At the End of the Day

Population control, medical science, political blindness, and an actuarial disaster

Let me get this out of the way right now: all the stuff about world population eventually levelling off because people have smaller families once they get wealthier is bunk, and there is one excellent reason for this: wealth attracts an active professional medical sector to the economy….and these folks go on to save far more lives than are lost to contraception.

What’s more, as long as this life-saving increased longevity lark continues, the decoupling of institutional shareholders from the bourse/investment banker/25% net growth per annum insanity will become increasingly difficult – and eventually, impossible. Because those institutions provide survival money for retirees. And every year on every continent, there are more people surviving to retirement….thanks to medical ‘advance’.

All things remaining equal, there is no getting away from any of that. The very first successful State pensions appeared during the reign of Frederick II in Prussia. The success was based on a starting age of pension withdrawal set at 70….when the average age at death was 58. In 1947, UK Government actuaries set the State pension age at 65 based on median death at 72. Today it is far higher than that…thanks to medical ‘advance’.

Until around 1956, very few pension and assurance companies invested in the stock markets. With almost no exceptions, the yield on Gilts, T-bills and so forth was enough to ensure a wide margin for the supplier, and a healthy annuity rate for the saver. But at this point, almost every economic commentator foresaw a golden age of never-ending economic growth sufficient to do two things: allow a beneficent State to provide grand-scale welfare, and provide an opportunity for provider margins to be even better by investing a manageable proportion of its pot each year in slightly riskier equities with potentially higher returns.

The problems, however, began when the better stock market returns in the private sector began to look vital – in the light of poorer and poorer sovereign bond yields – as more and more States started playing with deficit economics. It was the beginning of a series of vicious concentric circles that eventually led to today.

2012 is the Double Whammy that nobody wanted, and we of the vocal minority foresaw: the collision between hopelessly indebted Sovereign public finances on the one hand, and a worldwide recession created by globalist mercantilism on the other. The collision is taking place, of course, because the consumer society took a leaf out of government’s book by borrowing, and the multinational/banker nexus began to get used to the crazy idea of growth based almost entirely on citizen debt. So when, after the point of no return came and went in 2004 – and no politician or central banker anywhere in the West wanted to place his or her power in the hands of a deadly (but vital) credit squeeze – then the destination was set at Double Whammy. And the longer the reckoning was delayed, the more painful the Whammy was always going to be.

But the whole has been exacerbated by the medical profession. Because it and it alone took the sort of decision it nearly always takes: one at complete variance with the commercial, social and species realities of life in the material world. It chose to press on regardless with the sort of research that (i) no Sovereign could afford and (ii) would absolutely guarantee an unaffordable outcome for private wealth preservation.

Had the NHS, for example, chosen by (say) 1971 to cut its suit based on the cloth available, the result would’ve been a public health service dedicated to improving quality of life while we’re here on Earth – not making the experience last as long as possible regardless of quality. But no, the superiority God-complex of the hospital consultant chose to opt for quantitative increase over qualitative improvement.

Here are some bald facts. At the creation of the UK State pension scheme, no politician thought it would be a good idea to invest the money citizens were putting into the Treasury coffers in their NI contributions. In the promotion of research and costing of curative hardware in the NHS, not a single manager has thought to question the social consequences of prolonging the life of the average Briton. As the life expectancy figures crept ever upwards, no Minister of State at any point suggested making some personal pension provision obligatory in the PAYE system. As the H&SE ploughed on with its export cost-increasing measures over the last 15 years, not one Sir Humphrey ever considered the idea of just accepting some death risk as part of life.

What we’ve been watching for several decades now is a dysfunctional mix of optimism, can-kicking and myopic lack of foresight make the current impasse inevitable. Neocons, globalists, derivative slicers, sovereign credit salespeople, greedy institutions, money-mad bankers and hubris-fuelled medics have exacerbated the problem. But the core responsibility lies with those we have paid handsomely to guide and discipline these people: Whitehall civil servants and Westminster politicians.

The buck for all that responsibility comes with the territory. But we, the citizens, have failed to make them genuinely accountable. And that. ladies and gentleman, is why we are all where we are tonight.

Enjoy the weekend.

49 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Believe it or not, there is still plenty of space, shelter and food on this beautiful planet for everyone. God made it so – the same God who saw that Adam was lonely, so he took a rib as he slept and made him a wife. Our problem as a human race isn’t that we are short of stuff at all, it’s our lack of faith in a loving Creator. But I expect I will be called bonkers for saying that, never mind, I am used to it now.

    • You’re entitled to say it if you’ve some supporting evidence. Otherwise it’s your belief, and like rsoles, we all have one.

    • @zoompad: it depends on which part of the planet you are looking from. If from a crofter’s cottage on the Isle of Skye, then yes, one could buy that. If however, from the 19th floor of a decaying council block looking over a smelly urban sprawl, then one would wonder which planet you’re on.

    • “Our problem as a human race isn’t that we are short of stuff at all, it’s our lack of faith in a loving Creator.”

      Any chance of some stated evidence of this. If we all put our destiny in the hands of your interventionist god, it will all be better? Faith is fine, blind faith is dangerous and abdicates us from responsibility.

      • Chris this reminds me of this old christian story which concerns a foolish fool who is very religious.He lived in a small town in europe when a big flood occurs.As the water rises in the town and begins to fill the houses a rescue boat comes to take him to safety.however the man waves the boat away saying,”Don’t worry about me.I believe in God and He will save me .” Later as the water rises higher the man is forced to climb up onto the roof of his house, and once again the boat comes by.Once again the pious man waves the boat away ,crying , “Don’t worry,I believe in God ,and He will save me.” Finally,just as the waters reach the chimney and the man has to stand on tip-toe to breath , a helicopter flies over and throws a rope down to him .However the man refuses to grab the rope and a few minutes is swept away and drowns.When he reaches heaven he gets an audience with God ,and after bowing he says with consternation,”My Lord ,I was your faithful servant,who worshiped you daily ,loving you and trusting in you,but when the flood came ,you would not save me.why,Lord,why?God looks at the man with puzzled expression and says,”thats odd.I was sure i had sent you two boats and a helicopter.”
        Zoopad , the Creator gave us a brain and it’s evolution has overshot our needs , if only we knew how to use it properly !

  2. John,

    As much as I will miss your blog perhaps you should set an example to us all and top yourself. Oh and just in case you feel your family members may become a burden top them before yourself.

    Such is the dreadful logic of your arguement. Perhaps we should ask those nice chaps at ATOS to make a decision on wheter poor people should be allowed to live.

    I hope this is a case of posting whilst pissed.

  3. Ah, is it not marvellous how the tyranny of the exponential function continues to work it’s magic whether it is population, food, shelter or money and we continue to fail to understand this quite simple mathematical relationship to the world around us. You can only control population growth and all its implications for everything and this life on earth with death by whatever means it arrives and in the mean time we continue to fall for and believe the delusions of the religious, economic, political and non-secular that it is not so and that the exponential function is but mathematical whimsy.

    Indeed we are on the highway to hell.

    • Yes, the tyranny of the exponential function (or a least the tyranny by the believers of the exponential function).

      All growth is logistic not exponential, it appears exponential until it starts to slow, and then it isn’t.

      Demand for iDevices, bacteria in a petri dish, popularity of Take That – if you look at the early stages, it looks like exponential growth.
      If it were exponential then each of us would own at least 6 iPods by now and this time next year we would own 12, but we don’t (I don’t own any)

      It wouldn’t matter if a new method that allowed us to live to 200 were discovered tomorrow and all of the existing people were treated, if the TFR falls below 2 then at some point in the future, we will all die out. (it would just take longer that’s all, the end result is the same).

      There is a direct correlation between lowered child mortality rate and falling birth rate. If you are really worried about overpopulation then divert just a tiny proportion of your income to helping children survive beyond five years of age in some of the grim bits of the world (ie. Niger, TFR 7.52 CMR 0.1433 as opposed to Germany TFR 1.41 CMR 0.0041)

      • Bob R

        you are confusing a few things here.

        Life is essentially exponential. Any life-form grows in an exponential manner – or decreases in the same way. Just because there are a myriad factors affecting the growth of bacteria in an otherwise “sterile” petri-dish that make it appear linear, realize what assumptions are incorrect before trying to analyse it as being linear. It may appear so, but it is not.

        Logic can only be applied to the mineral realm. Plants are formed out of the mineral but live as well. That latter component (life) is always some form of exponent.

        It is why statistics abound wherever some lively activity takes place. It is why it fascinates logicians – because it defies them. Thinking outside the box can start with understanding why you cannot predict something.

        If this sounds like nonsense, you are thinking inside the box. It really is that simple.

      • John no, Gemz no, Bob yes.
        It matters not how long people live. If the birth rate falls below 2.1 children per woman (as it has in all countries bar the poorest) the long-term human population will, at best, remain static.
        You can’t argue with the maths.

  4. I hope you are not asking me personally to die early for the good of the country. I don’t mind other people in general dying early, but I’m a bit sensitive about my own case. Is this just more Nimbyism?

  5. Feeling gloomy tonight John? Never mind, it looks like the Swedes have come up with a cracker of an idea to potentially solve the financial woes of the long-livers.

    Here we have it, the promise of a job for everybody – i.e. the end of unemployment. If it’s introduced, the funds being shelled out for the unemployed could then be redirected and divvied up amongst the pensioners, and there we have it – almost Utopia.

    http://www.thelocal.se/42518/20120809/

  6. I think you are on to something John because research shows that here in the US while only 5 percent of elderly Medicare beneficiaries have died annually, the percentage of elderly Medicare expenditures spent on persons in the last year of life fluctuates between 27 percent and 31 percent.

    So it’s quite simple just figure out when people will die and stop their medical coverage the year before. This will save on average 25% of the total medical cost of the elderly. A no brainer.

  7. Folks… the way TPTB have been handling the world economy’s, global warming, ocean acidification, diseases, nuclear proliferation, the Fukushima disaster, and the many random oil wars… I think that population control won’t be so much of a problem in about 40-50 years.

  8. Dont worry JW, it wont be long before euthanasia is legalised here- initially for compassionate reasons but like as not the thin end of the wedge. Then the only thing to be decided will be age and/or general life circumstances. The only question is how soon.

    • I agree ! The propaganda machine is all geared up towards the realisation. About 5 years time I would guess for the first introductary bill……… normalisation will follow in easy stages !

  9. Typical malthusian comment, stopping just short of suggestions as to how to reduce world population, but not before implying that it is immoral not to. You could have assuaged our fears by using your post to promote the benefits of contraception, so by not doing so, you have given equivalence to other forms of population control, many of which are quite unsavoury. Superannuation was conceptualised to overcome the issues about government pensions, yet no difference was made between the two.

  10. Great post. But surely we dont pay Sir Humphreys and the like to think outside the box? Or perhaps one should say keep up. They have, as you point out, been swept away in a deluge of medical advances combined with globalist mercantilism and the challenge to public finances.

    Traditionally most people, maybe all, undertook biomedical research either with the aim of alleviating human suffering/extending/improving our lives or simply with a scientific need to understand life (curiosity being a precious feature of our species). It was never a game nor about making money. Today, it has become nothing more than a mental wa*k and driven by commodification. The fact that scientists can spend years, often entire careers, at considerable expense to the taxpayer, seeking a cure for a disease only to see that therapy become unaffordable to governments and to bankrupt private patients demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of the current situation. And the perversion of values.

    Amazingly, there are some exceptions to this sorry state of affairs- the recently made vaccine against developing cervical cancer for example, which is relatively cheap and easily administered. But of course this intervention in ‘survival of the fittest’ only adds to the burgeoning ageing population.

    There are signs that the emphasis is shifting to disease prevention and improvement in quality of life. But it will take a generation or more to bear fruit. Human nature being what it is, it will not come cheap: nanny state will be the main player, extolling, cajoling and banning. And the outcome if it works? More (impoverished) old people. We will be expected to stump up even more in future for carers and other forms of social support as we gradually fade away while attempting to maintain ‘quality of life’.

    A life well lived, however short, which ends as painlessly as possible is probably what we should be aiming for. It would be the cheapest option for the NHS and probably for us.

  11. Shouldn’t worry about it too much John. Earth abides.

    The complex self-replicating chemicals that represent all life on this planet couldn’t really give a flying wotsit about the design of the vehicle that carries them. They will continue no matter what befalls us and the rest of the species around today.

    One of the traps people (understandably) fall into is to see things entirely in the perspective of their own lifetimes. Life is continuous, we are not. Not a pleasant thought I agree, but it does concentrate the mind rather well and compels us to enjoy to the maximum the time we do have here :-)

    • The complex self-replicating chemicals that represent all life on this planet

      You are closer than you think when you say this. Turn your thinking on its head, so to speak, inside out perhaps? See these complex chemicals as the spoors left by living forms and you would be closer to the reality of the situation.

      Think not of a chemical that self-replication, but that the replication lies in a higher realm.

      Naturally there is no evidence for this, because evidence is of necessity factual and material. It cannot deal with the living realm – just one look at the confusion of statistics available!

  12. Ever visit a nursing home and see poor old dears strapped in chairs, zonked out of their minds on mind altering drugs that we, as taxpayers pay for? Some of them are so old and sick that they don’t want to continue their lives (if they still had the marbles to work it out) However, the medical profession continues to prescribe expensive drugs, carers are caring and cleaning and Living Wills and euthanasia are forbidden by churches and governments.
    I watched my mother die for 12 months as various cruel ‘therapies’ and chemo and all the rest were tries only for her to die a sad, painful death. It was for no one’s credit that this happened. All paid for by Aussie Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and her aged pension.

    • I am also watching my final two relatives of that generation slowly dying in a private nursing home. Both in their late 80s, both with Alzheimers, incontinent and unable to walk, and both requesting to have their life ended. This situation is state-authorised abuse. I thought the first principle of the medical profession was to relieve suffering and do no harm.

      • Much as we sympathise with your sadness, relaxing these laws would – as someone above posted – be the thin end of the wedge.
        As a template look at abortion, which was legalised with the best of intentions: 1968 – 23,641 annual terminations rising to 196,082 in 2011.
        Many older people sit on valuable assets – nuf said.

      • @CM similar situation with my mother. But she is in a specialist dementia home and does at least enjoy being a little girl again. And is happy. At the moment. As far as we can tell….

        @Dip bugger the “valuable assets”. Just a pity this disease is regarded as a social not medical problem, else there’d be some financial respite at least, for those who have paid up.. But of course the UK cant afford it.

        @bemused. working till we drop is the state-legislated form of euthanasia

      • Gemz,

        Linear :- 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 etc.
        Exponential :- 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024,2048,4096,8192,16384 etc.
        Logistic :- 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,480,650,720,720 etc.

        http://mathworld.wolfram.com/LogisticEquation.html

        DiP,

        lower down you mention terminations rising from 23,641 in 1968 to 196,082 in 2011.
        If that growth rate was exponential then it doubles every 14 years.
        In 2009 there were 706,248 live births in the UK, by the year 2040 all pregnancies in the UK would be terminated.

    • Yep, me too with my father. Pain, suffering and misery for 11 months. Humane it is not. Nobody intimately involved benefits. Only the drug companies and the self righteous want this torture to continue.

      Moving on to population in general, there are not too many people in the world. Just too many old and infirm burdening a financial ponzi scheme. The latest trick to get old people to work longer will end in disaster, we need young people to get into these jobs. Instead we oldies will work til we die, denying youth their chance. At my age I should be mentoring and training my replacement not preventing him/her getting started.

      • But isn’t that another issue. The ‘on the job training’ of the past has been taken over by ‘qualifiactions’ by the nannying state. Experience counts as nothing compared to the ‘drivel’ pumped out in our educational establishments. Try getting a job based on 20 years experience compared to a ‘required qualification’. The employers no longer know enough about what they need so rely on people having passed an exam to tell them that they know something about the subject they are going to be doing in the job role.
        It is another reason why a CV these days gets binned if it is more than about 2 pages. The people reading it often do not have a clue what they are reading.

        Best dirty Harry movie quote :-
        Harry: ‘Human Resources is for ar$eholes’
        Reply: ‘I came from Human resources’
        Harry: ‘Uhhh Yeah !’

  13. JW,

    What if in 1971 (why this date?) TPTB chose ‘quality’ rather than ‘length of life’ that you say occurred?

    Maybe we would be having an expectation of life greater than currently computed by actuaries.

    I have a sneaking belief, that the difficult to define, thus treat, concept ‘stress’ is a significant factor in many late life/life threatening diseases.

    I read a book in the early 60′s that asked the question why was the population still increasingly presenting with ailments/illnesses given all the advances in medicine that had recently occurred, as it appeared the population was not getting any healthier.

    That’s progress, I guess.

    Also, I remember being told in the late 40′s/ early 50′s by my primary teacher the everybody living at that time in the world could stand on the Isle of Wight with 1 sq. yard of space each (I guess we need 4/5 Isle’s of Wight acreage to do the same exercise today). Crowded World?

  14. There are some complex layers of arguments here ! Having been made redundant from my Uni last summer at 60, I gladly tapped into my teachers pension and a small annuity (before the rates went totally tits up). As cuts were afoot, it was fine by me to make way for younger lecturers with careers, mortgages and kids to deal with. Mind you, it would therefore be very tempting to ‘live long’ just to spite the Government, Bankers and Actuaries!

    But, as a fully signed up member of the Baby Boomers who has been partying fairly continually since 1968 and who plans to continue to ‘grow old disgracefully’, if I don’t make it to 85 or 90, I won’t be particularly surprised (or all that sorry !). A quiet voiced cold caller conned me yesterday into a telephone survey on what I knew about Cancer. I did quite well until we got to the bit where he asked ‘…..did I know that more than one unit of alcohol a day puts you at risk of cancer?’. “Yes but so what?..If I want to live like a monk, I’ll go and find a monastery” possibly wasn’t among the answers on his tick box.

    Like Surf Chick, I watched my Mother have a ghastly last year in a nursing home that she utterly hated while the family bank accounts emptied before our eyes….and have sworn to myself that will never be me…….So one day, I’ll promise to settle for “Don’t Resuscitate” and meanwhile have asked for “Nice Planet, Recommend it to Others” to go on my tombstone !

  15. As a medico I assure you it is not my superiority God complex that motivates my actions.
    It is the whingeing demand of my patients to have their lives prolonged that forces my hand.
    I suppose I should just say no.

    • @Nick perhaps, like organ donor arrangements in the UK, DNR should likewise be the default scenario.

      Partly because of medical advances and what seems to be medics striving officiously to keep alive, since the advent of the NHS we have gradually come to regard our lives as a ‘right’, rather than death being a natural legacy.

    • Yeah, my mother is a fairly senior nurse and you can see her disgust when discussing the topic. Her attitude (and mine,the wife’s and that of quite a few friends) is that we’re quite happy to enjoy life as long as the old body is still working half-decently, but none of us particularly want to extend that another 20+ years if it means we have to spend it slumped in a chair, drugged up and drooling in front of inane TV.

      Now, I’m not saying that anyone who actually fancies that approach to their twilight years should be denied it; it’s their choice, after all. But I don’t really see why others should be forced to pay for it.

      Well, OK,I do… the drug companies and care providers make a handsome profit out of it. So basically, it’s yet another tax! And I’m sure the older portion of the elite appreciate the results of all that research, since they can benefit from the increased longevity without having to suffer the indignity.

      • Surely an answer would be for some decent TV to improve their lives ?
        DNR is fine so long as the family around you are happy with it… the compo for not trying would dwarf the costs of actually keeping the potential deathee around while having a go.

        This however is whereJWs mutuality proposals would come into their own. The nonprofitability of caring for our aged would I think attract those who really care into the ‘industry’. Along with a voluntary (unpaid) management structure to ensure the smooth economic running of each care home would do more to help the happy and content elderly to end their days in a ‘nice’ way.

        I cannot help being dismayed however that the old ‘vocational’ entry into caring in all areas has been detroyed by ever increasing living costs (brought on via Westminster and its mandarins).

    • Interesting. We told the Registrar that her team were wasting resources that my father did not want. He was 82 and had had an interesting life, but a miserable last seven years, Two days later the McMillan nurse turned up with a syringe driver, and thirty minutes after that he was gone.

      On euthanasia and the ‘thin end of the wedge’.. This may be too sensible and simple, but, ‘ nothing out of the estate until ten years after an assisted death’. .

  16. As I always suspected, you are really, really bad at simple maths.

    Never forget that death is the most reliable mechanism in the universe. Nobody has a death mechanism that has failed. Ever. Don’t worry, it will get you in the end, and as long as the average have no more than 2 kids, no matter how long they all live the population will stabilise.

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