Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Geronticide Revisited

Gates of Vienna

There has been much discussion recently about declining birth rates in the Western world and the demographic crisis that must inevitably result. Commentators often point out that the projected age distribution thirty years from now — with old people far outnumbering the young — will be catastrophic. No nation in history has ever faced such a reproductive decline and survived. No matter how fertility patterns change in the near future, we are told, it is too late to halt the slide into demographic senescence.

Such gloomy predictions overlook an even gloomier possibility: a rise in the fertility rate among people of breeding age is only one way that the age distribution of a population might assume a more normal curve. This is not something any of us wishes to contemplate. No one in his right mind wants to consider the possibility that the upper end of the age distribution will be culled until the ratio of young to old returns to a level that can be socially and economically sustained. Yet, given present political trends, this seems an increasingly likely outcome.

More than three years ago I posted a speculative analysis of possible scenarios for the “demographic winter” that will inevitably face the Western world. That essay was written several months prior to the collapse of the real estate bubble and the onset of the Great Recession. Since then there has been no sign that the best-case assumptions I outlined will ever come to pass.

Despite an unprecedented sovereign debt crisis, the Western democracies have not substantially reduced their statutory obligations to the elderly and the retired, nor has the retirement age been adjusted upwards significantly in most countries. The Baby Boomers are now entering retirement and claiming their expensive entitlements, while the diminution of the skilled taxpaying workforce is eroding the capability of the state to pay out future benefits without massive new borrowing.

The immigrants that are still being imported in large numbers to Western countries (a million or so have arrived in Britain since I wrote my previous analysis) will not pay enough in taxes to support the natives who are retiring. Research in several countries indicates that immigrants cost the state more in social benefits, medical care, law enforcement, etc. than they pay in taxes. The bankruptcy of the Western democracies can only be hastened by increasing the rate of immigration.

The newcomers, however, become reliable voters for the Socialist parties in whatever country they take up residence. In alliance with aging native Socialists, they provide an all but unshakeable majority demanding ever-increasing benefits and state-provided services. Reducing the level of benefits for retirees (and everyone else) thus becomes politically impossible.

This convergence of maladaptive political and social processes has recently become evident in Greece. The Greek government is attempting to implement a severe austerity regime which is designed to reduce the country’s unprecedented deficit and sovereign debt. Public sector wage and benefit cuts, pension decreases, the raising of the retirement age, and other unpopular measures are part of the package.

The Greek populace is adamantly opposed to such measures, and has taken to the streets in violent demonstrations to protest any further austerity. Strikes have become an almost daily occurrence, making the country unappealing as a tourist destination and further depleting the state’s tax revenues. Greece is on its way to becoming ungovernable, absent a military coup or some other intervention that does away with the normal democratic process.

The Greek present is a sober reminder of the future facing the entire West. Somebody had to go first, and due to their peculiar social, economic, and political conditions, it had to be the Greeks.

When democracy breaks down, an authoritarian regime of some sort is the only viable alternative to societal chaos. Different countries will realize authoritarian control through different means. A coup may be the most likely outcome in Greece. Under similar circumstances in the USA, a state of emergency will probably be declared, followed by martial law.

Once a non-democratic form of governance is installed, the grim, necessary, unpopular measures that could not be considered previously may then be implemented. As pointed out in the article below, the elderly members of society will be easier to victimize than young people, even if the geezers outnumber the punks by three or four to one. A thousand vigorous, angry, and armed young men present a more persuasive political argument than tens of thousands of weak and doddering old people in their rocking chairs, wheelchairs, and nursing home beds.

This is the grim and horrible calculus that may someday have to be employed by the hard men who take over the remnants of the state in a post-democratic world.

I hope I’m wrong about all this. Let’s pray that our feckless leaders somehow cast aside their fecklessness and cowardice. May they rediscover the qualities of true leadership that are necessary to see us through the looming crisis!

Unfortunately, the signs are not auspicious.

Conquer Your Fear - You Can Do Anything

Via The Excavator

'The time for peace is over'

Via The Market Ticker

Ron Paul X2: Consistent & Plan




Gaming the system

Liberalism’s unwashed last stand

Liberalism is dying before our eyes, not with a whimper or a bang, but with a grand unbathed and so apropos whine-fest. The central tenets of statism are in free-fall, and its benefi- ciaries, namely those who live off the fruits of other people’s labor, are in a panic for one last round of government handouts before they completely bankrupt the nation.

Consider for a moment the tortured psyche of today’s American liberal. The 2008 election promised that “the smartest guy ever to become president” would “fundamentally transform the United States of America” into some liberal utopia. Wars would end. Seas would calm. And Barack Obama would spread the wealth. Instead, all he spread was misery as he unleashed the twin terrors of redistributionist economics and government-controlled health care. Hope and change became despair and more of the same.

The failed Obama presidency, however, is just the beginning. The most liberal president in history, with an assist from his predecessor, has unmasked the structural flaws of liberalism itself. All told, nearly $5 trillion of government bailouts and stimulus spending between the two presidents failed to rescue our economy. Their $5 trillion bought the most expensive lesson in human history: Government cannot create wealth, and an overtaxed and overregulated private sector can’t, either.

Keynesian economics, as it has evolved, is the debunked belief that government can stimulate, direct, regulate and bail you into prosperity. This failed religion is now so thoroughly disproved that it simply cannot survive the collapse of the Obama presidency, except perhaps on the calcified pages of the New York Times. After all, if $5 trillion isn’t a large enough stimulus, what is? And if the smartest guy ever to become president can’t manage liberalism, who can?

Make your own animated election video

POLL: Almost 1/3rd of ‘Occupiers’ Say Violence Is OK

Wall Street Journal

In interviews, protesters show that they are leftists out of step with most American voters. Yet Democrats are embracing them anyway.

President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement—and it may cost them the 2012 election.

Last week, senior White House adviser David Plouffe said that "the protests you're seeing are the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America. . . . People are frustrated by an economy that does not reward hard work and responsibility, where Wall Street and Main Street don't seem to play by the same set of rules." Nancy Pelosi and others have echoed the message.

Yet the Occupy Wall Street movement reflects values that are dangerously out of touch with the broad mass of the American people—and particularly with swing voters who are largely independent and have been trending away from the president since the debate over health-care reform.

The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.

The vast majority of demonstrators are actually employed, and the proportion of protesters unemployed (15%) is within single digits of the national unemployment rate (9.1%).

Gertie’s Ghost

Via Ann, Belle Grove
Gertie placed conservation easements on the house and the remaining land, shielding it from estate taxes while prohibiting commercial development. Over the past 25 years, South Carolina landowners have used such legal instruments to preserve some 560,000 acres. “The beauty of an easement is that it protects the property in perpetuity,” says Katharine Robinson, executive director of Historic Charleston Foundation, which enforces the one on the house at Medway. But they also place inflexible restrictions on future generations.
“Clearly, a piece of property with an easement is worth less than a piece of property without an easement,” says Charles Lane, a South Carolina plantation owner, real estate broker and conservationist.
“You buy Medway, and the only person you can sell it to is somebody who wants to use it for exactly what you bought it for.”
Thank the good Lord and PNC for easements.

Katherine Wolkoff for The New York Times
In 2000, Bokara Legendre, an artist and a stage performer, inherited her family’s plantation in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. She promptly set about making the place her own, redecorating the antebellum mansion with abstract paintings and a pastel color scheme. But this seemed to unsettle the house. The first night Legendre spent in her redone bedroom, there was a problem with the fireplace, and the chamber filled with thick black smoke. As a member of the plantation staff put out the fire, he glimpsed an apparition: the late mistress of the house, Legendre’s mother, Gertie. She was not pleased with the changes.

Legendre tells this ghost story to illustrate a mortal lesson: It is one thing to live in a house, quite another to possess it. Most people can only fantasize about coming into something like Medway, a pink gabled plantation house surrounded by 6,700 acres of moss-hung oaks, pine forests and swamps. But every homeowner wrestles, in ways great and small, with the recalcitrant spirit of the property he occupies. Legendre, a student of Tibetan Buddhism, says she saw a sort of cosmic opportunity in her mother’s bequest, a chance to “change the karma” of an estate once cultivated by slaves and used by her parents as a hunting playground. She discovered that the gift came with hidden conditions, however; some legacies aren’t so easy to exorcise.