make them not want to listen to you

          I think you have confused me and the other poster. Try not to take the tone of one post onto another just because it appears at the top. Thx.

      2. jonboinAR

        >>>>>
        And in the process they pulled forward demand from the future that their kids would have to pay down.
        >>>>>

        I don’t think so. I think that’s a red herring. They’re just taking a certain amount of what’s being produced currently. I guess you think it’s too much. That can be negotiated, but I wish you would read JEHR’s post below. I very tiny cohort that spans all of these generations we’re bickering about, is gaining control of just about everything at the expense of all the rest of us. They are eager for you and me to quarrel. How about if we stop blaming and start cooperating. I think we’ll both be much better off for it.

    2. diptherio

      Thanks for the long-term perspective. While I’m critical of our consumerist lifestyle and ethic here in the US, I find it pretty hard to lay the blame for our problems on people who were traumatized first by economic collapse and then by war, and then propogandized to incessantly–first by the government, then by advertisers. To excorciate people for accepting society’s conventional wisdom–especially when it has been shoved down their throats–and for failing to know then what we know now is myopic and, honestly, more than a little ridiculous.

      Don’t mind Ben. He’s just pissed off about something unrelated and has decided that taking it out on “the boomers” is easier than fixing whatever it is in his life that has obviously gone awry. Or he’s a paid agent of propoganda…hard to tell these days.

        1. diptherio

          That’s just what an agent of propoganda would say! Ha, you’ve outed yourself!

          By the bye, assuming that you’re not being paid for your comments here–the bizzare facts of modern life are that lots of people are.
          http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323527004579079151479634742?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424127887323527004579079151479634742.html

          And Turkey ain’t the only ones. You really think no one else is trying to “win hearts and minds” on the interwebs? Puh-lease…

  15. JEHR

    Well, if any of those miscreant bankers are reading these comments, they are rolling over with laughter. That’s right, get the common “folk” fighting each other and they will forget that the Great Recession was brought to us by the bankers who committed fraud and by others buying into the frauds (especially the justice system). If the CEOs and CFOs of the biggest banks had been relieved of their jobs, brought to trial and put in jail for their frauds, the present problem would have been alleviated and all the generations would have seen who was conning the system. Wealth inequality is to a large extent responsible for our present dilemma. Rather than blaming any generation, put the blame right where it belongs–on the huge frauds committed by banks and supported by the politicians being suckered by finance and by those people who have benefited from the frauds committed by both.

    1. Moneta

      Even if you blame the bankers, it does not change the fact that we have just devoted at least 4 decades to malinvestment which will not produce the income that boomers demand.

      The divide here should be between those who think that if we put the bankers in their place, there is enough to fill all the promises made to boomers and more than enough to pass on to the next generations.

      I don’t believe there is enough based on how our cities and current lifestyles are structured. So in my mind, it is clear that if we give the boomers what they have been promised, the future generations will end up with little.

      Sop instead of insulting the multiple generations, I would like the debate to revolve around how I am wrong and there is more than enough.

      1. rusti

        Everyone needs to start making lifestyle adjustments to transition to an economy that isn’t based on the assumption of plentiful and consequence free fossil fuel burning and resource extraction, it’s hardly an issue limited to the elderly. I don’t think there are fundamental technical limitations with doing this if the changes for redesign of cities, energy demand response, renewable generation capacity and environmental regulations around resource extraction are ambitious enough, it is a matter of getting the political machinery in motion.

        The ones buying politicians, paying people to act as climate change denying trolls, and fanning the flames of generational warfare are the ones doing the most damage to this vision of the future that people of all ages around here tend to share.

      2. skippy

        Whats this royal – WE – did this shtick, when the agency was a top down corporatist agenda, dressed up as dismal science, and some made it a religion…. shezzzz~

        1. Moneta

          Hair splitting… at the end of the day, it comes to the same result: you can’t get blood from a stone.

          1. skippy

            Granularity and accuracy might be hairsplitting in your cult, but, not in rigorous analysis.

            skippy… what do blood and stones got to do with anything… its a throw away phrase imo.

            1. Moneta

              No matter who shoulders the blame, it does not change the fact that 40 years of malinvestment will probably lead to a drop in productivity.

    2. RUKidding

      No kidding. Too right. The 1% just laughs their asses off if they happen to witness inter-generational warfare. A GREAT distraction from how things got this point. Let the kids go for granny’s jugular, whilst the 1% happily run to their off-shore accounts with their ill-gotten booty. WOOT!

    3. Lambert Strether

      Follow the money, not the birth date:

      Rather than blaming any generation, put the blame right where it belongs–on the huge frauds committed by banks and supported by the politicians being suckered by finance and by those people who have benefited from the frauds committed by both.

      Ding ding ding ding!

  16. diptherio

    Regarding this:

    …based on observations of my colleagues, as well as reader comments, there are plenty of people in their 50s and 60s, and some even in their 70s, who’d like to continue working, not just for the money, but for the sense of purpose it provides and the engagement with other people.

    I think this probably depends greatly on what you are currently doing for work. If it’s a job you like, or are at least ok with, I can see that this would probably be true. However, I know more than a few people who don’t really like the job they are working at now (health aids, housekeepers) and are pained mightily to think that they might have to be doing it until they croak.

    Nobody wants to feel useless (well, not many anyhow) but feeling useful and working at a job are not necessarily synonymous. If you mingle mostly with a professional cohort, you’re likely to find people who are working post-retirement by choice. If you hang largely with the “working poor,” you’ll hear a lot more people bemoaning the fact that they will never get to retire–the promise that has been held out to them their entire working life–that they’ll be working till they drop from necessity, not choice.

    From what I can tell, anyway…

    1. RUKidding

      Agreed. It really depends on what work you do. Clearly a white collar worker is more likely to be able to continue working bc the jobs typically are less physically demanding. Blue collar labor – what remains of it anyway – typically is very hard on your body and makes it difficult to keep working (at least at those kinds of jobs) much past what is considered retirement age of mid-60s.

      That said, I do see a lot of my friends and acquaintances – fortunate enough to have white collar jobs – feeling like they’d prefer to work longer for a variety of reasons. For some it is definitely financial necessity, but for many it’s bc we realize – from having cared for our elderly parents, etc – that we’ll most likely be living longer.

      Is there enough to go around? I’m not sure. I think there is, but it requires that we somehow make the system work better. Yeah: how do we do that? Damned if I know.

    2. Klassy

      Ironically, some of those doing the most useless work wish to continue so that they may feel useful.

      1. cnchal

        Took the words right out of my mind. I would only add the words “highly paid” between most and useless

    3. Lambert Strether

      IMNSHO, shuffleboard is a death sentence, and I don’t see why I should have to accept it. So I plan or at least hope to keep working ’til I drop. Now, whether I’m “in the labor market” is another question entirely; and this conversation might fit into a larger conversation about whether “jawbz” are working for most, or even a reasonably sized minority, of working people.

      It’s clear that human rental (wage labor) is more civilized than human sale (slavery) but I think the ultiimately civilized form of labor would always be a gift. And why not?

      1. Larry Barber

        Gift economy won’t work. Nobody would give their labor to the bastards that currently become bankers.

  17. RUKidding

    File under FWIW: I do have quite a lot of sympathy/empathy/whatever for the younger generations. I am one of the horrible dreadful completely awful should-be-killed-stat boomer cohort. Well I concur that I did witness a lot in my generation living large and often beyond their means. It means little that I didn’t do that, myself. FWIW, I’ve always lived frugally *below* my means; mostly always have worked 2 jobs; chose not to have children out various concerns for the future, and so on.

    And hey guess what? So have *most* of my friends and acquaintances. But certainly a lot of boomers went the whole hog and lived lavishly. As one of the commenters, above, said: USians were, indeed, propagandized to be good consumers & spend spend spend… I’m not economist, but I have read often how US home purchases were one of the big engines fueling our economy. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but certainly there was a lot of propaganda about buying your own home as “The American Dream.”

    It’s easy to demonize one group; point fingers of blame; and say: it’s ALL and ONLY YOUR fault. I’d say the issues are more complex than what’s been presented by some angry commenters. The issues have grown over time and aren’t solely and only the fault of Boomers. I also find it a bit tough to see commenters saying words to the effect (maybe I’ve misunderstood but this is what I feel I’m reading) that boomers, who have after all worked for decades, don’t deserver their pensions now because we’re “greedy” and apparently had sex constantly (or something). I think that’s way beyond short-sighted and rather unfair.

    That said, I have always had a lot of concern for the over-consumption that occurred post WWII across most “first world” countries. I’ve also lived some extended periods of time in Australia & Germany, and while the consumerism isn’t quite at the levels as the USA, it’s similar. I never liked the greed and worship of big houses, expensive cars, expensive everything, but clearly I’m in a small minority. FWIW, my friends and I have long been working on these issues, protesting, educating, whatever, but as one can see: to little avail.

    Yes, the world is in a mess of epic proportions, I would agree. That said, I would encourage those younger generations not to wage war against the elderly. That just plays directly into the hands of the 1%, who laugh their asses off to witness it while the run to their off-shore accounts with their filthy lucre. IOW: the ones really ripping us all off are the 1% with their take-over of governments across the globe. Wake up and smell the coffee. Expressing your vitriol at the so-called greedy grubby elderly may feel good for a time, but it leads absolutely nowhere. Suggesting that the elderly should just be killed seems, uh, VERY self-defeating (as in: wait’ll they come for you with an ax).

    And finally, I actually am financially assisting quite a few much older than me people. People who worked HARD all their lives and several of them worked into their early 80s. They are barely making it, believe me. There’s a lot more people out there – boomers and beyond – who aren’t doing very well financially. If we just cut off the social safety net, they will surely die soon. These are people who weren’t greedy; who didn’t live beyond their means; but who’ve been caught in the vise of exponentially rising cost of living while having stagnant low wage jobs all their lives.

    Compassion is what is needed, along with some real education about how our governments have been taken over by crooks who’ve gamed the system. Look at Margaret Thatcher in the UK for those of you so angry at boomers there; look at Reagan here in the USA. Our governments have been rigged to benefit the 1% at the expense of the 99%. THAT is where the real problem lies. Expend your energy on attempting to make REAL fixes to the system, rather than trading at the elderly. Good luck to us all.

  18. Vatch

    I’ve probably posted this quote before, but it’s worth repeating. The economist Kenneth Boulding is reputed to have said:

    “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”

    So either we reduce the birth rate, or we shorten the lifespans of people who already are living. Some may disagree with me, but I think the clear choice is to reduce the birth rate. There will be some problems along the way, but in the long run, we will be far better off with a smaller population. There will be less pollution, less poverty, and less stress leading to violence

  19. TG

    Kudos! It’s about time that we had some sensible talk about population.

    The rich want sustained high fertility rates because that basically guarantees low wages for the many and high profits for the few. But that doesn’t sound so good so the rich lie about it.

    One especially toxic meme is that we must have large numbers of children or we will all be old and the economy will collapse. I could go though all the logical flaws behind this argument but consider this: is the average Swiss worse off than the average Bangladeshi? Could the problems facing Finland and Japan be solved by turning them into a copy of Pakistan? Absurd, right?

    Without an open frontier, all societies with sustained high fertility rates are miserably poor, even though they have a young age distribution. All societies with any level of prosperity have a history of low fertility rates, and even though the age distribution may be high, with high enough wages things can be made to work.

    Consider Bangladesh, where there are maybe 5 workers per ‘retiree’ and 5 children per worker, and wages are 50 cents an hour. Now consider Switzerland, where there are maybe 3 workers per retiree and 1 child per worker and wages are 30 dollars an hour. Do the math.

    Who are you going to believe, the op-ed page of the New York Times or your own eyes?

  20. ep3

    Yves, my first thought by looking at the headline is that I disagree with this assumption that there will be more retirees than workers.
    I know we look at the quantity of people. But what about all the jobs that the boomers held? What will happen to them? This is why I believe we have been dealing with “immigration reform” in Congress. The corporate plan is to lessen immigration restrictions, allowing foreign workers to fill all those jobs that boomers once held. And then the remainder of those jobs will be sent overseas.

  21. Garrett Pace

    the average life expectancy for children born in prosperous countries could soon exceed 100.

    Not buying that, as the poor and middle classes of “prosperous countries” find health care more and more difficult to afford and food companies lather their products with poisons to increase profits. Not to mention, “surplus populations” are growing; people that the economy doesn’t need and the state has no reason to protect.

    That implies an ever-rising ratio of those over 65 to younger cohorts. But as long as average retirement ages rise to keep stable the proportions of life spent in work and in retirement, the fact that working and retirement years are growing at equal rates has no adverse economic effect.

    So the economy will be okay. But the people…

    1. Klassy

      There is no way the average life expectancy in prosperous countries even could soon exceed 100. No possible way.
      Most of the increases have been due to lowered infant mortality. The changes in avg life expectancy in the last 50 years has been pretty incremental in comparison to the changes that occurred in the first half of the 20th century. I doubt we will see any major breakthroughs such as public sanitation projects or antibiotics that contributed to this increase in our lifetime.

      1. Vatch

        And antibiotics are becoming less effective, due to various types of improper practices, such as routine use in factory farms. The bacteria are becoming immune to the wonder drugs.

  22. Vatch

    From the article:

    “Declining fertility, including in some lower- and middle-income countries, such as Iran and Brazil, also reflects hugely positive social developments – particularly the empowerment of women. Wherever women have the right to an education and to choose how many children to have, fertility rates fall to or slightly below replacement levels.”

    For a while, Iran’s population policy was quite enlightened. But they’ve gone over to the dark side, and are now encouraging large families. Recently, they banned permanent birth control techniques such as vasectomies. They have been moving in the wrong direction for a while now. Perhaps they need cannon fodder for future wars with Sunnis and infidels.

    http://www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2014/update124

    1. Garrett Pace

      “Wherever women have the right to an education and to choose how many children to have, fertility rates fall to or slightly below replacement levels.”

      Apparently “enlightenment” is not automatic. Utah’s birth rate has been significantly above replacement rate for a long time.

  23. Mike Smitka

    There’s also a tradeoff that we’d likely choose if we could: slightly lower incomes for rather longer lives. Lots continue working because they have to, but lots work at younger ages in jobs they don’t like because they have to. And what’s so special about retirement – isn’t it by and large a recent phenomenon, a product of prosperous and healthy societies? Of course these fall out of the realm about which we as economists are trained to talk.

    But as it happens I’m a Japan expert, and have watched the aging of their society [or societies, it’s a big country] for 40 years. I also teach about “demographic dividends” in my China course. All of these evolve slowly, there’s no crisis (nor “boom”) in any of this, and by and large the outcomes even in the fastest aging societies (Japan, Korea, and soon China) may involve some pain but hardly undermine the entire economy. Can we undertake generational accounting so as to balance things across time? Likely no, and in any case that’s presumptuous from an ethical perspective, that we can properly make such tradeoffs. Finally, since systemic changes to retirement programs affect lots of people and are hard to reverse, while the behavior of 40- and 50-somethings likely builds upon what they see in their parents and hence the status quo retirement programs, we also ought to move slowly.

  24. Bluntobj

    This thread definitely touches a nerve.

    I have both sets of parents living on the property we bought. My kids will know their history. I sometimes despair that it’s a leap of foolhardy faith to bring offspring into this world, or to even have an marriage. However, I’m opting out of as much of the consumerist police state of America as I can, and going as local as possible. I look at the various playouts and figure the overreach is coming soon, and I don’t want my parents or in-laws struggling when SS and Sickcare are down the tubes. My dad can outwork me six ways to sunday, and I can only aspire to his drive and fortitude.

    I think that people who rushed to get away from their parents, or been disconnected from their families for whatever reason, have these feelings toward their elders. Having lived in Alaska, I recall the kids book “Two Old Women” (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/two-old-women-velma-wallis/1002606504?ean=9780060723521)
    As for eskimo’s and ice floes, I think the Inuit and Aleut would take legitimate issue with that kind of racist tale, eh?

  25. Jeremy Grimm

    One comment ellicited a fire storm of replies. Ugh!

    I was not pleased by the argument in the posted essay that in effect later retirement ages worked to offset the longer life spans. I certainly hope that I don’t live longer in order to work more. I have plenty of things I’d like to work on that don’t involve “work”. Besides, I haven’t noticed many workers of any generation wanting to do my work. They want the salary, but the work — when I started out I lamented that no one would help me learn the trade and now I lament that no one wants to learn the trade from me. I’d wonder if it were my basic obnoxious nature except that I haven’t seen many examples for the passing of knowledge by other more pleasant parties than I.

    As a more and more old fart, I think it’s strange how our society places privileges and wealth on the fortunate old and disproportionately burdens the young — especially those with children or more important those I want to start families and enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures. Though I envy them, I also root for them and hope for grand children. For the elderly who are sick, or unable to live better than eating catfood — I pray I will not find myself among you, something all too easy to accomplish and will do all that I can to help you in your plight — assuming I can retire and have the time!

    These generation wars are upsetting to me. It’s quite hard enough fighting the enemy without having to fight with those who should be my natural alies! GenX and non-Boomers — PLEASE VOTE! Don’t complain that we do. If you see Tweedledee and Tweedledum — just vote ‘no’ — little ‘n’, little ‘o’. Don’t encourage or validate “them” and don’t appear apathetic — you are far from apathetic. Old age should rage, and so too youth. Where is your voice? I hear only pathetic squeaks of outrage toward your natural allies. Remember the fable of the Lion and the Mouse — it operates in many directions.

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