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Predicaments in the futures of aging democracies




Ageing societies need to supply support to an ever growing segment of elderly dependent population without compromising the future sustainability for the currently young or unborn population. Current tendencies to focus on policy solutions like automatic stabilisers and norm based pre-commitment strategies with decisions delegated to experts carry a high risk of political breakdown when future populations re-evaluates this with new information. Using the Swedish pension reform as a concrete example we show how the futurity problem associated with the current non-existence of the future population makes the political process prone to avoid bringing issues with very long horizons into the public debate. Alternative demographic scenarios for Sweden are used to illustrate how even very small variations in the assumptions of demographic projections lead to radically different future population structures. Hence, the majority preferences in a distant future cannot be foreseen. Adding to this the complex interactions with a changing environment of technology and nature time-consistent decision making at the far future horizon must be virtually impossible. Thus the sustainability of long-term social security systems require constitutional balances that provide for orderly and continual adaptation rather than once-for-all fixes that are likely to be rejected by future electorates.

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  • Lindh, Thomas & Lundberg, Urban, 2007. "Predicaments in the futures of aging democracies," Arbetsrapport 2007:4, Institute for Futures Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ifswps:2007_004 Note: ISSN: 1652-120X; ISBN 978-91-85619-02-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Palme, Mårten & Svensson, Ingemar, 2002. "Pathways to Retirement and Retirement Incentives in Sweden," Arbetsrapport 2002:9, Institute for Futures Studies.
    3. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2001. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Can Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?," Arbetsrapport 2001:1, Institute for Futures Studies.
    4. Ranehill, Eva, 2002. "Social snedrekrytering till högre studier - En litteraturöversikt," Arbetsrapport 2002:10, Institute for Futures Studies.
    5. Barnekow, Erik, 2002. "Demografi och finansmarknad - en översikt av empirisk forskning," Arbetsrapport 2002:7, Institute for Futures Studies.
    6. Sommestad, Lena, 2001. "Health and Wealth: The Contribution of Welfare State Policies to Economic Growth," Arbetsrapport 2001:3, Institute for Futures Studies.
    7. Lundqvist, Torbjörn, 2002. "Arbetskraft och konkurrensbegränsning; aktörsperspektiv på den svenska modellen och framtiden," Arbetsrapport 2002:1, Institute for Futures Studies.
    8. Malmberg, Bo & Sommestad, Lena, 2000. "Tunga trender i den globala utvecklingen," Arbetsrapport 2000:2, Institute for Futures Studies.
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    More about this item


    ageing; democracy; pensions;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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