News & Analysis
Should the Japanese Hurry Up and Die?
Japan should let elderly 'hurry up and die': finance minister Taro Aso ... Japan's finance minister Taro Aso said Monday the elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" instead of costing the government money for end-of-life medical care. Aso, who also doubles as deputy prime minister, reportedly said during a meeting of the National Council on Social Security Reforms: "Heaven forbid if you are forced to live on when you want to die. You cannot sleep well when you think it's all paid by the government. "I don't need that kind of care. I will die quickly," he said adding he had left written instructions that his life is not artificially prolonged. During the meeting, he reportedly referred to "tube people" when talking of patients who cannot feed themselves. The 72-year-old Aso, a former prime minister, has been in his current job less than a month, but has a long history of planting his foot firmly in his mouth. – AFP
Dominant Social Theme: The elderly are a drag on society.
Free-Market Analysis: As pointed out by our Beijing columnist in a recent article, Japan is a curious amalgamation of features and a kind of bifurcated culture. There is the exquisite genius of Japanese art ... and then there is the brutality of Japanese industry, economics and politics.
The "bad" Japanese characteristics are on display in this callous quote from Taro Aso (see above). The solution to Japan's aging demographic, he seems to imply, is to reduce it by whatever means necessary.
Japan's spendthrift and unresponsive government is under a good deal of pressure and so top Japanese lash out at the hard-working and long-suffering population itself. You can be sure that Aso's sentiments are widely shared by the well-paid Japanese bureaucracy.
It is interesting to note that Aso is very well connected in the Japanese bureaucracy from a family standpoint (see below). In fact, Japan is a rigidly hierarchical society. This has strengths as well as weaknesses, but of late the weaknesses of the system have seemingly exceeded the strength.
As a result Japan's leadership is doubtless lapsing into the incipient sociopolitical fascism that has always threatened to undermine Japan's adopted Keynesian democracy. The "bad" Japan was on display in World War II when Japanese military men terrorized Japan's neighbors. The "good" Japan has spread sophisticated technology and rarified culture abroad in the post-war era.
Now modern Japanese culture itself threatens to come apart, it seems. It is under tremendous pressure as a result of two decades of low and no growth, a vicious deflation, demographic collapse, earthquakes and radiation poisoning and a sclerotic political process that has ensured a perpetuation of the negative trends without providing viable solutions.
They say that trainloads of Japanese head out to work in the morning and then the same trains are filled with sleeping Japanese at the end of the day. This is an 8-12 hour day of which we speak – and in cities the jobs are often desk jobs. So it is not physical labor that is exhausting the Japanese but the demands of the respectful, hierarchical culture itself. Japan is a hard place to live, even for Japanese.
To counteract Japan's many negative trends, the new head of the Japanese government, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has reportedly agreed with the Bank of Japan to set 2 percent inflation as a new money target, supplanting a softer 1 percent. The BOJ is likely to make an open-ended commitment to buy assets until the target is in sight.
Of course, this sounds a good deal like what the United States, Britain and Europe are doing to counteract their slumps – printing massive amounts of fiat money. In the US especially, all that paper money has not done much for employment or the larger economy but it has doubled the perceived value of the stock market. Paper, in other words, inflates paper.
This is a Keynesian solution that Abe intends to graft to Japan's already increasingly brutal cultural elements. Think of a sort of soft fascism grafted to Keynesian socialism and you'll begin to get an idea of the murky currents flowing beneath the increasing dysfunction of Japanese society.
Lately, there has been a spurt of articles about an industrial pickup in Europe. We've noted it might be a kind of dominant social theme, that the long winter of Europe's sovereign debt crisis is giving way to a spring of renewal. This is the story the elites seem to want to position these days.
Subdominant social themes include the resoluteness of the European Central Bank in announcing it will buy open-ended amounts of worthless European sovereign debt. (Breaking the law is heroic these days.) The Japanese announcement would also seem to be a subdominant social theme, positioning Abe as a potential savior of Japan if printing money rejuvenates the economy. Of course, it won't because it can't. But that won't stop the Japanese media from praising the moves as necessary.
We would tend to doubt, however, that the reality of Japan will be much improved by Keynesian currency debasement. Japan will stay much the same as it has been in the post-war era, a technologically adept, hierarchical society where personal freedoms are increasingly restricted and entrepreneurial innovation is little encouraged.
Aso's background shows us clearly how Japan operates. The AFP article explains his background thus: "Aso was born into a blue-blooded industrialist family ... He is the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, one of Japan's most influential prime ministers who helped rebuild the country from the ashes of World War II, and he is married to the daughter of another former premier."
The article also explains that ageing is a sensitive issue in Japan, as the island nation has one of the world's oldest populations, "with almost a quarter of its 128 million people over 60." Worse still, that figure is expected to rise to 40 percent in the next 50 years.
Conclusion: We expect Japanese equities to advance as a result of Abe's actions and paper assets generally will be seen as accruing "value," no doubt. But that won't change the society's larger dysfunction and may, in fact, increase the trends that are working to the detriment of the "Land of the Rising Sun."
Posted by spekulatn on 01/24/13 09:11 PM
Posted by edwin cameron on 01/23/13 06:30 AM
Ah yes Mr.Aso,a closed mouth gathers no foot.
Posted by Bobby7 on 01/23/13 06:13 AM
Taro Aso has made a good point in a bad way!
We have to change the theology of Pain & Suffering. For far too long cultures have over emphasized No Pain No Gain type of Mentality. In the Western world, it took a battle to give women pain relief in delivery rooms, because of what was written in Genesis 3:16.
Easy Death or Comfortable Death is something that could be done humanely, without the fear of the Death Camp.
Taro Aso is right to bring this point up for discussion. Hospitals and Health Care was a charitable work before, but is now big business. The care and love is gone, as is the belief in God that motivated the Samaritan spirit. Staff in hospitals do NOT have a vocation anymore! Its a job and they do it for the money and many would be better off in a car factory, for all the care and kindness they direct towards patients - SORRY - customers!
50,000,000 Americans died legally in Abortion "Clinics" in America since 1973. Its not as if early death is a New Phenomena in the world. It seems as if in some cases you can be "checked" out, before you "checked" in! So what's the big problem if you "check" out a little early, after being "in" for 70 years or more?
Posted by LetThereBeLight on 01/23/13 04:56 AM
In 2008 the Dutch government looked into the cost of treating people from the age of 20 to death. They had three categories, the healthy, obese and smokers. The results were not what the health gurus were looking for.
The lifetime costs were in Euros:
Interestingly, smokers cost the tax-payer the least, completely the opposite from what the health zealots keep telling us! It really is quite dishonest of the anti-smokers to say that smoking is a burden on society.
Click to view link
Posted by Kriss Robin on 01/23/13 03:29 AM
"I don't need that kind of care. I will die quickly," he said adding he had left written instructions that his life is not artificially prolonged."
Well, Taro Aso ought to be the first to go through example and BE THE FIRST to live his own doctrine, as "he" and his like BLEED like a parasite TAX payers money. What is amazing is how peoples mentality is turned from a basic Logic, government would not exist if not for those that pay their salary.
Fundamentally, and this is not just any particular ELITE'S, These "people" if they can be called part of the human race seem to exist on a plane far removed from Sanity. It really is time for All Elite's (Bureaucrat's) to be removed from any position that could affect Sane thinking people.
Posted by MetaCynic on 01/23/13 12:01 AM
One way or another, the young are expected to take care of the elderly. For millennia people expected to be taken care of in their old age by their own children. The welfare state has discouraged that arrangement. The taxes to support the welfare state take away money needed to raise children. So, less children are raised. Why go through the expense and bother of raising children to take care of us in our old age, people reason, when the state will take care of us? So even less children are raised. Yet the fact remains that such people still rely on taxes paid by children - other people's children - to finance governments' retirement/healthcare ponzi schemes in place all over the world.
It appears that a global tragedy is now unfolding. The welfare state has discouraged family formation, taxes have made saving for retirement almost impossible for most, inflation is eroding the purchasing power of those who have savings, and governments' promises to take care of us during retirement are impossible to honor. The money is simply not there. The wealth of generations has been squandered by politicians and planners. We were duped into structuring our lives around a grotesque dream - that government can take care of us. In the coming years, we will witness the unraveling of the failed welfare state experiment accompanied by poverty, triage and, yes, even euthanasia.
Illness, weakness and immobility are the defining characteristics of old age. Unfortunately, the Western medical model has led us to a dead end with regard to handling old age. That licensed cartel's sole purpose seems to be to cure nothing while perpetually treating symptoms at monopoly prices until the patients drop dead. To make matters worse, politically connected industrial food processing conglomerates along with the government's food pyramid have encouraged a lifetime of disease promoting diets. No wonder that healthcare costs are threatening to bankrupt the developed world!
We seem to have been lied to and misinformed about everything, not just history, economics and finance. The only way I can see out of an approaching catastrophe is for people to simply forget about retiring. Although the government gets in the way at every turn, we must continue to work to support ourselves while doing everything possible to stay healthy. We must avail ourselves of emerging affordable treatments and technologies which not only cure diseases related to old age, but also offer the hope of actually halting or even reversing aging itself.
Posted by budwood on 01/22/13 11:17 PM
My feeling is that the Daily Bell's comments are both appropriate and logical. The solution proposed by the socialist government 9of Japan) is typical of most inhumane socialistic policies. Does not the people who promote such policies realize that they are here because other, earlier people prepared the way. Millions of human beings have struggled successfully to produce our presents material (and spiritual) benefits.
But these self centered socialists answer is, "But what have you done for me, lately?"! I suppose subjective people can't understand that there's more to living than just trying to tidy up the bottom line of a corrupt balance sheet.
For your information, I'm a full functioning 86 year old. But even if I wasn't, I would expect some regard for my contributions over the past years.
Posted by moralrealist on 01/22/13 07:27 PM
I'm 60 yrs. old. When I was growing up in this country(US) we were taught that in the USSR old age was considered to be a drag on society and that they were useless. I can remember being taught how horrible communism was in regard to people being thought of as useless and how great it was to be in America. "We" would never treat people that way." How things have changed. Americans either don't remember that propaganda to make us think we were "better" than that, or the population has just become like the slow boiling frog.
Posted by Abu Aardvark on 01/22/13 07:19 PM
nithsdale on 01/22/13 05:57 PM wrote: "The Japanese leaders are right. those who cannot take care of themselves, who have no family members who can do it for them, must go!"
Now that's what I call a MEME. Good lord!
Posted by piolenc on 01/22/13 07:12 PM
Sorry, folks, but every government that runs a pension system for its superannuated slaves... I mean mature citizens, has the same incentive to hasten them on their way as the Nipponese régime does - they're just a little less frank about it than this Japanese politician. That's one of the reasons why I tend to view government "public health" initiatives with a peck of rock salt. Consider that the ideal Social Security "contributor" (taking the US government as an example) is one who maintains perfect health until one day before he would become eligible for retirement benefits, then drops stone dead in his tracks - preferably in his own home so that public services don't have to pick his corpse off the pavement.
Posted by nithsdale on 01/22/13 05:57 PM
The Japanese are the first developed Twentieth Century Society to face the problems of an aging population and you treat it like it does not exist!
I am 88 and I know what aging means, It is not a pleasant adventure, it is a descent into immobility in all phases of what we think is life! There are few in any society in this world who can take care of themselves after 75! Despite all the dreams of retirement, the real fact is most men cannot golf after 70, and the women can't either and the yachtsman and his wifely mate can't handle the boat after that either. Those who do are remarkable and cannot be taken as "average"
The facts are that men age worse than women. No one knows why but they guess. Men retire and in two years begin to become caretakers, meaning they want care and they can give little in return for it, even small chores around the house seem to be beyond them. The women plug on but about five years later, even they begin to slough off. This is where costs for the elderly really skyrocket because families now have to step in, assuring that Dad or Mom are taking care of themselves. The families all know it is a slippery slope because their beloved parents don't have it any more!
This is why Medicare and Medicaid have bankrupted Social security. It is the caremaker part that is so difficult, so expensive in our modern society.
This is the problem the Japanese have coped with thirty years before we have. They had an aging population needing supervision and they did not have enough workers free from the normal workforce to handle it! The Japanese love their parents and have gone to great lengths to find solutions and some of them have been extraordinary!
The Japanese approach things from a different angle. They had no desire to dilute their nation with immigration since their culture still stands alone, is very Japanese. Their first moves were to centralize the problem in areas where workers could assist without too much disruption to the normal working processes of their economy. They utilyzed barges made into ships for hostelries and hospitals and recruited people who were seafarers to do the job from all over the Pacific rim. First these floating "homes" were tethered in Japanese waters but as the demand grew, Japan sought other venues like overbuilt motels, hotels on the Americas' Pacific Coasts where labor was still available. As this filled up, they utilyzed the cruising industry but with a japanese twist They made their floating hotels more seaworthy by installing new and faster engines so even a barge could outrun a storm with advance warning. Today you can go around this world and you will see Jaopan's Happy Ships in ports everywhere, and the "cruisers" are their elderly. By the bye, the worldwide crusing industry was transformed too.
It appears that the Japanese concur with Agatha Christie, who in her aging,opined that there is nothing like a good cruise ship to take care of your needs and make you feel good. The ship's company is remarkable in its attention to the ship and passengers and you cannot find their like on shore!
Japan's sea approach has taken care of the aged who are still on their feet. But when 80 comes, it is a different matter. then comes the problems... .forgetfulness, dementia, hardening arteries, alzheimerisms, temper tantrums all because the aged cannot do for themselves much to continue their lives alone and apart. Here is the worst of the problem.
There are not enough people in this world to care for those who are in this category because they cannot be cared for. They can only be warehoused. There are very few people in this world who can take the gaff of even their beloved parents in this condition and those who do, after a while become hardened and less and less attentive. It is the only way they can keep their own Reasoning power.
When the elderly no longer know who they are, cannot take care of their own functions, must be fed(tubed), led from bed to bath or panned, life is over for both the patient and the daily caremakers. Young women can do it for children because they know that stage passes quickly in life's terms but that is not the case with the elderly. They are living dead and they sap all the life out of those around them!
Stop being so patronizing about Japanese leaders in this matter. Not one of you can stand the gaff of the millions of elderly coming on line worldwide. Talk about Zombies!
Europe is into this matter more rationally than The Daily Bell. The Netherlands has legalized Euthanasia, the patient has the right to select it. It must come to pass worldwide. Youth, middle aged cannot be sacrificed for deadheads. That would be the greatest sin! Imagine a world where the majority are old, aged and infirm and the youth and middle aged must make a choice... continue to produce for society or take care of those with no future!
I am a hard hearted 88 year old who has seen it all and watches while the aged grow about me. I still enjoy my life because I can take care of myself but when I can't, it will be easy for me to go! I am on the cruise ships as often as possible and I don't run to doctors and never take tests. I take each day as it comes and will while I still know it, can meet it and greet it!
It is time you took your glasses off, cleaned them and looked at the world as it is!
The Japanese leaders are right. those who cannot take care of themselves, who have no family members who can do it for them, must go!
Reply from The Daily Bell
Good Lord, man - how do you think human beings lived for tens of thousands of years? Old people lived and died within the family unit ... or within charitable and religious facilities. You think it's normal to ship them around on boats or stash them in old age homes? There is a solution for aged parents - an age-old solution - which is that parents and the "extended family" and private community institutions care for the elderly. Cost effective, too. You prefer the state take over, leading inevitably to a kind of aging genocide - a rolling pogrom of the old folks. This is where the Japanese and much of the rest of the world including the US is now headed.
Posted by Agent Pete 8 on 01/22/13 05:50 PM
Lead by example.
Posted by Ol' Grey Ghost on 01/22/13 05:45 PM
As a student of several Japanese martial arts, the culture and history of Japan has always held a special place in my heart. It is unfortunate that for several years now Japanese society has been operating much like a gardener trimming a large tree. He has placed himself squarely on the branch and he is cutting the branch at the part closest to the trunk (think Wile E. Coyote and you will get the picture). It seems to be the ebb and flow of human history with a little help from central planners. One must wonder if this is what happened to other ancient civilizations.
I've got trouble enough on my own though as Glenn Beck is thinking of moving to Texas. This state ain't big enough for the two of us...
Posted by tjdetmers on 01/22/13 05:15 PM
I would hazard the guess that many elderly Japanese own Japanese government debt obligations. Their new money printing scheme will rob those people of the value in their savings. Maybe his words are not misspoken. Maybe in the near future old Japanese people will be saying... ... I wish I was dead already. Robbing people is despicable... Click to view linkbbing old people should warrant a front seat in hell.
Posted by Saidani on 01/22/13 01:50 PM
If the past two decades have proven anything it is that the Japanese elite do not deserve their lofty status. The irony is that Aso had his chance to accomplish reforms and did nothing but make things worse. One might also point out that, at his age, he should consider his own advice, not because he is a drain on the welfare system, but because of all the wealth he is so greedily clinging to, which inheritance tax would certainly help the government. Perhaps he should lead by example.