Tuesday, May 18, 2010

As we grow older

The morning program at today's Top Secret program through The Washington Center ended with a look at the "Graying of the Great Powers", which also was the title of a book written by Richard Jackson, the director of the Global Aging Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Jackson's presentation was a sobering reminder that the United States and its Western European allies are getting older and at the same time having fewer children. I use the numbers for the United States to illustrate his point -- during the period from 1960-65, the U.S. averaged 3.3 children per family and the average life expectancy was 70 years old. In the 2005-10 cycle, the birth rate had declined to 2.1 (which is the highest among the G-7 nations) while the life expectancy had risen to just over 79 years old.

Mr. Jackson discussed various ramifications of these demographic shifts taking place in the U.S. and around the world for both domestic and international politics. In the interest of time, I won't repeat them here. Suffice to say, there are a long list of challenges that -- surprise (not)! -- our political leaders on both sides of the aisle are not addressing.

But the public needs to consider what its role will be, and, to paraphrase a line from a movie, right now "we don't give a damn." In much the same way I suggested this morning that we have an obligation as Americans to examine the issue of our privacy and cyberterrorism, so too should we evaluate what we want as a society as it gets older. The implications for health care costs, economic development, entrepreneurship and political policies of all kind mandate it.

No comments: