Old People are a Drag: Gregg 2000

Looking back, I ran across Judd Gregg’s opining about the aging problem in an essay that wasn’t readily available to the public.  Now the archives of The Washington Quarterly are accessible on line and can be downloaded as pdf files, amenable to being copied and pasted.

In my earlier musings, I asked the question:

Or is it dire because the physically impaired will have to be supported by the young and then those youngsters won’t be available to serve as cannon fodder?

See over the fold for Gregg’s answer.

But even the workforce issue, in an indirect but real way, argues for advance funding of national entitlement systems. If systems are advance funded through personal accounts, individuals in their retirement years will withdraw their own personal assets to meet retirement and health care needs. Their consumption will indirectly affect the economic well-being of the young, but not as immediately as meeting all of these costs by sharply increasing direct taxation, as current practices require. Accordingly, to re-
move severe disincentives to childbearing, governments must help the elderly become more economically independent, as opposed to relying directly on government programs and therefore on taxes paid by the working young.

Besides the obvious shilling for private investment accounts, what seem particularly worth noting here is the strategy of trying to affect the behavior of one group (the young) by changing the behavior of another (the elderly).  It’s this rule by indirection, I would argue, which destines most conservative social prescriptions to fail.  Anyway…..

It needs to be reiterated that differences in birth rates between the developed and the developing world are not a projection. They have already occurred and will predictably affect defense personnel. It is unrealistic to expect Italy, Germany, or France in the long term to maintain current commitments of personnel. Turkey is one of the few NATO partners where birthrates are adequate to meet projections of defense obligations. As a general rule, the United States and its partners have banked their national security on an alliance between nations that project severe shortages of military personnel.

While I don’t personally buy into the “security depends on the size of the guard dog” argument, if one is seriously concerned about a strong, young fighting force, it would seem to make sense that people of child-bearing age should be protected from illness, injury and disease via a comprehensive health care program. But that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Since the assumptions underlying the essay on “confronting” aging are mostly false, it doesn’t seem worth while dissecting it minutely.  However, one has to wonder what this little paragraph tells us about the retiring Senator.

Throughout the developed world, individuals are less and less likely to retire due to a physical inability to work. Although such nations can and should provide appropriate disability coverage for those no longer able to work, the evidence is largely that individuals retire because governments pay them to-with predictable effects on government revenues.

Also….I’ve long wondered what the definition of a “fund” is.  After reading this essay, I think I understand that a fund is a pot of money belonging to someone else for financiers to play with.  Which is why the Social Security Trust Fund is such a problem.  

  • hannah

    While Gregg was thinking about “advance funding”–individual retirement and medical care accounts, the State of Texas was passing the Advance Directive Act, a precursor of the “death panels.”

    While the main thrust of this legislation was to protect medical care providers from liability for honoring a terminally ill patient’s end of life directives, there’s an appeal to “community” standards of care which provides an opening for treating the indigent community differently.

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