Would it really be fairer, in an inter-generational sense, to whack an ‘NHS levy’ on pensioners while giving every 25-year-old £10,000 to help them buy a first home or start a business? These are recommendations by the Resolution Foundation, chaired by former Tory minister Lord Willetts, to address what it sees as a breakdown in the ‘contract’ between young and old. That contract allegedly says that each generation should expect to be better off than its parents — but in the current economic climate, many of our delicate ‘millennials’ believe they’re going to end up worse off, unable to afford their own homes and saddled with the ever-rising cost of healthcare for oldsters who refuse to pay for it themselves.
Well, I wouldn’t really call that a contract, kids, more an unwarranted sense of entitlement. What’s more like a contract is the idea that if you work for 45 years, pay your taxes and stay out of jail, you should be able to look forward to a relatively comfortable old age. The young, after all, really have no idea what the future will look like — but I can tell them that it looked dire for my lot, starting adult life in the mid-1970s, and turned out fine. The only answer is to knuckle down, get on with life and see what happens.
I’m not averse, on the other hand, to the £10,000-at-25 proposal, but I’d invite the young to compete for it rather than receive it as of right, explaining what they plan to do with the cash, and the well-off old to pay for it on an individual, face-to-face basis. That way, the donor could also offer the recipient a bracing lecture on how to shape up.
This is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s ‘Any other business’ column.