Sam Ashworth-Hayes Sam Ashworth-Hayes

Let’s call time on Britain’s gerontocracy

The boomers are eating their grandchildren. They don’t see it this way, of course, but they are doing it nonetheless. Covid, or rather the British state’s response to the pandemic, is just the latest evidence of this.

Whatever you make of Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic, one thing is clear: the cost of lockdown will be funded by young people in taxes for years to come. But it will most of all be paid for with time. We can find ways to minimise the impact of the government debt, but we can’t give people a year of their lives back.

It is a natural part of history that good fortune is not distributed evenly. That some generations are lucky and others are not is obvious, as is the fact that some will be called upon to make greater sacrifices. The greatest generation – now mostly passed – fought for the freedom and security that we take for granted; sitting at home for a year with Netflix and Amazon is a trifling price in comparison. It is unfortunate however that the burden of combating the pandemic is falling upon Millennials and Generation Z, while the benefits accrue to generations that have given less and taken substantially more.

The usual litany of messes left for the future aside – antibiotic resistance, endocrine-disruptors in the water supply, a planet slowly cooking itself in their emissions – our elders have voted themselves ever higher benefits without taking the step of paying for them.

Those costs are left to the next generation. When asked about the state pension, the common response from recipients is that they paid in for it. This is untrue: they paid for the previous generation’s retirement, and we will pay for theirs. This is why it’s possible to vote for a triple lock; there is no hard tie to what they contributed either individually or in aggregate.

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