Death Panels, Part 2
In 80151 Preparing us for death panels, I discussed an article in theatlanntic.com that reflected an Obamacare architect’s thoughts on aging. The Atlantic had more than one article on aging and the impacts on society. One wonders if The Atlantic is going to be the vanguard on the left’s “War on the Aged”.
The first part of the article discusses ways to increase longevity. But then it turns to “Aging and Politics”. Here are some quotes from that discussion:
Society is dominated by the old—old political leaders, old judges. With each passing year, as longevity increases, the intergenerational imbalance worsens. The old demand benefits for which the young must pay, while people in their 20s become disenchanted, feeling that the deck is stacked against them. National debt increases at an alarming rate. Innovation and fresh thinking disappear as energies are devoted to defending current pie-slicing arrangements. This isn’t a prediction about the future of the United States, but rather a description of Japan right now.
Japan’s grayness stems from a very low fertility rate—not enough babies to bring down the average age—and strict barriers against immigration.
“That Japan is the first major nation to turn gray, and is also the deepest in debt, is not encouraging. Once, Japan was feared as the Godzilla of global trade, but as it grayed, its economy entered a long cycle of soft growth.”
Young people in Japan have some of the world’s worst voter-participation rates. They think the old have the system so rigged in their favor, there’s no point in political activity. The young don’t seem excited by the future.
Because the only child is common in Japan’s newest generation, a big cast of aging people may turn to one young person for financial support or caregiving or both. Acceding to public borrowing may have become, to young Japanese, a way to keep older generations out of the apartment—even if it means crushing national debt down the road.
That America may become more like Japan—steadily older, with rising debt and declining economic growth—is unsettling. From the second half of the George W. Bush administration until 2013, U.S. national debt more than doubled. The federal government borrowed like there was no tomorrow.
As longevity increases, so too does the number of living grandparents. Families that once might have had one “oldest old” relative find themselves with three or four, all expecting care or money.
Evolutionists including Alfred Russel Wallace have toyed with the idea of programmed death—the notion that natural selection “wants” old animals to die in order to free up resources for younger animals, which may carry evolved genetic structures. Current thinking tends to hold that rather than trying to make older animals die, natural selection simply has no mechanism to reward longevity.
Evolution doesn’t care about you past your reproductive age. It doesn’t want you either to live longer or to die, it just doesn’t care. From the standpoint of natural selection, an animal that has finished reproducing and performed the initial stage of raising young might as well be eaten by something, since any favorable genetic quality that expresses later in life cannot be passed along.
As for the idea that grandparents help their grandchildren prosper, favoring longevity—the “grandmother effect”—this notion, too, has fared poorly in research.
Evolution favors strength, intelligence, reflexes, sexual appeal; it does not favor keeping an organism running a long time.
Felipe Sierra, the researcher at the National Institute on Aging, puts it this way: “The human ethical belief that death should be postponed as long as possible does not exist in nature.”