STUMP » Articles » Retirement Crisis Solution: Kill the Elderly » 26 January 2020, 15:45

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Retirement Crisis Solution: Kill the Elderly  


26 January 2020, 15:45

Hey, hey, hey now. Hear me out. It’s traditional!

What happens when we’re too old to be ‘useful’

“I customarily killed old women. They all died, there by the big river. I didn’t used to wait until they were completely dead to bury them. The women were afraid of me.”

No wonder. That’s the account of a man from the Aché, an indigenous tribe in eastern Paraguay, as told to anthropologists Kim Hill and Magdalena Hurtado.

He explained grandmothers helped with chores and babysitting but when they got too old to be useful, you couldn’t be sentimental.

Brutally, the usual method was an axe to the head. For the old men, Aché custom dictated a different fate. They were sent away – and told never to return.

What obligations do we owe to our elders? It’s a question as old as humankind.

And the answers have varied widely, at least if surviving traditional societies are any guide.

Okay, I’m not seriously advocating killing old people.

That said, I really do not want to hear that retirement is going to be so much worse for current generations than prior generations. The concept of a comfy retirement of several decades is a very new concept. The old have had a rough time of it, historically.



Obviously, killing widows and old people in general for being “surplus to requirements” is one of the most extreme ways of dealing with the “retirement problem”.

As another anthropologist, Jared Diamond, points out, the Aché are hardly outliers. Among the Kualong, in Papua New Guinea, when a woman’s husband died, it was her son’s solemn duty to strangle her.

In the Arctic, the Chukchi encouraged old people to kill themselves with the promise of rewards in the afterlife.

I have, jokingly, called for retirees to take up BASE jumping to have an exciting, and an excitingly short, retirement.

The thing is that people really are living longer. Back in the day, men tended to retire closer to their expected age at death, and retirement was planning for about 10 years, at most.

But now people are looking at retirements of 20 years or more.

There are ways to deal with this. One can work longer. One can save much more during working years. One can get used to a lower standard of living in retirement.

Or one can deliberately shorten one’s retirement via … various means.

As mentioned above, it’s traditional. (I came across that piece due to Althouse, who pivoted to talking about Bidenisms.)


I plan on taking up pipe-smoking when I’m 80. I doubt it will do much to shorten my life, having never smoked before. But hey, every little bit helps, doesn’t it?


So, here is my real piece of advice: it’s good to know your likely longevity.

Let’s just start with an individual to plan:

You can try out the Longevity Illustrator for yourself, and can use it to help plan for yourself as an individual, or you can plan for a couple.

It is a good idea to have some realistic information to work from. It’s all very well to focus on your investments…


…but you need to consider how long those investments are going to need to support you.

As for the societal problem in general, people need to think about what can actually be supported. I would rather not see a Soylent Green outcome, not because the world is overpopulated and underfed (we’re far from that), but because people are living so long in retirement and there’s not enough working people around to support that population.


The likely result will not be mass murder of the elderly (no matter how traditional), but that taxes will go up, and guaranteed benefits will go down. This, obviously, has already been going on in the United States.

I highly recommend, for those who are younger than 75, to plan accordingly.

Related Posts
COVID Quickies: The New York Times, Old People Dying, WONDER, and Fixing Graphs
Memory Monday: The Spanish Flu Peak in October 1918 and More
COVID Mortality with Meep: The John Hopkins Post That Was Yanked