Some Economic Implications of The Longer-Living Society — Part 2
By George Tait Edwards MBE
It is now virtually certain that there are prescription drugs (such as metformin) and many other AMPK Activators which significantly extend both the health span (defined as the length of healthy human life) and the life span (defined as the average length of human life).
No Western government (nor any other national government) nor any of the international organisations or committees have yet faced up to the implications of the longer living society. This article is a first attempt to assess some of these and to provide some comments on the likely changes arising from the new methods of health span and life span extension and death control. These changes involve many older people having much better health and life spans of at least 20% more and perhaps up to 40% more than previously. Furthermore, our epigenetic understanding is still at an early stage and it seems likely that average life spans might increase by much more than presently forecast, because ongoing research is increasingly focusing on these health span and lifespan extending products. These increases in medical technology can be seen as part of the long term trend trend in improving death control through better understanding and improved medical technology. The average lifespan of Americans approximately doubled during the last hundred years, from less than 40 to over 80 years. A speeding up of health span and lifespan extension during this generation is virtually certain and another doubling of the lifespan during the rest of this century, given the probable further advances in epigenetic understanding, looks perfectly possible.
Given the existing state of epigenetic understanding, Western populations are likely to have the ages at death of between 96 years old and perhaps up to 112 years old Instead of dying at an average age of about 80.
The personal, social and economic implications of the longer living society are truly immense. The ramifications of a society composed of healthy people in which the three major groups of epigenetic diseases — a society where coronary disease, cancers and central nervous system (CNS) diseases have been virtually eliminated — is a society in which about 75% of the previous causes of death will have been removed. Furthermore, these long lives will not suffer from the usual disabilities caused by these diseases, because the previous curses of being old due to metabolic syndrome — the side effects of drugs to manage heart disease and high blood pressure, the iatrogenic illnesses caused by anti-cancer drugs, and the not-very-effective drugs to try to manage senility and dementia — will not be a common experience. Many lives end at present in an insufferable incontinence because the body’s control systems break down when approaching death. Googling “Heart Attacks and incontinence” produces 1.14 million hits at present, googling “Cancer and incontinence” produces 15.7 million hits, while “Alzheimer’s and incontinence” results in 794,000 hits. This is naturally a distressing subject that few people seem to know about and most people do not wish to discuss, even if they have had the unpleasant experience of the death of a loved one in distress due to the end-of-life humiliating incontinences. A healthy long life does not need to end like that as often as it currently does.
The major effect of the longer living society is the massive increase in the health span. The 1960s refrain — “I hope I die before I get old” will be replaced by the motto “I’m glad I’ll be healthy for as long as I live” because the major disabling terrors of old age will have been largely eliminated. People will also continue to look well as they grow older because apoptosis removes the non-functioning cells and skin appearance naturally improves. The hyaluronic acid glow of health which surrounds the young will become more normal throughout life, as well the activity-seeking reality of good health. The improved external appearance will reflect a vast inner improvement, as all cells express their appropriate genetic inheritance within the body’s structure with the appropriate silence of the genes which should be silent.
The increase in the healthspan changes the meaning of the description “elderly.” At present about 40% of the later years of Western lives — about 32 years out of 80 — are usually spent in an unhealthy condition. The additional years — 16 to 32 years — are likely to be very healthy. The healthy years within that longer lifespan increase from the existing 48 years to about 96 years to 112 years, an increase ranging from 100% to 133%. That doubling or more than doubling of the health span is very significant for the 75% of the population who usually die from the three major diseases of metabolic syndrome. There are many other changes which in my view will also emerge, and a ten of these are listed below. Sometimes specific references are made to the circumstances of United Kingdom, but the following main points are of generally applicability.
First, the environmental effect: Many people now alive think that rising sea levels and major environmental changes are not going to affect them because they are likely to die before major changes happen. That view is very likely to be wrong. Many people now alive will live long enough to experience these major climatic changes, which are actually happening faster than currently conservative estimates predict. Both individuals and governments need to take the longer view because a short term view is no longer appropriate. It never was, but a longer living society will bring that issue into sharper focus. The faster adoption of green technologies and the reversal of rising world temperatures will become affordable and essential if the coastal cities,where billions of people live, and the low-lying coastal flood plains, which provide much of mankind’s food, and are to be preserved for future use.
Second, the effect on governments: All governments should welcome this development. Western governments, limited in their macroeconomic understanding by an allegiance to an outdated and unsuccessful Washington Consensus, are finding that the health costs of caring for a disabled population are increasingly crippling their economies. The provision of a simple cheap pill to their entire adult population is much less expensive than the health service and drug costs of a population where much of the elderly are disabled by the metabolic syndrome diseases. However, some people will see the disadvantages of longer lives for the vast majority despite the desire of most people for healthier longer lives. See, for example, the grudging Telegraph articles which seem to dread this development as well as pointing out in a poll that 87% of people would take a pill enabling them live to 120: See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12017112/Worlds-first-anti-ageing-drug-could-see-humans-live-to-120.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/9920994/Pill-to-live-to-150.html
Third, the effect on people: The majority of people will enjoy good health as long as they live, and are going to have to work for much longer and governments will need to act to provide the no-cost capital funding needed to equip the longer living society. Governments are not in control the speed of this change — it is now and is likely to remain a matter of individual choice. People living longer in a healthy condition will require a much longer working life in order to provide sufficient income for all of their lives. All the existing UK pension arrangements (for example) will be completely insufficient to provide for a decent income for a long healthy active retirement, and a longer working life will become an economic necessity for virtually all these taking the health span and life extension pills. This is too large a topic to be fully explored here, but only Shimomuran-Wernerian macroeconomics provides the essential understanding and the abundant capital required to cope with this change and many others.
Fourth, the effect on the NHS and Charities: There will be great changes in the health service employment due to this new technology. People would no longer suffer from the humiliating end-of-life disabilities caused by the damage done by a stroke, by cancers, by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, or Motor Neuron diseases. The hundreds of thousands of carers providing help to people disabled by these diseases would need to be re-trained and re-employed in other industries, as people suffering from these diseases reduce. There would be massive savings in the NHS due to these changes, because the pills are much cheaper than the treatments. As one result, many charities raising funds to assist suffering individuals and the NHS would lose their major function, because prevention is much better than cure, and the epigenetic diseases of coronary disease (heart diseases and strokes) cancer in all its forms and CNS diseases (Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, Motor Neuron Disease, MS, etc) would ultimately be removed from human experience. There is no “Society for the Cure of Typhoid”, because human ingenuity and action has removed typhoid from the world. Nearly all of the charities raising funds for the cure or treatment of preventable epigenetic diseases will become no longer necessary, but there may be a lengthy period before this new development becomes widespread. Many major charities will ultimately need to change their function and focus upon the remaining externally-produced diseases of mankind and upon the diseases which have their origin in genetic conditions.
Fourth, the effect on medical research: At present, about 99% of medical research appears to be spent on researching on how to cure the three epigenetic diseases of mankind — heart and coronary disease, cancer in all its forms, and CNS diseases such as Alzheimers. Because these diseases are prevented by pills based on this new epigenetic understanding, the monies thrown free is likely to be spent on further research about improving epigenetic understanding and also focused upon the prevention or cure of genetic diseases and on externally-produced diseases. That change in focus is likely to result in further health-improving life-extending results.
Fifth, the requirement for more housebuilding: This new method of death control is likely to increase the need for extra housing. At present UK deaths may provide about 250,000 houses coming on to the market each year. The extra length of life will eventually mean that some people who would previously have died will continue to occupy their houses for an extra 16 to 32 years. This will mean that millions of extra homes will need to be built in Britain in addition to the currently estimated housing shortage of about 250,000 homes a year, so about 500,000 homes a year may need to be built every year in future for two or three decades.
Sixth, the effect on life insurance companies: Predictions about life span on which the life insurance companies depend are almost completely invalidated by this new method of death control. Existing actuarial tables are no longer a good predictive method for calculating the likely length of life or being used as a basis for the calculation of life insurance premiums. This new method of healthspan extension and death control is going to completely change these tables.
Seventh, the effect on pension funds: Pension funds will also need to completely revise their calculations. At present an annuity to provide a pension is based upon the existing actuarial tables but if people are going to live much longer then the calculation no longer works.
Eighth, the need for a change in macroeconomic understanding: There are two giant systems of economic understanding which condition political thinking in the two major economic zones of the world. The first of these is neoclassical economics which dominates the political considerations, university teaching and the media in the West while the second is Shimomuran-Wernerian economics which is the major economic understanding that underlies the rapid developments of the Tokyo Consensus Zone. Neoclassical economics offers no solutions to the relative economic decline of the West and is the major factor in causing that decline, nor does it provide any prescription for providing the extra capital required by the longer-living society. Shimomuran-Wernerian macroeconomics with its no-cost creation of abundant capital is much better equipped (both intellectually and literally) to cope with the rapid changes and the greater need for major investments arising due to the longer living society. See “The Rough Guide To Shimomuran Economics” at https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards/the-rough-guide-to-shimomuran-economics-e9dca42c6808#.xzxnfn2pt and “The Many Major Uses of Investment Credit Creation” at http://londonprogressivejournal.com/article/view/1685/the-many-major-uses-of-investment-credit-creation-a-brief-walk-through-the-observed-results-so-far-and-the-future-possibilities-made-available-through-shimomuran-economics
Ninth, the economic effect on national incomes: The longer living society will have a greatly increased gross domestic product (GDP) once the newly fit “elderly” become productive members of society. If human life increases by 20% to 40% it would be logical to assume that once the newly fit elderly become re-employed, GDP would increase by at least the same amount, and more probably by the increase in the effective working population. Assuming for ease of calculation that people have an effective workspace from twenty to sixty years of age, an additional 16 to 32 years could increase the GDP by between 40% and 80%. Assuming the lower 20%-40% figure, the future GDP of the UK — currently about £1.5 trillion — would increase in real terms to between £1.8 tr. and £2.1 tr., plus an annual economic growth rate under Sihmomuran-Wernerian macroeconomics of about 4%. The USA similarly would see its GDP rise from about $18.1 tr. to between $21.7 tr. and $25.3 tr. Other nations would experience similar increases. These are very great benefits but require a positive shift in the mindset of Western governments and their economic advisors before these changes can come about.
Tenth, the political shockwave: All Western governments and political parties are utterly unprepared to cope with this new development and no government anywhere has made contingency plans to cope with this unprecedented change in the health span and lifespan. Much will depend on the quality of political leadership and the ability of governments to change their policies and adopt positive attitudes to deal with this change. The Shylock economics of austerity and neoclassical economics offers no practical solution to the employment of a large number of the additional workforce enabled by this change. For decades successive Swedish Governments have offered an anti-aging pill, based upon the best available research at the time, to their over-65 citizens. All governments should consider following suit, because the costs of prevention of metabolic diseases are much less than the healthcare costs of dealing with these diseases.
The greater wealth created by this sea-change in epigenetic understanding makes the required actions to reduce greenhouse gases and reverse global warming and the other sea-change of lowering sea levels much more practicable. Continuing economic stupidity is no longer affordable. It never was.
This new wine is going to crack up all the old bottles. This new understanding is going to change everything forever. But, as always, it remains to be seen if political leadership and the necessary policies can provide the change in outlook and the improved coping leadership now required.
We are all going to find that out.
© George Tait Edwards 2016
The first article in this series of three articles is at https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards/the-transition-to-a-longer-living-society-759f09481f53#.ueai3dcgj, and section 3 of this series of articles at: https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards/the-transition-to-a-longer-living-society-part-3-the-effects-of-various-ampk-activators-b66b6faaf6f#.helnlzc6y
Many articles on Shimomuran-Wernerian macroeconomics can be found at http://londonprogressivejournal.com/user/view/2285 and at https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards, some in both locations. A book about “Shimomuran Economics and the Rise of the Tokyo Consensus” can be seen at at http://www.lulu.com/shop/george-tait-edwards/shimomuran-economics/paperback/product-21688864.html and another relevant book book, “Lucky Bastards of the 20th Century- The Story of the Economic Bomb” can be found at http://www.lulu.com/shop/george-tait-edwards/lucky-bastards-of-the-20th-century/paperback/product-21913362.html.