In a fascinating coincidence, I have begun thinking about what I think will be a true squeeze on many farm operations now aggressively expanding to bring in the next generation. (There is a good reason we're all about succession at FJ, for instance.)
But I think we could be headed for a difficult margin-erosion period and that all the histrionic pestering of Congress for mandated ethanol markets will arrive too slowly in demand (if at all). Meanwhile, production is grow briskly.
The result will be fathers and sons eating through some high-priced rents (and Aaron and I will be poster-farmers). This is pessimistic (except for the survivors), but I think a real possibility. Of course, not gambling on rents has its own abrupt ending as well - like not farming.
So last week on USFR I mentioned our game plan in abstract: my ideal retirement will be one expense we will cut to stay in the game. (Nice response here) The idea of oldsters leading care-free, independent, and fully funded life is fairly new, and for much the same reasons. It was a luxury that took resources from families and generations who needed them more.
COTTON MATHER'S BIG IDEASo, if we have to economize, the first to go will be stacks of cash laying around just to reassure my increasing fearful mind. Further, in order to capitalize the farm and minimize debt, I will essentially become dependent on my sons, as they run the farm. It will be their younger and brighter minds that determine dad's allowance, as it were.
Old people hanging on to their worldly goods also threatened the social and economic fabric of Colonial America. Celebrated Puritan zealot Cotton Mather is generally credited with stimulating the national appetite for witch trials. But few people realize that he was among the first to try to force the elderly to retire. ''Be so wise as to disappear of your own Accord,'' he exhorted them. ''Be glad of dismission. . . . Be pleased with the Retirement which you are dismissed into.'' Nobody listened.BISMARCK INVENTS RETIREMENTIn 1883, Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany had a problem. Marxists were threatening to take control of Europe. To help his countrymen resist their blandishments, Bismarck announced that he would pay a pension to any nonworking German over age 65. Bismarck was no dummy. Hardly anyone lived to be 65 at the time, given that penicillin would not be available for another half century. Bismarck not only co-opted the Marxists, but set the arbitrary world standard for the exact year at which old age begins and established the precedent that government should pay people for growing old. [More]
This may be more natural than we think. Consider this story from about ants:
In a fascinating turn, Wilson does the opposite in the book’s middle section, titled “The Anthill Chronicles.” Presented as Raff’s undergraduate thesis, it carries the reader down the ant-hole to describe life from the ants’ point of view. No writer could do this better, and Wilson’s passion serves him best here. His language achieves poetic transcendence when describing “the decency of ants,” whose disabled members “leave and trouble no more.” When the nest must be defended, its eldest residents — with the least long-term utility remaining to them — become the most suicidally aggressive, “obedient to a simple truth that separates our two species: Where humans send their young men to war, ants send their old ladies.” [More]The way I look at it, Jan and I have extracted wealth from the farm as needed to live pretty well. Indeed, we now have a lower "long-term utility". We can do our share of the scrimping in the next few years, especially if it advances the lives and possibilities of the following generations.