Sunday, September 23, 2012
Retirement as an entitlement
When we solely operated as family units, almost involvement was needed to meet the needs of individual members and the group. There was no such thing as retirement. As family members became infirmed, their engagement was limited because they could not bring much to the table. As social systems became more complex, obligations of single individuals to others also became more complex. Some relationships like those binding close family remained in the informal realm while increasingly our relationships to other and the attendant obligations fell increasingly into the legal realm. However the obligations were defined and enforced, the well being of those involved depended upon the existence of adequate resources to meet essential human needs. There had to be enough food, shelter, fuel, and water for all to survive. Until very recently having a portion of one's life set aside without the requirement to create or gather essential resources was only a pipe dream.
I believe the problem we have is one of disbelief and perception. We have grown up in such a world of plenty that we simply cannot imagine that our individual withdrawal from the workforce could possibly mean that we will have any effect on what is available to meet human needs. Thus, of course we should be able to retire at aged 65. Why not 55 or even 50? Why should I not have access to all this plenty, even if I do not contribute in any material way to its existence? What better entity that government to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Who could have foreseen that extension of those same protections to a larger and not so vulnerable audience would become the perfect tool to win elections.
The reality is retirement is a new concept and the selection of the age of 65 was random event based upon the life expectancy over 80 years ago. Promises were made when Social Security was founded that are now actuarial fantasy. Pension systems were created by companies based upon the same bad assumptions. They either figured out how to extricate themselves from those promises or they went bankrupt. How Darwnian!