Sunday, August 2, 2009

an immodest proposal (and genius)

In the print edition of this week's Economist, Cylon Gonçalves da Silva writes a letter from Brazil on a proposal to turn traditional social pension plans on their collective head:
Regarding your special report on ageing populations (June 27th), I once proposed a solution somewhat tongue in cheek to the problem of pensions: turn retirement upside down. In my plan, people would be supported by society up to the age of 30. During that period they would study, travel, prepare for a profession, reproduce and give full-time care to their young. They would not hold any positions of responsibility, where their youthful enthusiasm, unbounded energy and over-ambition were likely to cause problems. After 30, they would work until they dropped dead or became incapacitated.
The advantages are many. First, there would be more people working to support those young “retirees”. Second, social-security budgets could be prepared years in advance, and with greater certainty. Third, young “retirees” would need very little health care and the money saved could be spent on their education and child care. Fourth, individuals would enjoy life at the peak of their powers and give full attention to offspring. Fifth, no more bored and sick elderly people looked upon as useless.
This is especially well-suited to actors: so long as our ability to remember lines holds up, we remain in the labor pool. We could even work part-time on roles for younger people before our 30th birthday, and draw less than a full early-life pension.

Wouldn't that be a sight? Some sunglasses-wearing actor memorizing lines in a cafe shouting at a twentysomething studying a medical textbook: hey, freeloader -- why don't you get a job?!

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