In many of the world’s most affluent countries, the population is shrinking because people aren’t having enough children to replace the folks who die. This offers some hope to solve global overpopulation, though unfortunately the solution involves eradicating poverty and establishing global ecological sustainability, which ain’t exactly easy.

These shrinking populations become demographically top-heavy, with few young people to support the elderly. Luckily, health care is so good in e.g. Japan and Scandinavia that old folks are in much better shape than they were two generations ago. Therefore everyone agrees that the age of retirement has to be raised here. Allowing all Swedish 65-y-os to retire is ridiculous. It’s like allowing all 50-y-os in 1940 to retire.

But where should we draw the line? Experience shows that arbitrarily deciding on a certain minimum retirement age forces us to change the rules very few decades. Instead we might look at skill levels. Swedish retirees squander their considerable energies on a range of pointless and demeaning pastimes. I propose that anyone who is physically fit enough to play golf or do square dance, and intellectually fit enough to perform genealogical research or follow a lecture organised by the local historical society, has not yet reached retirement age.

Such a reform would benefit public finances immensely, and also rescue the dignity of countless Baby Boomers who in their youth very rightly scoffed at any suggestion of square dance. Imagine them being able to look their grandchildren in the eye again! It would heighten national pride no end if we could eradicate genealogical research. And golf!

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Comments

  1. #1 Monika
    April 10, 2010

    And what about the Meiosis Square Dance?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaf4j19_3Zg ;-)

  2. #2 Bob Carlson
    April 10, 2010

    Such a reform would benefit public finances immensely, and also rescue the dignity of countless Baby Boomers who in their youth very rightly scoffed at any suggestion of square dance. Imagine them being able to look their grandchildren in the eye again! It would heighten national pride no end if we could eradicate genealogical research. And golf!

    Not to mention blog reading. :)

  3. #3 Gugge
    April 11, 2010

    Yes, at last …

    Just check all these elderly Swedes ..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kh824-RXSiA

  4. #4 Bruce Paulson
    April 11, 2010

    You surprised me with your comment about genealogical research. I’m 62 and have been doing research on and off since I was 13 years old. It helped explain why my father’s mother and his older relatives didn’t speak English and why Indians showed up at funerals and weddings on my mother’s mother’s side of the family. But I did enjoy the humor of your article and I do hate golf. My 91 year old mother golfed at least twice a week last year and has no interest in genealogy. A few years ago she stopped in after golfing and a third cousin who was a minister was visiting. She rarely uses profanity, but said, “How can you waste your time on this shit? You could be out on the goddamn golf course!” I never heard from Cousin Marvin again.

    Mvh,

    Bruce

  5. #5 Martin R
    April 11, 2010

    Bruce, tell us more: where did you grow up, and were those wedding attendees Native Americans or South Asians?

  6. #6 Kaleberg
    April 11, 2010

    And what are you going to use for jobs for them? If I remember, you yourself have had some trouble getting yourself funded. If you get rid of the 65 year retirement age, you will need to start creating new jobs for older people who wish to continue working, and you will need to create new jobs for young people who would otherwise have taken the jobs that older people would have retired from.

    My guess is that it won’t save any money and might even create new societal problems with older people hanging on to jobs and younger people locked out of employment.

  7. #7 Martin R
    April 11, 2010

    I find the idea of creating jobs absurd. People have skills. The labour market will put a price on those skills. Are you suggesting that this process would place many people’s income below subsistence level? Then we will have to tax the rich to support the poor. With a lot of old people working instead of playing golf, their incomes will allow them to consume more which will drive demand for goods and services. Meanwhile, few kids are being born, so the number of unemployed young people will not be so high.

  8. #8 Bruce Paulson
    April 11, 2010

    Hej, Martin I grew up in Suring, Oconto County, Wisconsin. The Indians attending weddings and funerals on my mother’s mother’s side of the family were Native Americans, members of the Menominee Nation. I also have Ottawa, Ojibwa and Pawnee ancestors. Here is a link to a family album on face book, and if you check my mother’s mother’s lines you will see the women getting darker.

    Bruce
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=37226&id=1301051093&l=107d9894aa

  9. #9 Matt B.
    April 12, 2010

    While I agree about the square dancing (and realize of course that you’re joking) I too am urprised that you as an arcaeologist don’t appreciate people trying ofind out about their personal histories.

    @ Bruce: As a German myself I just have to ask: why are you insisting that your ancestors were not Germans?
    As Persons from Pommern (Pommeranians? :) in the 19th century they would have seen themselves as Germans and would have been perceived as such by others. Which by all reasonable standards makes them Germans.

    (I’m sorry to hijack the comment thread but I come from a school of archaeology that places a big emphasis on the role of personal identification in the construction of ethnic identity so this immediately caught my eye).

  10. #10 Matt B.
    April 12, 2010

    Ahhh,
    sorry about the lack of spell checking in the first part of my post. It should of course read:

    “While I agree about the square dancing (and realize of course that you’re joking) I too am surprised that you as an archaeologist don’t appreciate people trying to find out about their personal histories.”

  11. #11 Martin R
    April 12, 2010

    The trouble with genealogical research is that it tends to perpetuate the lineage misconception. Nobody comes from a lineage. They come from a network of people whose numbers increase exponentially for each generation you move backward.

    I find it really silly when an American says “I’m Irish” just because their surname has been inherited lineally from some Irishman who migrated in the 1860s.

    Bruce didn’t insist anything about Germans.

    Oh, and Seth, I forgot: the issue of jobs of course pales in comparison with the opportunity to finally shut down the lecture series organised by local historical societies.

  12. #12 Bruce Paulson
    April 12, 2010

    Thank you for bringing up the German/Prussian question. On the ship manifest and in the 1880 census and on some of the marriage certificates their place of birth was listed as Prussia. And wasn’t Pomerania a part of Prussia and not Germany? I was corrected several times when I said Pomerania and was told that it was Pommern. One German researcher told me that I must be part Swedish to be saying Pomerania, and he was right. I was told that the Oder river divided Germany from Prussia. And there were relatives in the Prussian Army. I would appreciate any feedback. Bruce Paulson mushaquit@hotmail.com (Mushaquit – my Menominee name – Bright Clear Sky)

  13. #13 Matt B.
    April 13, 2010

    Martin: Bruce’s comment was made on his Facebookpage not here.

    Bruce: In 1880 Prussia was part of the German Empire that had come into being after the Franco-German War of 1870/71. Even before, while being a seperate state (like literally hundreds or at that stage dozens of others) Prussia was considered German even if it wasn’t yet part of a political construct called Germany.
    The reason for this is that in the Middle Ages it belonged to the territory of the Teutonic Order (who colonized the east with German settlers) and while never techically part of the Holy Roman Empire it fell to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1618 (who was one of the highst officials in the Holy Roman Empire, a Kurfürst or on of the seven nobles who elected the emperor).

  14. #14 Matt B.
    April 13, 2010

    Martin, you are of course correct that no such thing as a direct lineage exists. Still I think that there’s a certain value in genealogy. It prompts people to learn about certain historical regions and times that they wouldn’t be interested in if they hadn’t got a direct, albeit constructed, connection to it (like Bruce learning about Pommern and Sweden).

  15. #15 Lars
    April 13, 2010

    In some countries they already feel sorry for the Swedes who have to work to such a high age as 65. It is seen as a sign of an inhuman society that forces its inhabitants to work until its time for them to lay down in their graves.

    And about needed skills, who needs the skills of an unemployed archaeologist?

  16. #16 Martin R
    April 13, 2010

    Nobody needs archaeological skills. That’s why people with such training support themselves as bus drivers and mailmen.