Give Them Hope and Give Them Comfort Because They're Running Out of Time

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Indians are developing smaller, more nuclear families, and patriarchs and matriachs are less and less welcome in the home. Parliament's solution: Jail kids for three months if they don't take care of their folks.

The new law, which provides for the setting up of many tribunals to provide speedy help to the old in distress, contains no room for appeal.

"This has been done deliberately as they (the children) have a lot of resources which the old people do not have," Kumar said.

The legislation also provides for the state to set up old age homes that the minister said should be the "last resort for the poor and the childless."

The bill applies to adult children with parents over the age of 60.

Legislators lamented the need for the legislation.

"Things have come to such a pass now that the old have to petition the government for care and help. What kind of a life is that?" said Gyan Prakash Pilania, a member of the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

This is the situation Mark Steyn and Stanley Kurtz et al worry about, although they mostly write about the West, where this has been the norm for generations. And Kurtz blames the welfare state for encouraging and enabling smaller families, yuppies delaying their first child 'til their 10th anniversary, etc—behavior that leads to a smaller and smaller tax base to pay for the aged. Discussions about this stuff aren't going to happen in the U.S., but I'd guess there are ears for it in India.

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  1. And if the kid says “I’ve been estranged from my parents since reaching adulthood because they were abusive monsters,” that makes no difference, I take it?

  2. And if the kid says “I’ve been estranged from my parents since reaching adulthood because they were abusive monsters,” that makes no difference, I take it?

    The new law, which provides for the setting up of many tribunals to provide speedy help to the old in distress, contains no room for appeal.

    Nope.

  3. One of the ancient civilizations (Athens??) had a law requiring a child to support his aging parent only if the parent had provided an education for the child. Perhaps, there is some wisdom in this.

  4. This is a joke, right? Because my mind can’t quite wrap itself around this concept.

  5. Mark Steyn is an idiot and a piece of shit to boot.

    If they’re concerned about an aging society, all they have to do is cut back on subsidization for the old, and those old folks will be out there doing all the jobs that the missing teenagers [who were never born due to smaller families] would have been doing. Problem solved.

  6. This is a joke, right? Because my mind can’t quite wrap itself around this concept.

    In societies (unlike ours) where there is no governmental support for the elderly, it is EXPECTED that their children will support them. However, because of a cultural shift among the youth, its no longer a given that they will do this and old people are freaking out. This system is the result.

    I’m not saying this is what should be happening, but it makes sense to me that it is.

  7. There are > 6 billion people on the planet and Stanley Kurtz’s big worry is falling birth rate demographics? If the third world birth rates fell to below replacement levels, like affluent societies have done, I’ll be throwing a big party with an open bar.

    I’m serious, modern technology, limited democracy, and a world population of ~1 billion is, IMHO, as close to paradise as man could possibly get. I can dream, can’t I?

  8. A simple, free-market approach would be to give the parents a property interest in the income of their children. After all, whether a person was a good or bad parent without their parents the productive adult the child grew to be most likely would not exist.

    If nothing else, this will prevent the free-rider problem of people off loading the cost of maintaining their now non-productive elderly on the rest of society.

    You could even extend the idea to present children so that parents could borrow against future income to fund a child’s education. Might work here to.

  9. My mind can’t reconcile their claims of neglected elders with any of the Indian families I know. I suspect this is a media-created crisis, playing on Indians’ fears of their changing economy and globalization, and its effects on the traditional importance of family.

  10. J sub D,

    I’m serious, modern technology, limited democracy, and a world population of ~1 billion is, IMHO, as close to paradise as man could possibly get.

    Except that modern technology arises from human minds. Fewer minds might just mean less goodies and resources. Certainly, aggregate standards of living have risen steadily along with world population.

  11. Kurtz is somewhat correct in that the welfare state encourages the atomization of society. More generally, the state has been a far from neutral player in shaping modern society.

    Many changes are sold as enhancing individualism but often that simply translates into isolation. The state enables people to sever ties to family and friends if they chose but at the same time it actively attacks and undermines the many informal civic societies that used to support the individual.

    I think many people now support big government because they believe it is the only dependable facet of their lives. They look around and think, “without the State, who will help me if I need it?”

  12. Except that modern technology arises from human minds. Fewer minds might just mean less goodies and resources. Certainly, aggregate standards of living have risen steadily along with world population.

    What percentage of the impoverished people on the planet contribute to techological innovation? 1 billion free, educated, and wealthy people would be more than sufficient to keep the scientific and technical revolutions running. Not as fast (a good thing?) due to less pressing problems, but I’ll live with that.

    I’m not saying the sky is falling, but I’m also not putting my head in the sand about the serious environmental challenges the human race faces.

  13. Mike Laursen:

    Its definitely happening in Indian families, esapecially in the big cities. Its worse for parents whose children have been exposed to the American model by working in the US on an H-1B.

    Its easier in America where people don’t expect their children to take care of them because they did not take care of their parents, but in India the generational gap is much stronger.

    Just as “.” said, while in the US where parents are expected to take care of their children until 18, in India children are expected to take care of their parents after they retire. For most Indians, the idea of nursing homes is akin to the government raising children away from their parents: totally abhorrent.

  14. I can’t believe that I seem to be the first one to suggest that this will lead to a huge increase in patricide, unless it’s a fabricated crisis like Mike Laursen suspects.

    A culture that disfigures or kills wives unless the dowry is big enough – still seemingly common in rural India – and that declares relatives dead in significant numbers to steal their land, and that used to burn widows to be rid of the burden not so long ago won’t exactly react to this with “OK, OK, I’ll pay”.

  15. A simple, free-market approach would be to give the parents a property interest in the income of their children. After all, whether a person was a good or bad parent without their parents the productive adult the child grew to be most likely would not exist.

    If nothing else, this will prevent the free-rider problem of people off loading the cost of maintaining their now non-productive elderly on the rest of society.

    You could even extend the idea to present children so that parents could borrow against future income to fund a child’s education. Might work here to.

    Agency problems. I can hardly think of a better way to reduce productivity.

  16. “This has been done deliberately as they (the children) have a lot of resources which the old people do not have,” Kumar said.

    Harold could not be reached for comment.

  17. I can’t believe that I seem to be the first one to suggest that this will lead to a huge increase in patricide, unless it’s a fabricated crisis like Mike Laursen suspects.

    If you read the article:

    “Earlier this year in the southern city of Hyderabad, the well-off family of a 75-year-old cancer patient decided to burn her alive at a crematorium because they did not want to pay for further treatment.

    She was saved when the crematorium staff noticed her stir and called police.”

    This doesn’t imply that murdering one’s parents is particularly common, but I do agree that if something doesn’t change it will probably happen at least every once and a while.

  18. 1 billion free, educated, and wealthy people would be more than sufficient to keep the scientific and technical revolutions running.

    Says who? Why not two, or four, or hey, even six-billion free, educated and (hence!) wealthy people?

    I am more than skeptical when I hear anyone make such pronouncements about what is best for the world, planet, humanity, whatever, on a macro-scale like that. Not to mention that such neo-Malthusian concerns seem misguided; it isn’t the number of people on the planet that leads to poverty, it is the corrupt, backwards, stifling societies that so many of those people are unfortunate enough to be part of that leads to poverty. Also, wealth is directly related to the number of people who are freely able to interact and trade with their fellow humans. Increasing freedom, not decreasing population, is the key to better lives for more people.

    If you can imagine a fantasy world where all one-billion are free, then I see no reason why you can’t also stretch that imagination to include all six-billion.

  19. Shannon Love says,

    A simple, free-market approach would be to give the parents a property interest in the income of their children.

    Forget the agency problem concerns that Chris. S responds with, how about the simple vileness of allowing one human (even a parent) to own an interest in another? Come on, why quibble about incentives and other pragmatic concerns when this idea is so morally abhorrent on its face.

    And free market!?! I must have missed the part of the plan where the children, whose labor is to be owned by antoher, get to freely enter this bargain. Or did you mean “free market” in the way the antebellum cotton market was free?

  20. ‘m serious, modern technology, limited democracy, and a world population of ~1 billion is, IMHO, as close to paradise as man could possibly get. I can dream, can’t I?

    J Sub D… volunteering to get off?

  21. Says who? Why not two, or four, or hey, even six-billion free, educated and (hence!) wealthy people?

    Why not 10, 20, 30 billion people? People use resources, energy, land, food. Virtually infinite energy for consumption is a realistic hope. Not so for food and land. I personally believe that mankind is enriched by wild places and the wonders of the natural world. We can talk about he numbers, I don’t have a religious devotion to 1 billion. But to think that we can expand human population indefinitely borders on lunacy.
    If you can imagine a fantasy world where all one-billion are free, then I see no reason why you can’t also stretch that imagination to include all six-billion.

  22. To finish my premature postulation.

    If you can imagine a fantasy world where all one-billion are free, then I see no reason why you can’t also stretch that imagination to include all six-billion.

  23. Damn, damn, damn.

    If you can imagine a fantasy world where all one-billion are free, then I see no reason why you can’t also stretch that imagination to include all six-billion.

    I can certainly imagine it. I desire it intensly. No, I don’t want to kill 5 billion people.

  24. . – you sure are a period character!

    God, I had to do that.

    I also have to say, I meant the comment thread, not the article.

  25. Bernd:

    “Patricide”? “A culture that disfigures or kills wives if the dowry is not big enough”

    I guess you invoke slavery, American rates of domestic violence, and the Civil Right struggle when you discuss Social Security. I mean America used to have segregation, will they start forcing the elderly to use separate water fountains?

    Its a serious problem in India, the same way that Social Security is a serious problem in the US, in that it could produce a generation of poor miserable elderly that lack the financial means of taking care of themselves. More “Meals on Wheels” than a tide of violence against the elderly.

    As noted earlier, this is an urban problem, and completely unrelated to life in rural India.

    Unless you’re being sarcastic in the whole Swift’s Modest Proposal of letting the Irish eat their children, you are a complete idiot.

  26. I think BERND is right. Those who have a callous disgregard for their parents will either do them in outright, or neglect them to the point that they die prematurely. This is a law that cannot be enforced effectively. How does one define “not taking care of”?

  27. J Sub D… volunteering to get off?

    One more time, simply. In my estimation, lowered birthrates below replacement levels, would be a good thing. This appears to be easily accomplished, without coercion, in free wealthy societies.

    Okay?

  28. No, I don’t want to kill 5 billion people.

    Of course. Let me be clear that I was not suggesting you meant that at all.

  29. Hungry Hungry: I can assure you, with all my many and great weaknesses, being a complete idiot is not one of them. Not that I’d know if I were, I have to concede.

    I guess the point about this being an urban problem is a good one, although families will likely often separate and move to the city along generational lines, so it maybe can’t always be segregated.

    The Indian families (in India, that is) that I know are also very functional and mostly admirable minds who have merged the best of their own with the best of British culture and are not relevant to this problem, so I don’t have any relevant 1st hand knowledge.

    The rest of your post makes no sense at all to me.

  30. “Mark Steyn is an idiot and a piece of shit to boot.”
    Fluffy takes the thread. Steyn has always been a wonder to me.

    As a proud parent I would like to indicate my support for this law, but as a son I want to say that my support will kick in about 40 years from now.

  31. Don’t we already have such a law? Or at least something we have to do by law to take care of our parents? Something comes to mind. So…socia…social secu…

  32. So who takes care of the parents during the three months sentence?

  33. As an old fart with grown children I worry about who will take care of them. It appears at this juncture they are having a great deal of difficulty taking care of themselves (in their mid-40s). Wish they’d have married Indians.

  34. Don’t we already have such a law? Or at least something we have to do by law to take care of our parents? Something comes to mind. So…socia…social secu…

    If the purpose of Social Security was the taking care of one’s parents, then it wouldn’t steal 12% of the earnings of those who can least afford it (18 year olds) when their parents are in the absolute prime of their earning lives (their 40s).

    Or maybe it would…

  35. I dunno, social security always made sense to me. There are always many people that will stupidly plan for the future (you have been in a 7-11 late at night haven’t you?). They will be old and even stupider one day and poor as spit. You can’t let them just wander hungry and senile through the streets just to provide incentives to young dumbasses to save better…*

    *cue libertarian “stereotype”: sure we can, or they could always sell their organs in a well developed market if only the socialists would back off!

  36. yuppies delaying their first child ’til their 10th anniversary, etc-behavior that leads to a smaller and smaller tax base to pay for the aged.

    That doesn’t make sense. Aside from tariffs, yuppies are probably the only ‘tax base’ in India. The yuppies, unlike tariffs, present a new potential tax base to India’s government. The parliament seems to be sneaking in a strange and false axiom that this tax base pre-existed its recent formation.

  37. Ever see any Bollywood movies? About 30% of them have “younger generation forgetting parents as they grow old” as a plot.

    Also, they pretty much suck.

  38. they could always sell their organs in a well developed market if only the socialists would back off!

    Or we could do something really wild such as putting them on public assistance financed out of general tax revenues just like anyone else who doesn’t have enough money.

    But apparently it makes more sense to you to take an eighth of the earnings of the poorest laborers and give it to retired millionaires.

  39. C’mon MikeP, I’m no newcomer here. Are you for expanding “public assistance financed out of general tax revenues?”

  40. For that matter, are you for making sure that retired millionaires pay help out the poorest laborers, because I sure am. Glad to have you on board :). I think a 70% tax on the old bastards given directly to the poorest laborers would be a good starting place. Agree?

  41. *cue libertarian “stereotype”: sure we can, or they could always sell their organs in a well developed market if only the socialists would back off!

    It only weakens your argument when you try to malign anyone who disagrees ahead of time with stupid statements like that. Try making your point without the gratuitous, misguided and inappropriate swipes at entire philosophical views. And if you’re going to attempt to head off criticisms of your argument, at least make an effort to address the libertarian objections honestly instead of going for cheap caricatures.

    As for the substance of your post, as it were,

    There are always many people that will stupidly plan for the future . . . They will be old and even stupider one day and poor as spit. You can’t let them just wander hungry and senile through the streets

    If that’s all social security was needed for it would get a lot less vociferous objections, even from libertarians. Instead, it takes money from young working people at the lower end of the income spectrum and gives it to, on average, much more affluent senior citizens. A drastically scaled back SS that only took care of those senior citizens who would otherwise be destitute, as you describe, would cost so much less as to be but a minor irritation to even hard-line libertarians.

  42. Are you for expanding “public assistance financed out of general tax revenues?”

    If it means getting rid of the revolting intergenerational subsidy of Social Security, more than halving the amount of monies collected and dispensed in the process, yes.

    I think a 70% tax on the old bastards given directly to the poorest laborers would be a good starting place. Agree?

    Absolutely not.

  43. I think a 70% tax on the old bastards given directly to the poorest laborers would be a good starting place. Agree?

    Uhm, no. How about this:

    Nothing taken from anyone to help anyone else out. Read: Let the poorest workers keep all of their own money in the first damned place.

  44. But MikeP, where is the concern for the “poorest laborers” and the disdain for the “retired millionaire?” Where, oh where did it go?

    “Nothing taken from anyone to help anyone else out. Read: Let the poorest workers keep all of their own money in the first damned place.”
    The problem with this is that they tried it, and old people were starving. Do you think we should let thousands, maybe millions of old people starve just to show ’em how stupid they were not to plan for the future well?

    Brian-most supporters of SS would say yes to that, but of course such programs have a very charmed life (think of “welfare”), thanks in part to libertarians and other “fiscal” conservative types who don’t want the government to do anything. Promising it to everybody who pays it is part of making it legitimate and getting majority support (a “broad based” benefit I think they call it). If it were not so it would be targeted like most narrowly based benefits. BTW-my last comment was menat as a joke, because if you wait long enough a poster will come by who WILL be the libertarian “stereotype” or caricature.

  45. I mean, Mike, they weren’t bullshit rhetorical devices were they (I know people hate it when retire millionaires screw poor laborers, though I could care less about such “faireness issues”)? Heavens forbid!

  46. This is what I had before I replaced it with the “rhetorical devices”:

    But apparently it makes more sense to you to take an eighth of the earnings of the poorest age cohort of the population and give it to the richest.

    Perhaps you’ll like that better…

    The disdain for the retired millionaire vanished when he was no longer living on the blood, sweat, and tears backs taxes of the poor.

  47. Did I say “living on?” Of course I meant “adding four feet to his yacht with proceeds from living on.”

  48. A drastically scaled back SS that only took care of those senior citizens who would otherwise be destitute, as you describe, would cost so much less as to be but a minor irritation to even hard-line libertarians.

    I really agree with this. Social Security is already a welfare program. Its disguise as a retirement plan is what allows it continue.

  49. Brian Courts,

    … how about the simple vileness of allowing one human (even a parent) to own an interest in another?

    I didn’t say own the person, I said a property interest in their future income. A vast array of legal relationships exist in which a second party has legal claim to a percentage of another future income. Liens, alimony, student loans etc.

    The only problem lays in laying a debt upon a person without their consent. On the other hand, thanks to the state, everyone of us is born with massive “obligations” like Social Security and public debt. Personally, I think that family might make better decisions about the debt that children will carry into adulthood than will the state.

  50. Also, they pretty much suck.

    Not! I defy anybody who isn’t a complete Dick Cheney-like soulless, dark shell of a former human being to watch “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” and say that they didn’t laugh, cry, groan, lust a little over the gorgeous babes, and have the title song cheerily repeating over and over again inside their head for the rest of their life.

  51. I like Steyn. Don’t always agree with him, but he’s erudite and funny. His obits in The Atlantic are great and I enjoy reading his music and movie stuff as well.

  52. India doesn’t have an aging population by the standards of developed nations. The median age is 24.6 and the average woman has 2.81 children (compare with 1.2 in Spain or Italy.)

    It looks like they’re starting to go down the standard demographic path for countries leaving poverty: delayed childbirth, more women in the workforce, smaller families with more independence for the children. Now a young woman can live and work alone in the city, send some money home to her parents, and (a horrifying thought to some) keep some of her own earnings. What if … she gets the dreadful idea she can make her own decisions about her life?

    And yes, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai makes my day. Sholay is also probably the best, most surreal and unintentionally hilarious buddy movie ever made.

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