Thanks to technological change, life expectancies everywhere are rising. John Kay this that this is wonderful -a demographic change to be welcomed rather than feared.
Achieving these extended lifespans costs money. Not necessarily much, because healthy lifestyle is a more important contributor to longevity than medical treatment. But we all die, either from the remaining diseases we have not yet learnt to cure, or the accumulated effects of old age itself. So medical and care costs will inevitably be an increasing fraction of national income. But this is money the public really wants to spend. It resists attempts to control the grotesque costs of private US healthcare. “More for the National Health Service” is always the British electorate’s top spending priority. ….
Gloomy prognostications, sometimes of population explosion, then of secular stagnation, have repeatedly been falsified. But one certainty is that all the issues of concern result from developments that give us more choices – the choice between higher material living standard and more leisure, the indulgence of spending more looking after ourselves, and the opportunity for women to have careers as well as, or along with, family lives.
What is not to like about these developments? Why should we care about lower gross domestic product per capita, or higher public spending as a share of national income if it is the consequence of things that make us better off?
John Kay, “Economic growth allows us to choose longer lives – surely that’s a good thing?”, Financial Times, 15 October 2014 (ungated link).