killing them softly
By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 06, 2006
Entitlements, in the sense of the benefits promised by government-funded social programs, are a way in which politicians buy votes with your money. In First World countries, however, the un-funded liabilities have reached the point where politicians now buy their votes with your children's money. It's as if the Good Samaritan, having collected the smiles of gratitude for his compassion, mugged the innkeeper's grandson in an alley in order to pay the convalescence bill.
Canadian Mark Steyn takes a stern look at the outlay we have yet in store for us in payment for the electoral triumphs of yesteryear.
Take the "aged dependency ratio" -- the number of elderly people receiving state benefits relative to the working-age adults slogging away each day to pay for them. In 2000, America, Australia and Canada all had 0.26 seniors for every working stiff. In 2040, America will have 0.47 seniors for every worker, Australia 0.56, Canada 0.63 -- i.e., we'll have a lot fewer young Canadians to stick with the bill for increased geriatric care. Aging societies are a global phenomenon but with a wide disparity of effects: by 2040, state benefits to the old will comprise 33.1 per cent of GDP in Spain and 32 per cent in Italy against 16.6 per cent in Australia and 17.6 per cent in the United Kingdom. Canada is an in-betweeny sorta nation on these projections -- 22.9 per cent. But that's still potentially catastrophic, for the health system and much else.
What to do? In The Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson says hey, no problem, let's just do what we've been doing for years, only more so. Or as the Globe headline put it: "Canada's Future Rests With Open-Door Immigration." But just because you leave the door open doesn't mean the folks you want are going to come through it. Hard-working talented young immigrants will be at a premium in the years ahead, and there aren't many compelling reasons for them to come here and pay tax rates of 60, 65 per cent or whatever it'll be by then to fund the swollen state liabilities cooked up in the seventies and eighties.
So, how will the politicians of tomorrow pay off the mortgage today's politicians saddled them with? Malcolm Muggeridge got it dead right thirty years ago:
I know, that as sure as I can possibly persuade you to believe: governments will find it impossible to resist the temptation ... to deliver themselves from this burden of looking after the sick and the handicapped by the simple expedient of killing them off.
We're already witnessing the softening-up propaganda barrage. There's strict radio silence on the subject of involuntary euthanasia. The focus is exclusively on voluntary, even hyper-voluntary, euthanasia: we only hear from sober, thoughtful, professional types who make moving but articulate pleas to have their misery ended. And of course they're invariably described as "brave," "generous," and (most of all) "unselfish." They don't want to burden others, you see.
Why is that so important? Because it sets up the really crucial move, which is getting voting majorities to overcome their reluctance to kill off grandma and grandpa for the benefit of the public purse. It'll be a lot easier if grandma and grandpa can be persuaded themselves that it's selfish to refuse euthanasia when their illness becomes expensive -- unselfish people, after all, steer scarce resources toward the young. A well-managed shame campaign, especially one that promises to free the electorate of a crippling tax burden, should do the trick handily. (Remember that, unlike abortion, there'll be broad bipartisan support in the U.S.; this time the Democrats won't be alone in urging a surgical solution to a social burden.)
The photo below, which I pinched from the BBC website some months ago, shows an English cancer patient on the day of a court ruling that permits her to travel to Switzerland to undergo euthanasia. Her celebratory toast is distinctly macabre, but we shouldn't underestimate the force of the sentimentalism behind the social rejoicing -- a rejoicing the BBC clearly wants us to share. Note what's going on: pity for another's suffering is itself painful to feel (that's what the word com-passion means). Our relief at seeing an end to our own (vicarious) pain, being a natural but not especially noble emotion, wants to present itself to the conscience as charity: "How much better off she'll be dead! How generous of ME to understand that!" Resisting this sentimentalism won't be easy, especially when the propagandistic power of the state and media is relentless in its support. The time to begin the counter-attack is now.
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