Wednesday, November 28, 2012

75 Year Budgeting?

Matt Yglesias responds to a proposal from Senator Dick Durbin to craft a 75-year budget for Social Security:
If people want to waste their time on this, I don't have a huge objection to the idea of somewhat higher taxes and somewhat skimpier benefits, but I think it's pretty silly. Recall that 75 years ago was 1937. Any minute spent in 1937 worrying about actuarial projections about 2012 as opposed to, say, Adolf Hitler or the Great Depression would have been a minute wasted.


leif said...

NOT having a 75-year plan is part of what has us so screwed, right now. i'm surprised to see a _slate_ writer tearing into foresight, but i suppose they can't all be right all the time.

and, since somebody is going to ask why poor planning leads to poor results, here are a few occurrences germane to the topic.

• The mortgage crisis (mislabeled 'housing crisis')
• Disassociation of the USSR
• Any stock market crash
• Jefferson County, Alabama's bankruptcy
• The dustbowl environmental disaster
• Any occurrence of hyperinflation (Weimar Germany, Hungary, China, Angola, etc.)
• Virtually any use of economic sanctions

John said...

Ten year planning may be a good idea, but who could possibly plan for the world of 75 years from now? In 1937, could any have even guessed what we would not be spending on health care?

leif said...

it's an interesting question. i am sure that with a 75-year outlook, the details aren't exactly relevant. we just can't know those things. but we can be pretty certain that if we still have a population (we have to assume we will), we'll be overcrowded, unhealthy and in need of money to pay for our healthcare. but even that really should be viewed as a failure to plan. why simply let things happen?

i reason that failing to take action now, simply means we will have even less time to invest for these needs -- if not on a personal scale, then for certain at the city or national scale.

i'll also haul out the obvious: it's pretty likely that sea levels will rise due to climate change, and millions of people will be at high risk in their low-lying areas in 75 years. do you think a JIT approach to dealing with this will prove effective?

to me, failing to plan for the future -- even yes 75 years -- simply puts us at higher risk for a less stable future. i also sense a persistent nihilism in humanity's failure to plan ahead, almost as if we know we're heading for a precipice the low side of which won't be pleasant. that fin de siècle attitude didn't exactly help matters in the 1920s.