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One of the things that make me feel good is imagining a brighter future. I think that's why I spend a weird amount of my time thinking up creative solutions for the world's biggest problems. In my fantasy world - the place to which I escape when I need a shot of hope - I often come up with an idea that makes the entire world - at least the imaginary one - a better place. As long as it's a fantasy there's no reason to think small. How cool would it feel to fix the entire world? Pretty good, right?

Interestingly, our brains are wired in such a way that we can experience the sensations associated with our fantasies almost as if they are real. That's why you cry at movies and get attached to characters in books. You can know something is fiction and still get moved by it.

Today I give you some feel-good fiction in the form of a fix-the-world fantasy. You might see some wrinkles in my plan, so to speak, but no matter. Simply imagining this awesome future will feel good even as you reject it with your rational mind.

Are you ready? This will feel cool. Here we go...

In the long run, the last thing I'm worried about is national unemployment levels. At the moment, unemployment is a nightmare for lots of families, and it will stay that way for a few years no matter who gets elected. So I'm certainly worried about unemployment in the near term. But eventually so many boomers will leave the workforce because of retirement, health problems or death, that employers will be begging for workers. We'll be importing talent from other countries like crazy. Wages will climb.

Long term trends don't help if you're unemployed today. But in terms of government policy that looks far into the future, or should, projections about the future make a difference for allocating resources today. When I talk about government resources in the context that follows I mean jawboning, leadership and any form of non-monetary influence.

When you make your list of national priorities, one that should be near the top is the unprecedented number of seniors racing toward retirement without sufficient savings to support themselves. Addressing the challenge of an aging population requires a multi-prong strategy.

First, you need a doctor assisted suicide option. If that sounds cold, I assure you that I'd like the option for myself in case I need it someday. It feels like compassion to me. Doctor assisted suicide gets rid of the expensive and brutal final year or more of life that many people prefer not living.

The second prong is figuring out a system of senior living - a community structure and a physical building structure - that takes advantage of everything we've learned in the past fifty years about psychology, health, and technology. Surely we can find ways to keep independent seniors happy at far lower costs than today.

Obviously job one is fixing the existing economy. It's hard to make any kind of long term change without the flexibility of some free cash. Let's stipulate that the current economy is the top priority. But is there a way to juice the current economy by long range planning?

Suppose the government encouraged society to prepare for the issue of the aging population and start serious planning now. We all want to control government spending, so imagine the only direct role of government is appointing a project leader who would organize the planning through an open source model.

Subgroups of the project might have narrow scopes. For example, one group of volunteers - perhaps graduate students or industry volunteers - might be in charge of figuring out the best air conditioning system for the city of the future - a city that is designed with senior living in mind.

The city of the future need not be senior-only. One proposed solution might involve equipping every family home with an in-law apartment above the garage. That would work well with the assisted suicide strategy too because if a senior signed up for the service over the Internet, the doctor would just need to pull into the garage and keep the engine running.

Anyway, I would think that in three years the open source project would have enough of a plan completed to attract financing, find a location, and start building the prototype. It probably makes sense to wait on the second location until the bugs are found in the first, after a year or two of operation.

Here's the clever part of the plan, according to me: If the planning for these future cities starts now, people will soon get a good idea what sort of job skills will be in demand in three years. That allows states to decide if they want to encourage job training in the appropriate fields, or at least encourage companies to start funding training if they want to participate in the coming construction boom. Government's role could be as small as promoting the transition to a senior-friendly economy by setting up the planners, kicking off the project, and keeping the public informed of how it's going. Government just needs to be the mouthpiece and the cheerleader, i.e. leader.

I could imagine the next global economic wave to involve the transition to a senior-friendly civilization. Done right, the new living arrangement would be an order of magnitude better for the environment and be a direct benefit to climate change management. And I would imagine many of the ideas developed during this economic wave would apply to retrofitting existing homes and communities. Every community would get an economic stimulus because everyone is directly affected by the aging population.

Is my plan politically feasible? Ask yourself who votes. I'm advocating a transfer of resources toward the most important category of voters - older citizens. But I'm doing it in a way that should create jobs for the young. And I'm doing it all with government leadership as opposed to direct meddling and financing. Which politician hates that plan?

I know I'm full of shit. But I'll be interested to read your comments to see if you agree on exactly why.

 
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Dec 7, 2012
Two bottom up solutions:

- The "formalized village" approach -- structure created for helping people in the same community: http://www.capitolhillvillage.org/

- The live with friends/intentional community approach -- a group of people buy a large residence and hire support staff as needed.

A top down partial fix: use universal design in a majority of new residences
 
 
Sep 13, 2012
Good joke about leaving the car running in the garage BUT...
The main problem with aged care is not the community or physical structure but the deterioration in the brains-even more than in the bodies-of the elderly. And I speak as the career of an aged person. If we could prevent or even significantly slow that deterioration it would make a huge difference eg more children would care for their parents and not put them in a home.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Therion, if only rich American citizens were buying US treasuries, you might argue that people who can invest in bonds can also be taxed, however it isn't simply rich American citizens buying it. A lot of federal debt is foreign-owned. A lot of federal debt is where banks and businesses have parked money for which they don't have immediate use. Nobody will ever loan the US money again, under your idea.

Frankly, I can't imagine that very many of us would stay in the US if our assets were summarily confiscated, and our taxes were upped to extreme numbers. Europe has historically had this problem (called "Brain Drain," long considered one of Europe's biggest problems) where educated and motivated people leave high tax countries to live in the US where success is easier.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Therion

And that is precisely the point I was making at first. I could agree with most of what you say if you'd leave out the hate.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
Well no !$%*! because he never expressed "hatred". But he doesn't like that way of life.
 
 
Sep 12, 2012
@Therion

The views expressed on the website are a long way from hatred of rich folks. As for chasing the moneylenders out of the temple his prob there wasn't so much with what they were doing as with where they were doing it.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
Guy, there's a whole Wiki stewn with quotes from Jesus on wealth and rich people:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_poverty_and_wealth#New_Testament

The only time he gets angry in the entire New Testament is when he clears the temple in Jerusalem of money-lenders and animal-sellers (Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:13-22).

Great man, Jesus (assuming he existed).
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
@Therion

[I'm not saying anything that Jesus and Mohammed didn't say. ]

I don't care what Mohammed might have said on the matter and the worst thing I can recall Jesus saying on the matter was that its very hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, which is a long way from calling them completely awful people. If he said anything worse tell me the chapter and verse.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
Scott, are you sure you didn't get a PhD from a liberal arts school?

For an engineer with an MBA who normally has great insights, you often stumble on central planning as the answer to life's challenges. What makes you think that a group of bureaucrats will come up with a more efficient system than the enterprises who are currently competing in the senior housing markets? Google "central planning failure" and read the associated papers - or read "The Road to Serfdom" for the problems with your strategy.

I will give you credit for saying "Government just needs to be the mouthpiece and the cheerleader, i.e. leader," but in practice, words affect little, and government action means political influence and rent-seeking (now known as cronyism).
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
"Why do you have to say these things in the least rational, most insulting way possible? I have no great love for businessmen but lets be fair. The only differences between a businessman and an ordinary guy are 1) they wanted success enough to work for it and 2) some factor (luck, talent or something) helped them beat the competition. . "

I'm not saying anything that Jesus and Mohammed didn't say.

The connotation of "businessman" seems to be somebody devoted to the acquisition of wealth. I don't think such people are "normal" on the whole, and I stand by what I said.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
Drowlord, let's leave aside your silly and incoherent second argument that the federal government is in debt to itself through Social Security.

Will an emergency tax on bondholders be "suicide for the federal government"?

Obviously not. If somone is rich enough to loan money to the federal government, then he's rich enough to be taxed.

In other words, your argument boils down to an anti-tax-the-rich ideology. You take as a starting axiom that the rich can't be taxed. Even though the evidence is strongly compelling that taxing the rich heavily -- far from leading to Somalia, as you suggest it does -- actually makes a society better. Look up research on Gini coefficient which proves exactly this point.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
@Therion, The federal government runs at a perpetual (and massive) deficit. Cutting out "current" bondholders at any point in time guarantees that nobody will ever put money into federal bonds ever again. This is, obviously, suicide for the federal government because, as already pointed out, they run at a perpetual deficit and need a constant influx of new credit. It also doesn't solve many problems for them, as huge amounts of debt are "owned" by the Social Security Trust Fund. Cutting out current bondholders effectively decapitates our nation's most expensive program that's already in crisis.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
dugfromthearth,

you are missing the main point - getting rid of unemployment.
 
 
Sep 11, 2012
We need to ship our elderly overseas. Instead of building retirement communities in Flordia, build them in Costa Rica. The cost of living, healthcare and everything else is vastly cheaper. As long as they are living in their own enclosed community, it hardly matters where they are living if the weather is nice. The government would save a ton on medicare and the elderly could live very comfortably on social security.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 11, 2012
My theory, since soylent green has already been taken, is that you fell asleep on the couch with the tv on and were subliminally influenced by them showing "Logan's Run" on the late late show.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 10, 2012
"And I'm doing it all with government leadership as opposed to direct meddling and financing. Which politician hates that plan?"

All of them. The meddling and financing leads to a great big lobbyist-funded gravy train; not to mention the politician/lobbyist revolving door.

There's no money in leadership.
 
 
Sep 10, 2012
@Therion

[It's too imaginative, too compassionate. Businessmen seem to be too all-around awful humans beings for them to bother doing it, and the Republican base would never allow such a project to be done in the public sector. So it's not gonna happen.]

Why do you have to say these things in the least rational, most insulting way possible? I have no great love for businessmen but lets be fair. The only differences between a businessman and an ordinary guy are 1) they wanted success enough to work for it and 2) some factor (luck, talent or something) helped them beat the competition. If you had said 'Businessmen are too greedy to bother doing it' I could have agreed with you, but no, you said they were plain awful, as if they don't do anything good.
 
 
-7 Rank Up Rank Down
Sep 10, 2012
It's too imaginative, too compassionate. Businessmen seem to be too all-around awful humans beings for them to bother doing it, and the Republican base would never allow such a project to be done in the public sector. So it's not gonna happen.

I think it's more productive to try to change the *spirit* of conversation than to push for some specific policy, which is almost certainly going to fall on deaf ears.

P.S. -- People talking about "debt" are idiots. Most of the national debt is owned by the domestic private sector and could be written off as an emergency tax with no dire consequences. Even upheavals like WW2 didn't wreck the economy and there is no reason to believe that we can't tax these !$%*!$% out of any bonds that they claim to hold.
 
 
Sep 10, 2012
Two points:

First, the main job of a politician is to connect positive feelings with their own plan, and negative feelings with an opponents plan. This is not new, so politicians have always painted rosy pictures of the past or future and then stuck their own face on it.

Second, the challenge with building an experimental community from scratch is that artificial foundations rarely work in practice. The location of settlements and cities is not random. Random settlements tend to be very temporary. If there is a city in a certain place, it is because there was a pretty good reason for a city there. If there isn't a city somewhere its because it is probably not a very good place for a city. Sometimes those reasons go away, but once a city is firmly established it can continue on inertia for centuries.

My point is, the only way your experimental city would take root is if an earthquake were to level San Francisco and you were to build on the ruins. That level of requisite destruction tends to make the good feeling go away a little.
 
 
Sep 10, 2012
"First, you need a doctor assisted suicide option."

eh, I'm more of a carousel guy myself... but then again if a quick escape through the "Love Shop" & avoiding hypothermia w/a 20-something Jenny Agguter was part of the deal I could probably be convinced to run...
 
 
 
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