Bryan Caplan  

Pension Fact of the Day

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I took three reads to get Robin's point, but it's profound:
While the ratio of folks over 65 to younger adults (OADR) will almost double in 45 years, the ratio of disabled to healthy adults (ADDR) will hardly change at all.
In other words, as the fraction of retirees goes up, so will the fraction of able-bodied retirees.  In fact, we could maintain the status quo as long as people retired on the basis of how old they feel instead of how old they are.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Eric Falkenstein writes:

As they say, publication is the death of a paper (book)! I guess, a break is good for your sanity in any case.

I would say schooling ripe given the education bubble talk recently. The inference from the mid 20th century that because successful people tended to have college educations, and initial GI bill seemed successful, implies everyone should have a college degree, is profoundly wrong. It's not Yale or jail, and spending 4 years getting a soft degree from a second rate school adds nothing to one's human capital or marketability.

thoughts:
1) Charles Murray seems to think 50+% of college students shouldn't be there. That would get rid of a lot of educators. That seems impossible politically.
2) If you think that not everyone should get a degree, that will highlight inequality between politically important groups, something that degrees for everyone superficially diminishes. What if a pure meritocracy generates more conspicuous inequality? How is it rectified? Root causes, affirmative action, nothing?

Bob Layson writes:

There is no good reason why people should lack a source of income after a lifetime of paid work and the opportunity to invest in various diverse ways. Old people, in their working lives, create the capital that keeps them when retired. They are not naturally a burden on younger people who constitute the present in-work workforce. Indeed, they and their forebears made the world in which the generation which follows them will receive unprecedentedly high incomes.

The reason why people may lack a decent income in retirement is that their pay and savings have been relentlessly taxed and inflated away. After which it is an insult to regard them as the problem.

Many commentators also employ a kind of cod-Marxian analysis by assuming that retired sources of labour-power, now dead to the market, can only be carried by exploiting living employed labour. By implication, land and capital are supposed unable to provide an honest and essentially distinct economic income. It's all merely a matter of dividing up surplus value they conclude.

Tracy W writes:

By implication, land and capital are supposed unable to provide an honest and essentially distinct economic income.

And the implication is, as far as I know, true. I can't think of a single way of using land and capital to create an economic income without also using labour. The ratio of land, capital and labour can change, but that all are required is necessary. For example, take food. While farming has become significantly more productive per unit of labour, it still requires some labour. Someone needs to program the GPS to drive the tractor to harvest the crops. A house provides somewhere to live, but unless regularly maintained, taking labour, the roof starts to leak and then collapses and your house gets worse and worse at providing those services.

Really until we have robots or Star Trek's replicators, labour is necessary to produce an income.

It's all merely a matter of dividing up surplus value they conclude.

If you can use the word "merely", you haven't been following the debate closely.

mark writes:

The last sentence of the post presumes (1) honest self reporting (or incentives for honest self reporting that work) and (2) employment options for persons over 65.

I do think it would be a good idea for many back office government jobs to be filled by people over 65, who would probably work for a lower salary than is currently paid, which would address the second point, although that would require massive change to civil servant employment rules.

ziel writes:

Mark, that is an excellent idea but, yeah, it will never happen.

The problem with old people is that they're always in the way. When you're driving and they're on the road, they're in the way. When you're shopping in the supermarket and trying to get down the aisles, they're in the way. And when you're trying to make some headway in your career and get promoted, they're in the way!

Mandatory retirement helps to alleviate the first and third problems above; and by denying them pension benefits, we can take care of the other as well:)

Monte writes:

In fact, we could maintain the status quo as long as people retired on the basis of how old they feel instead of how old they are.

A beautiful sentiment, but untenable on its face. In the absence of lifetime pensions, few could afford to retire on this basis. If, OTOH, workers were guaranteed full retirement benefits on this basis, most would probably retire after their first hangover.

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