• The aging problem

    If you’ve read Albert Brooks’ 2030 (or even if you haven’t), you might be concerned about what an aging population means for America’s future. If so, Henry Aaron’s Longer life spans: boon or burden? (ungated pdf, Dædalus 2006) might provide some relief.

    The first step in dealing with the ‘aging problem’ is to avoid public policies that enlarge it.

    The second step is to recognize that the U.S. ‘aging problem’ is among the smallest in the developed world.

    The third step is to recognize that although population aging will present some fiscal challenges, it is the byproduct of a monumentally beneficial achievement–increased longevity–and an inevitability–declining birth rates.

    Longer life spans will doubtless create some problems. But as the old saying goes: Consider the alternative.

    Trouble is, it all comes back to politics. Can our system tackle big problems involving powerful, entrenched interests? It’s not so clear. Longevity is a good problem. A dysfunctional political system is not.


    • It’s nice to see someone mentioning that for the US, the aging problem is the least severe of the developed nations. As an expat living in Japan, where the problem really is nasty, the screams of doom and gloom strike me as way over the top.

      Also, three cheers for your “Longevity is a good problem.” Damn straight.

      One request, though. I’d like to see statistics for life expectancy at 65 quoted more often. It’s a better measure (than life expectancy at birth) for thinking about the problem, and more interesting for your Japan correspondent, who is a few short months shy of 60.