Lately I have been entertaining an idea that will sound radical to most people. I believe however, that it may be the best option we have to help stabilize our Western society. I call this idea, the Youth Compensation Scheme. The idea is quite simple: Upon graduating high school or upon reaching their 18th birthday, every young person receives a lump sum payment from the government.
I'm sure this idea outrages people. "Great, another handout!" They will say. But consider this: Our current economic system is rigged in favor of a gerontocracy, a demographic of people born just after the second world war who believe it to be their royal prerogative to spend the sunset of their lives golfing, visiting bed and breakfast hotels, going on cruises to the Caribbean and dining in expensive restaurants. This represents a tremendous cultural shift in our society and it's not what the retirement scheme was originally intended to enable. The government originally began paying social security because people who were unemployable due to frailty suffered abject poverty. Today retirement benefits are a reward for being old.
The central idea behind the Youth Compensation Initiative is that young people are a victim of an intrinsic unfairness: They are brought into a world that is owned by old people, without having a say in the matter. As far as we're aware, young people can't opt out of being born. Upon birth it becomes inevitable however that they will eventually have to garner an income for themselves. To accomplish this they are forced to sell their labor to companies. If we trace the chain of ownership, we find that those companies are typically owned by a consortium of old people. You could consider this to be a method of breeding slaves, who are manumitted upon reaching the age of 65.
"But society has always worked this way and young people will eventually reap the benefits." The counterargument goes. But this is of course not true. A significant segment of young people will never reach the age of 65. Other young people will die within a few years of becoming part of the owning class of elderly. Finally, an injustice does not turn into a kind of justice simply because the victim is free to eventually turn into a perpetrator himself.
There is a second issue to consider, which is that the scheme as we have come to know it is becoming unsustainable. The retirement bubble will soon fall apart, as the stock market has been propped up to ridiculous heights. To soothe the elderly, the property bubble has been inflated to ridiculous heights too. Any suggestion that young people should be kept from borrowing ridiculous amounts of money just to buy a house, or that the tax code should not reward people for their enormous mortgages, led to panic among the babyboomers because all their paper wealth might vaporize as a consequence. In other words, there's no guarantee that today's young people will once turn from victims of greed into its perpetrators.
The most important issue to consider however, is that old people have garnered the wealth they have today by destroying the future of their own children and grandchildren. The threat of climate change has been known about for decades now, but no serious attempt has been made to reign in its consequences. Similarly, young people will be unable to eat fish because the oceans have been depleted and there is no guarantee that the fish populations will recover as the fundamental oceanic ecosystem has been severely damaged.
Young people are also dealing with mineral resources that have been squandered by previous generations. Old people had access to cheap oil, coal, gas and various metals. What young people inherit from this is a series of gaping holes and artificial lakes in the landscape, a plastic soup in the ocean, as well as entire swathes of land that can't be farmed because of the toxic waste in the soil. We see no indication that old people sought responsible use of these resources. The American city is designed to be dependent upon cars.
Old people enjoyed their high life expectancies, because they benefited from antibiotics. Today the bacteria around us are developing antibiotic resistance at an extreme rate. A large part of this problem is attributable to the fact that old people wasted antibiotics on factory farm animals kept in small cages. Americans aged 45-64 have an obesity rate of 40 percent. They used antibiotics to sustain a diet that flatters their palate but makes them sick. If old people had used antibiotics sparingly, our descendants would have been able to treat ailments like tuberculosis and gonorrhea. Today it looks likely instead that we will return to the death rates of the preindustrial era. Childbirth or a simple surgery will become life-threatening again.
"Well, the old people had no way of knowing!" You might argue. But consider this: The English parliament was presented with a petition in 1376 calling for the banning of bottom trawling, because it was seen as a wasteful exploitation of the oceans. The fishers harvested such an abundance of fish that they had no good clue what to do with them and simply resorted to feeding them to factory farm animals. Medieval people similarly banned the burning of coal, because of the pollution it caused. The concept of climate change has been known about since the 19th century, but people never took the threat seriously.
I'm in my mid-twenties today, so I will already be dealing with the consequences of this unprecedented wasteful squandering of the world's natural resources. There are people coming into existence today however, who will have their entire lives characterized by the ignorant greed of those who preceded them. My generation is already struggling with the consequences of greed, but this problem will only be much worse for those who are children today. I thus consider it necessary to implement a Youth Compensation Scheme, to ensure that young people today will have a chance to survive and to have a life worth living.
When the Titanic began to sink, people famously urged that women and children should be saved first. They represent the future after all. Children become adults and women are tasked with giving birth to and raising them. Today we're faced with the prospect of an entire civilization sinking. For whatever reason, the idea that saving children should now have precedence over saving the elderly is considered outrageous. We're living in a society characterized by an inversion of traditional mortality.
Consider the anger provoked by the very simple idea that elderly people who have lived happy lives and do not wish to spend the rest of their lives as a burden on their community should be allowed to choose to end their lives. Why do we expect people to accept being held alive, caged in bodies that no longer function? Similarly, consider the outrage provoked by the idea that student loans should be forgiven. Why do we consider it acceptable for unemployed pilots to remain stuck forever with debts that are impossible to pay back? We're quite happy for them to forego having children because of some distorted concept of what can be considered "fair".
The most important thing to consider about a youth compensation scheme is that it allows us to prepare ourselves for the future that lies ahead of us. Consider the following fact: I live in a neighborhood that's four meter beneath sea level. It's clearly an unsustainable place to live. However, because my town is poor, people here struggle to leave. I work in a different town and commute four hours every day.
It's difficult to relocate however, because I'm stuck in an unusual situation: I have a high amount of savings (thanks Mr. Nakamoto!), but my current job contract is for half a year. It's very hard to find a good place to rent a house however. Most places expect you to have some predictable income, even for a very cheap dwelling. A mortgage is not a good option for now either. What am I supposed to do? Nobody has an answer. Society expects me to live hand to mouth, because that's how most young people live. A Youth Compensation Scheme would result in a large number of young people who can simply pay a year worth of rent up front. It's practically impossible for me right now to find a place that's willing to make such a deal with me, because they're not used to my situation.
Another obvious outcome of a Youth Compensation Scheme would be the simple fact that many young people can buy houses again. When young people can buy houses, they can start families. As a result, our population can stabilize at a sustainable level, rather than imploding until we eventually become dependent upon migrants to keep our economy functioning. Perhaps most important is the simple fact that young people would be able to move to places where they can find decent jobs, or cheap houses. The city I live in has high unemployment and mostly blue collar jobs, so I'm inevitably forced to look elsewhere as they wouldn't hire someone like me for such a thing. The economic damage caused by the fact that young people have no assets is rarely discussed.
Is the Youth Compensation Scheme costly? I don't think so. I see a very simple way to fund the scheme: Stop funding college education. Rather than handing young people subsidized loans if they're willing to attend college or artificially keeping the cost of college tuition low as we do in my country, let them experience the cost of their decisions themselves. If you wish to study women's studies or sociology feel free to do so, but now it's your own money you're wasting. How many young people will still bother listening to the drivel of a neurotic old nulliparous hag, if it's not the government's money they're wasting but their own money instead? A lot of economic black holes would be closed.
Important to understand is that just as poor people spend a dollar more efficiently than rich people do, every dollar spent on young people generates far higher returns than every dollar spent on old people. A twenty year old man who can afford revalidation training after an accident will generate far greater economic returns than a seventy year old man who can afford such training. A young man given 20,000 euro might use it to set up his own business. What does an old man do with such money? He buys a boat.
"But young people will irresponsibly squander the money!" You say. I don't believe this to be the case. To start with, young people who want to irresponsibly squander money can already do so. It's called credit card debt. What young people can't do right now is responsibly use money, because they don't have the means to responsibly use money. If we genuinely believe that most young people would irresponsibly squander money they have access to, we should respond to that by rendering off limits to them all the payday loan companies, all the college loan schemes, all car loans, mortgages and assorted loans. But for whatever reason, I don't see old people arguing in favor of that. If we genuinely fear young people would squander the money, there's a simple solution to that: Only make the money available to high school graduates. This would eliminate most idiots from the program.
The most important outcome of the Youth Compensation Scheme is that young people would be given the means to prepare for the future that lies ahead of them. Imagine fifty young people in the Netherlands believe their society is going to collapse and that their best option is to migrate to Finland, Scotland or the Baltic states and embark on setting up self-sufficient communities there. How would they go about doing that? They have no method to do so. Estonia would love to have fifty young Dutch people move to a rural community filled with old people and help revitalize it, but those young Dutch people would have no means to do so, because they have no savings. On the other hand, if every young person received 20,000 euro on their eighteenth birthday, the lot of them would have a million dollar to set up their endeavor with.
Young people have a habit of setting up innovative projects. Old people on the other hand, invest their money conservatively, because they have a shorter time horizon. If something takes twenty years to pay off, you don't embark on such a project if you're seventy years old. As the world around us begins to change rapidly because of the damage we caused, it's clear that new innovative projects are necessary. We need highways designed for velomobiles, meat and mushrooms you can grow at home in a petri dish, oceanic seaweed-shelfish permaculture projects and unmanned drones flying over third world countries dropping off packages of anticonception and psychedelics.
Consider the very simple case of Vitalik Buterin. Vitalik learned about Bitcoin at age 17 from his father. Around age 20 he dropped out of college, in exchange for 100,000 dollar from Peter Thiel. He began developing Ethereum. A month ago, the United Nations completed a project
that sent 10,000 Syrian refugees money through Ethereum, giving them access to financial markets and thereby allowing them to build up a future for themselves in the refugee camps they live in. This was possible, because Peter Thiel used his money to enable a young man with high potential to pursue his vision for the future. Ethereum will soon move to a prove of stake model, the result of which will be that we will have an energy efficient investment vehicle that will help render the gold, silver and bitcoin mining industries obsolete.
The question we're faced with is very simple: Do we believe young people deserve a future of their own? If we do, then it's time we give them the opportunity to build a future for themselves. If on the other hand, we believe young people exist solely as a source of cheap labor for the elderly, then we don't have to change anything and you can disregard everything I just said.
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