I have long been fascinated by a subject that can only be described as the ‘Elephant in the Room’ in so much of what is written and spoken about in our daily lives. This I call the Holy Grail or the possibility of everlasting life free from disease and hunger.
The subject has been the focus of mankind since the beginning of time. For more than three thousand years it was pretty simple. The elite realized that while the reality was impossible, the promise could be a powerful incentive to subjugate the masses. If you believed and obeyed you would be granted everlasting life, albeit many times, in a different venue. It should be no surprise why so many of the world’s religions took this simple and easy tenet as their center piece.
All of this began to change with two world wars of the twentieth century. The staggering scale of the carnage made advances in medicine a virtual necessity, and not surprisingly the re-direction of vast amounts of capital in the second post war era led to the nearly two-fold increase in the expected life span of citizens in the Western World. Now globalization is fast spreading this incredible innovation to the rest of the world.
We are only now starting to realize the longer term effects of all of this. Some of these are baffling even the brightest minds and the most astute of the elite. (even though they do not admit the fact)
I like to start this argument, maybe unfairly, with the liberation of women by the invention of that little pill commonly called birth control. The effects are truly staggering. Now that women make up almost half of the workforce birth rates have fallen and the extended family has become a quaint relic. Now what do we do?. Our whole society appears out of balance. We have many more older people and many fewer young people to take care for their elders.
We are stumbling around trying to figure out what to do about all of this. In the meantime the promise of eternal life remains the driving force behind the incredibly sums being expended by the behemoth drug industry and increasingly the research establishment. It’ almost like we are racing around an ever-increasing circle.
The current example of Japan is a classic. It can be said that this country was the ruling exponent of the extended family and an orderly society that grew from the ashes of the Second World War. In fact it was so successful that the country was feared and loathed by its competitors. But something went very wrong, for quite suddenly the birth rate started to fall, citizens began to live much longer and growth of the economy, the pillar of an export oriented economic policy dried up. The country became mired in deflation a condition that has now prevailed for over twelve years. The initial blame was laid at the feet of a credit crisis caused by inflated real estate values, somewhat like the 2008 mortgage debacle in North America. More recently it is the lack of immigration to make up for the low birth rate that is taking center stage.
But could this be something more sinister. Lets call it S.G.S. or Slow Growth Syndrome a condition bought about by globalization whereby the center of gravity has changed from the developed to the developing. To wit the likes of China, India, and Indonesia. These economies are primarily industrial as opposed to North America that is fast becoming a mainly service economy. They are growing at rates we can only dream of while we muck about barely avoiding recession.
To date our answer has been to throw money at the problem, funny money that is. Money that is being created out of this air to keep interest rates artificially low. Put another way we have left to the bankers to solve a structural problem that is deep-seated and pervasive.
I do not think this solution is going to work. It is going to take far more imagination and a great deal of ingenuity to come with an answer. Perhaps a realization of the obvious will help, namely that it is quite impossible to keep on going in the same direction. Either the increase in life expectancy must slow down, or the population increase must speed up by means of immigration. OR, perhaps we can learn to live with less