Posted by BE on June 12th, 2011
My old friend, Ivan Strahan (I use the word ‘old’ advisedly – we were at school together.) is a devotee of this website. He emails me occasionally from his home in the charming little seaside town of Donaghadee in County Down where he lives with his lovely wife Claire. The purpose of his emails is usually to put me right on some arcane point of Medieval French syntax or Greco-Roman architecture or to engage in that most delightful of old men’s pleasures – complaining about one’s health.
Occasionally, however, he takes issue with something I have written. This was the case with one of my recent posts, I devise a failsafe recipe for full employment – lower the Minimum Wage! (with thanks to John Key), in which I proposed lowering the New Zealand minimum wage to $2 an hour. Ivan saw this as little more than barely disguised Socialism and an entirely feeble response not only to New Zealand’s but to the world’s economic woes. Though he doubted that it would receive widespread acceptance, he had, he claimed, come up with a brilliant solution to the economic ills that beset the planet. I reproduce it here without comment.
The solution consists of three parts:
1) Make retirement obligatory for everyone, without exception, at the age of 55.
2) Pay all the retired a massive state pension, large enough to enable them to do everything they have ever wanted – to fulfil every dream, no matter how extravagant.
3) Then, at the age of 65, everyone will be painlessly culled.
Think of the benefits of such a scheme:
For the Government: The huge pension payouts would be a loss leader. Governments would know exactly how long such payments would last and be able to budget exactly for them. Care homes for the elderly would cease to exist, saving millions. There would be no need for geriatric medicine, with a consequent saving of billions to the national health service on geriatric hospital wards and GP treatments.
For the economy: There would no longer be any need for people to save for their old age, freeing up cash during their working life for spending and stimulating the economy. Businesses would greatly benefit from this new wave of affluent pensioners, who had nothing to lose by spending their money. The increase in business would lead to full employment and eliminate the idle young causing trouble in the streets.
For families: Family life would also benefit since children would inherit earlier and would not have the trauma of looking after aged parents with Alzheimer’s.
For society: There would no longer be doddery old people cluttering up the roads, doing 20mph in their Noddy cars. No-one would ever lose their home due to an inability to pay their mortgage, since the mortgage companies would know that the money will be secure in the future.
For the retired people themselves: They would able to spend their money freely and not have to worry about becoming decrepit and dependent. They would have a more fulfilled life, having done many wonderful things that they would otherwise not have been able to afford. Who in their right mind would swap ten years of affluence and pleasure for 30 years of worry and increasing debility?
I should add perhaps that the only problem Ivan can see with his plan is gaining international acceptance of it. Without that, millions of those approaching 65 might seek to flee to non-compliant countries, having enjoyed the good life in their own. People can be incredibly selfish.
My one question to Ivan is: what is to be done with those who have already reached or passed the age of 65 when the scheme is first introduced. Both he and I fall into that category by a considerable margin already. How ironic, not to mention unfair, it would be if the designer of the scheme (and his very close friend) were to be among the first to be ‘painlessly culled’.
But no doubt such minor defects can be ironed out. In the meantime, readers’ views are welcomed.
Its a tough choice between the two .Perhaps Ivans scheme should have a maximum wage for most workers built in at $2.00 per hour. Captains of industry ,policians, CEOS ,etc should not be included in this as their value to society is too great
“My one question to Ivan is: what is to be done with those who have already reached or passed the age of 65 when the scheme is first introduced.”
Easy. There’s a 10 year phase-in period in which everyone 55 or over is deemed to be 55 and have 10 years (or less) to enjoy life. Good scheme.
Is your mate Ivan channeling Paul Holmes? If not, how on Earth do you explain back-to-back pushing of euthanasia on two of NZ’s most esteemed media sources (Herald and this blog)? Must be the water
Other than moral objections, there may be a few flaws in Ivan’s scheme. While there will no doubt be a boom in the manufacture of culling machines, this will be offset by a lull until the machines come into widespread use. There is a danger inherent in training the unemployed yoof of today to manufacture deadly weapons, then leave them at a loose end for a decade or two. Plans of world domination may break out.
Further, the expected boom may not eventuate. Pensioners (and other Kiwis) are already in hock for several billion, so they may not be in a position to expand their Visa spending. Besides, pensioner dreams mostly seem to involve desiring something until it becomes a realistic prospect, then deciding its too cold to go out to get it anyway.
There is also the little matter of destabilising the globe – as refugees from Ivan’s brave new nation ensconce themselves safely where no-one will ever look (100m from a Pakistani army HQ), the extra populace on one side of the planet will upset our geostable orbit of the sun, leading to the entire planet zooming off into the rings of Saturn, killing us all. Nice navigation Ivan.
But then who cares what I think – I won’t be a pensioner for decades
Well at least this idea has the merit of helping full employement; 50% of the population will be working as undertakers, grave diggers or crematoria attendants and the remainder being bounty hunters seeking those who have gone into hiding.
With the likelihood that 55 year olds may find they get new friends to help them enjoy their ‘massive state pension”, there could be a new twist to a beatles’ song about getting on …
Ivan’s idea has great merit methinks but the culling part however, is the least imaginative.
Rather than painless culling I suggest releasing the 65 yr olds into the wild.
Following an age old tradition in India where older people become wandering sages , drifting from town to town, blessing younger people with the lessons of their hard won wisdom and their different perspective on the world.
They would not be held to the normal laws of the land, would not pay tax. It would become common practice to feed, cloth and shelter these wandering sages.
Some may even have blogs to share their wisdom with a wider audience.
TV reporters would interview them for the “other view” on everything.
They would be allow unfettered access to the houses of parliament, in the debating chamber they would have the right to either laugh or boo, nothing else.
They would eventually die as, when and where they choose, but would die as freemen in astoundingly beautiful parts of the country. Small monuments would be erected to them, engraved their most pithy sayings.
Some might become quite famous others, some mysterious others just embarrassing.
We would still have all of Ivan’s economic benefits plus an awful lot of cultural color.
Read a hilarious book recently which started with a blog site in the USA where she was protesting that the under 30s were going to have to pay hugely to subsidise all those on old age pensions. The Government was not planning any solutions to the problem. This morphed into a compulsory death at 65 program which brought out all the anger and wheeling and dealing that the precarious President could muster. A very funny book. (Can’t remember the title. Old age you see.)
Looking through the hyperbole I actually think there is a huge amount of merit in defining with care the boundaries around state provision of support and accepting that beyond those boundaries you are on your own. I also think that that if made carefully such decisions offer financial trade-offs which are broadly positive.
For example, I have no problems with the idea that dialysis should not be offered in the public system past the age of 75. Or that if one wants a hip replacement past the age of, say 75, then one pays personally. I know there are always boundary issues (for example the person requiring a hip replacement who will cost more to support without one than with one)but that is no reason why the issues can’t be worked through on a case by case basis. The attempt by Sharon Crosbie (I think it was her – please correct me if not) and her group many years back to define what should be supported by the state in health was a start but regretably the exercise failed.
In another context, offering no support for students in their first year would require all students to think carefully about what they are doing and why and, because no doubt the drop-out rate during the first is high, would enable students in their second and subsequent years to be supported quite well.
The trick would be to clarify boundaries at the point that extra state effort / expenditure is considered discretionary in terms of a full life, well-lived, rather than simply discriminating against those of limited means who can’t make up the deficiency by saving and / or insurance.
The similar story is called “Logan’s Run”.
“Following an age old tradition in India where older people become wandering sages”
The thought of Brian Edwards dressed only in a loin cloth and jandals wandering the NZ countryside blessing the young with his hard won wisdom caused my mind to boggle. Would Judy qualify as the sage’s moll?
Logan’s Run, anybody?
I feel sad for him. He must be feeling that as an aged person he is a burden on people.
BE: One of the reasons (though not the only one) why I wrote the post on reducing the minimum wage to $2 was to see whether the common opinion of so many people that Kiwis have no sense of irony, and therefore read ironic comment as though it were intended to be taken seriously, was true or not. The outcome of this entirely unscientific survey, seemed to be that 50% do recognise irony and 50% don’t. Which isn’t very reassuring.
You can regard Ivan’s piece in two ways: as ironic; or as putting forward an interesting and thought-provoking idea for discussion. But it does seem that an awful lot of people take everything they read as being meant literally, a position which must exclude a massive amount of the world’s literature. Having then utterly failed to recognise the ironic or satirical nature of what was written, they then get their knickers in a twist condemning it.
Some years ago, in response to a growing call for the return of capital punishment in New Zealand, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of one of the metropolitan newspapers, in which I said that the prospect of being hanged had been shown to be ineffective in deterring killers and what we needed to do was go back to killers being hung, drawn and quartered. There were two types of letters published in response: letters supporting the idea; and letters condemning me for this barbarous suggestion.
Sigh! I should have warned Ivan.
“Paging, Mr.Ivan Strahan.
Paging, Mr.Ivan Strahan.
Please, come to Reception.
Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann is here waiting to see you.
He has the Zyklon B cannisters, you have ordered.”
BE: Good grief! See my reply to Marie.
Good legislation ought not to be retrospective.
Any such enactments can only apply to those who have not reached age age 65.
Well, to be really fair it any such law should only apply to those who have not yet reached age 55.
That would ensure the entire vote of all post “baby boomer ” generations.
I can just hear Tim Watkin cheering as his superannuation worries are so adroitly addressed.
Begorrah, it takes Irish logic to solve simple problems, an’ all, an’ all.
“The thought of Brian Edwards dressed only in a loin cloth and jandals wandering the NZ countryside blessing the young with his hard won wisdom caused my mind to boggle. Would Judy qualify as the sage’s moll?”
I would see Brian more as itinerant irish tinker regaling people with tall stories and long tales.
He looks like a man with a very dry sense of humour.
BE: He is. Not to be confused with some commenters whose sense of humour can only be described as ‘arid’.
Your last post brought me to tears.
I am not sure whether or not it was laughter or terror.
The mental image of what you suggest will haunt me to the grave (splutter).
It will also narrow the gap between Maori and non-Maori life expectancy. There are just so many advantages. As for those of you over 65 never fear, we can add a grandfather clause, it can be a gentle affair, for example if you haven’t taken responsibility for things yourself the government can bump you off at your next birthday/drivers licence renewal/overseas holiday or attempt to flee etc that way it can stagger the numbers being culled.
Instead of culling, why not ship them off to Australia as a more humane option (or less, depending on your point of view).
And if they won’t take them, there’s always Naru…
I cannot believe that you’ve entirely missed out the amazing environmental benefits of such a scheme.
I too see amazing benefits of such a scheme
but suggest achieving support would be difficult as Ivan has not
recognised the fact that females live longer than males [10yrs?]
Could he adapt his scheme accordingly please.
More importantly, the South of France looks good. Pyrenees ?, Provence ?, Massif Central ?, Aquitaine ?, Languedoc-Roussillon ?
BE: Languedoc. To be precise the village of Quillan where Ivan, Claire, Judy and I were staying.
I just found this blog and it’s very interesting
I am an active retiree and I do not wish to be culled at a certain age since I consider I have much value to offer society.
BE: No worries, Larry. Ivan has promised to take you off the list!