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.