Monday, January 14, 2013

The tyranny of the old and the rested

Douglas MacArthur famously said that old soldiers never die.  Now, it seems like old politicians and professors don't either.  They hang around forever and ever, and even make a return just as we ease into thinking that they are gone!

The US Senate looks like it is some kind of a geriatric ward, where the older folks keep mumbling to themselves.  Representatives? Not!
Congress is decidedly older than the populace it represents: Although Americans may serve in the House beginning at age 25, only 10 percent of House members have been under the age of 40 in recent years. By comparison, 22 percent of the general population and 30 percent of registered voters are between 25 and 39 years old. The average American is more than 20 years younger than the person who represents him or her in the House. 
Watching India's political scene, one might erroneously conclude that very few kids are ever born in that country.  The following chart from the Economist points to the wide gap between the median age of the population and the average age of the governing cabinet:

With the prime minister at 80 and the president at 76, and with such a senior-citizen cabinet, no wonder they can't relate to most pressing public issues of the day!

But, there is more than that.  Old not merely as age, but also as "been there for a long time."

Here in Oregon, we re-elected a governor who, I thought, was done after his two terms in office.  But, after his successor completed two terms of his own, the previous guy came back to his old seat.   

Down south in California, Jerry Brown returned to the governor's mansion in California after serving through the Golden State's truly golden years that now seem long gone.  In between, it felt like he ran for every possible elected position, except as a dogcatcher.

What the heck is going on, eh!

The world of academe, well, no young turks anymore, it feels like, when senior-citizen faculty simply do not want to quit.

Maybe all these people need to be reminded that they ought to be in the Vanaprastha stage of their lives :)

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

I don't think you are arguing against age per se as "been there a long time". It is not unnatural at all that the cabinet that governs a country should be older than the average population - after all experience and hopefully maturity is a very important quality required for governance. Similar is the situation with company boards or leadership of other institutions. I want people in their 50s and 60s - if the cabinet of a country was full of 20 year olds, I will have a serious problem.

The problem really is the "not going away" problem. Nobody retires - everybody goes on till the Maker calls him back. This is especially true in politics. You have term limits for the President but not for Senators and Congressmen. Term limits should become the norm everywhere. The sight of a Karunanidhi, who can barely stand up, still wanting to be Chief Minister is extremely pathetic.