Monday, September 29, 2008

Social Serices and the Decline of the West

I went to the doctor recently which got me thinking about the end of the world. Jump aboard my train of thought, if you will. As Canadians we are incredibly lucky to have the healthcare system that we do. The other day I walked into a walk-in clinic. Well, not walked in, hopped, I sprained an ankle so walking wasn't really in the cards for me. I presented the receptionist with my healthcard, she swiped it, I waited for a few minutes, saw the doctor and hopped out. No charges, no questions asked.

What worries me is that every so often we hear this, "The healthcare system is on the verge of bankruptcy," "The system is strained to the limit," "We simply cannot continue as we are into the future." It's those damn Baby-Boomers. Yes, I level my scorn at thee. They inherited across the Western World a magnificent social safety net. Pensions, wages, healthcare, all those nifty little things that make life not only comfortable, but wonderful. For all its faults the social safety nets are beautiful.

However the Boomers became complacent. They took this new world built for them and hugged it tightly to their busom and then... had a kid or two and stopped. Population growth shuddered and screeched to a halt. Effective contraception and the liberation of women, and the shrinking of the family. Don't get me wrong, those aren't bad things (the first two are fantastic), but it means there are now there are consequences to be paid.

The oldest of the Boomers is at the moment 62 years old, and not that far from 63 I may add. Two years from retirement, and they didn't leave anyone to do their jobs. Super. Immigration has helped, but we tend not to bring in 20 year olds (costs of schooling outsourced) that will work for 45 years, we tend to bring in older adults, with limited years, at least from anecdotal observation. Most of the time spent in healthcare is in the final years of your life - I heard that once. The most costly period for a person's life to the medical system is in the last two years of their life. Again, casual observation and life experience would seem to confrim that for me.

As our social services become strained and buckle under the weight of a new gigantic elderly retired group of people I wonder what will become of our society. Will that net snap and tatter?

It makes me wonder sometimes if we're on the edge of a tectonic shift in life in the West. Whether the standard of living is about to drastically change and we are unaware. Will the pressures of a global economy lower our wages to those of the developing world? Will the middle class cease to exist?

It makes me think of the citizens of Rome who entered the fifth century, their empire in shambles, and only a century before they viewed themselves as stretching infinitely into the future. They just faded into history as the Dark Ages rose and new powers came into their own.

Is the sun setting on our way of life?

No comments: