Over the summer, there was much fuss about the European Union's population projections. These showed how the UK population was expected both to rise and to age. In the EU as a whole there are projected to be only two people of working age (15-64) for every person over the age of 65. Given most of Europe's appalling record of ensuring that those of working age do actually work, this is a matter of serious concern.
There was little comment, however, on the potential impact of an ageing electorate. Given the absence of democratic accountability in the EU, perhaps this is not a concern for the European Commission. British democracy has had fewer and fewer checks and balances as time has gone on. It evolved slowly out of a system that required the ownership of property as a qualification to vote. By and large, British democracy was effective in protecting property ownership in its early days. However, over the past couple of generations, groups of voters have increasingly used their democratic power to impose their will on others. From the penal rates of taxation of the post-war period, to the banning of smoking on private property, any action is seen as legitimate as long as a democratically elected government supports it.
There is a danger that over the coming generation, older voters, most of whom receive the majority of their income from the state, will plunder the smaller number of younger voters who pay taxes. In any event, Western economies will suffer tax increases to pay for the increased costs of pensions, health and long-term care. But this will be reinforced by the stranglehold older people will have on the electoral process. Pension and welfare reform will become impossible and, indeed, policies will be adopted that lead to far more government resources being allocated towards older people.
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