The Pensions Are Safe (Just the Amount Isn't)

If you are so “lucky” that you happen to live in the People’s Republic of Austria at the moment, you can observe the already truly bizarre outcomes of ever-growing “dirigisme” without the deadly side effects of the final stages:

There currently is a tug-of-war taking place, between

  1. the NewLeft™ brand of tyranny, ever the internationalist, pulling for the global politically-correct aim of “equal opportunity," embodied in the noble fight for the “compatibility of having a career and a family”; concerning women, of course.

  2. the European Conservative™ brand, ever the moralist, tugging for the moral purity of today’s youth (a hot topic for people who love to tell others what to do since, well, some millennia; but since they force you to pay for the usual boring programming anyway, they don’t need to be innovative).

The newest round of the eternal fight between Good and Evil (who’s who?) revolves around some comments made by the conservative[1] minister of propa…oops, inform…oops, education and culture, Elisabeth Gehrer.

She stated that today’s youth is too selfish, doesn’t want to make babies, and just hops from party to party[2]. This isn’t too unusual a thing to say for notorious do-gooders of the conservative kind, and of course sparked the usual experienced disgusted outcry by leftist do-gooders, and could be dismissed as the usual political yakking except for two features which make the current debate a bit more interesting to look at:

The first is more of a funny little tidbit which still doesn’t fail to unveil a lot about the mindset of the political caste: Of her own three sons (all adults), two are still single and childless, and one of the two even is a well-known party-hopper.

(He, by the way, also is a presenter with state television – which I’d, of course, bet has nothing to do with the job of dear old mum.)

This negligible fact for and in itself tells us a lot about the whole do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do-attitude of the homo politicus, but is so normal for the parasites that we shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about it – after all, there’s worse.

This “worse” in the current debate is why the whole debate originally got started:

In Austria, as in most of the SE[3], great problems with the pension system start to emerge. The source of this is that the system is based on the “generation contract," a collectivist fantasy the same as the “social contract," which can be roughly described as a Ponzi scheme with round times of a generation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it can be described roughly as follows[4]: The first round of suckers pay in, the funds collected this way are simultaneously paid out to the first round of pensioners, the funds taken in from their children are used to pay for the first suckers’ pensions, etc….

The sane amongst you (i.e., all of you, since politicians can safely be assumed not to read LRC) will have found the problem with the whole deal in a jiffy:

Since the dang thing is nationaliszd, you can’t really expect interest, and since the bureaucracy behind it all isn’t free, either, there will be real losses.

Thus, the “contract” only works with (strongly!) growing populations. Those of the EU aren’t.

Of course, you can “solve” a lot of the problem by printing money or taking up additional “national debt” (which comes down to more or less the same thing, anyway: Future generations will pay for today’s follies).

But that can only pay for parts of the problem – the real solution can only be more payers. Thus, the real motivation[5] behind Gehrer’s cry for more babies can easily be traced to a very base motivation: They need more cashcows to further finance a system that the functionaire caste doesn’t want to lose because it provided cozy jobs and pacification of the voting cattle for quite some time.

And you wondered why so few young Austrians want to make kids? Well, that’s easy to explain: Quite contrary to the minister’s opinion, they know responsibility. A part of that is not to make babies to feed to the beast, as the future doesn’t look so bright.

Well, if the conservatives are so evil, why not go for the alternative? Here, we reach the second part of the farce, the social democrats, Austria’s second largest party.

This other major local brand of collectivism of course also always supported, or rather, “was the driving force behind," the pension-scheme outlined above.

One of their reasons to do it was a little different approach to the value of family life than the one that (officially) motivated their conservative colleague: They always pushed the nationalized pension scheme to make it easier for women to pursue careers (as we all know, a woman can’t feel satisfied in life before she earns enough to pay 60% taxes). The reasoning behind this was mind-blowing: If we nationalize pensions, women won’t need children of their own to care for them in old age, so they can safely pursue careers. Where the children that would, after all, have to pay for the whole thing should come from has never been explained.

But hey, who could have asked for the central planners to plan so far ahead? After all, “nobody could have known." Except for the many Liberals[6] who warned against exactly the current catastrophe, of course, but well, they probably just guessed. After all, there isn’t anything good economics can tell you that a fine socialist professor can’t, is there? Obviously no reason to give up one’s perfectly good hubris, anyway.

Now, I hardly need to tell my audience here that things aren’t as simple as “career and family must be reconcilable for women, too."

In life there are choices, and every time we make choices, other doors will be closed to us, forever. Scarcity demands that we utilize our resources the best we can, and live with the good as well as the bad choices we make.

This isn’t sexism. Nothing of this is different for men; if a man wants a family, he’ll have to have a career (the money a family needs isn’t going to fall from heaven, after all), whether he has some other priority of “self-actualizing” or not.

In this of course, I’m assuming the traditional role-models in families, of the man as the bread-winner and the woman caring for the children. To me, this seems like the sane way to do it, but if others want to do it the other way round, I sure won’t tell them not to. For my taste, there are already more than enough people running around telling grown- ups what to do in their lives.

On the contrary, once we take those choices from people in the name of whatever – mercy, social justice, love of humanity – whichever name you give to the ugly brainchild of eggheads, they will tend to allocate resources carelessly and will be prone to more risk-taking. It’s not their money they’re blowing out of the window, anyway.

All of this is very obvious to the socialists in either camp.

Still, they keep lying on the tanning deck of the boat they constantly tell us we’re all on. The rowing is left to us, and it goes almost without saying that politicians get a quite nice pension after just a few months in office.

The future looks gloomy, and as more and more people catch on to the facts, I guess a lot of Austria’s youth will keep going to parties instead of making precious babies for the beast to feed on.

The hangover we get this way will at least be gone by noon the next day.


[1] With “conservative," in this piece the European meaning is used; which is somewhat like what goes as “neoconservative” in the US. [2] As in “jollification," not as in “group of SOBs.” [3] Our beloved soviet EUnion, where everything runs by Brussels time. [4] The regular readers amongst you will know that this isn’t a classical Ponzi scheme; I just think that it’s a nice analogy for those who never bothered to get into the details of the whole “generation contract” madness. [5] She, of course said that she just feared that young people miss “things that give meaning to life," like having a family. Of course, that would be quite true, but of course that isn’t what she wanted. How I am so sure that she lied? She’s a politician, and her lips were moving. [6] As with conservatives, I use the European meaning of “liberal."

September 8, 2003