Thursday, October 11, 2012

Younger seniors caught in the middle with obligations to the very old, and to the young; consider De Tocqueville

Eduardo Porter has an important perspective on the Business Day of the New York Times Wednesday, Oct. 10, “Cutbacks and the fate of the young”, link here

Porter notes that both (major) parties are promising to protect the benefits of current and near seniors. The "elders" just have too much political clout to be asked to sacrifice for the next generation to have its turn, he implies.

He recounts a list of cutbacks on programs that would help children and families, necessitated at least indirectly by the need to pay for seniors who are living longer.

Of course, one can say that, at least beyond a certain limit, it’s not the proper function of government to provide for the elderly; it is a duty of the adult children in families.  It strikes me that this idea in conservative though does indeed look back to De Tocqueville’s ideas about the proper granularity of individualism (as explained in a Wikipedia article link; look at the fourth paragraph in the “Democracy in America” section). 

I wound up coming back “home” in 2003 to look after my own mother, who died at 97 at the end of 2010.  I did hire caregivers starting in 2009, and I’m grateful that my father left her with the resources to be cared for by his lifelong conservative investment strategies (lots of utilities and oil). Even so, I felt a certain shame in having become a 60-something man living with his mother (in his old house), being legally responsible for her without ever having succeeding (in “reproductive competition”) in having a lineage (and therefore domain) of my own (I would have felt OK if in a same-sex relationship taking care of her in my home, not hers).  Technically, I had a situation for about 19 months where I could not legally leave her alone and pursue my own choices without a caregiver present.  This whole episode certainly can affect my perspective on marriage and procreation.

The possibility that in the future people might not age at all (with biological engineering) could provoke a moral and policy debate the likes of which we can hardly imagine now. For example, see Discover, Oct. 19, 2012, “Forget immortality: live life without aging”, here

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