The one unalterable fact with which aging related public policy must contend is that…
“You can’t take it with you.”
Financial capital is no good to the dead. Social capital matters only to the living.
Society must therefore find effective and just means for transmitting wealth across the generations. It must.
Just think of Shakespeare’s Lear. An aging monarch, convinced of his own decrepitude, whose intention is ” To shake all cares and business from our age, / Conferring them on younger strengths, while we / Unburden’d crawl toward death.”
How did it work out? Well, the play is among the Bard’s greatest tragedies and nearly all of the main characters are dead before the closing curtain so let’s just say that Lear does not offer a firm footing for thought in this area.
Lear transfers his financial capital en bloc to his two older daughters and thereby makes himself into a pauper. He banishes his youngest and most beloved daughter and thereby squanders the greatest part of his social capital.
Following this act of unparalleled folly, the King still expects to retain the full measure of his status and authority. The fool is right when he names the King the greatest fool of all. “Thou shouldst not have been old, till thou hadst been wise. …..”
There is a nexus, a dynamic interplay between social and financial capital which the fool understands but the King does not.
Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind,
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
This is the essence of the problem with which public policy and its bigger stronger cousin, human culture, must forever struggle.
How shall the transmission of wealth across the generations be meshed with the intergenerational social obligation?