Economics 101: Net present value

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In last week’s newspaper edition, we were reminded about the heroics of outstanding citizens who ascended to high office while still young. The writer lamented that this is no longer so.  We agree, but offer a different explanation to the one he offered.

Today’s school system does not properly prepare the youths for the world of work.  Yesteryear, you entered an examination room with no mark, today you enter with up to 40% for a 40% pass-mark!  What you came out of the examination room with was your mark, not that of a team that consists of parents, teachers and friends like today.   There was no social promotion; you had to earn the right to “move up”.  When you left school you were well grounded in whatever level you achieved.  Today, students are in subject overload, but show very little critical thinking skills.   They are so plugged in to technology that when systems fail, they cannot function, not even to make change from a $20 bill.

A corollary of this is that the old Bachelors’ degrees indicated rigour, discipline, maturity. Today, there are so many university options – onshore, offshore, on campus, on line – and so many ‘disciplines’ that it is difficult to make sense of Bachelor degrees anymore.  Sadly, Masters degrees are also moving in that direction too.

Today’s youth do not have the quality of parental support that previously existed.   It isn’t that parents are not helping, and it is not that parents are younger than yesteryear, it is that parents and grandparents are themselves busy making a living.  Also, the other support structure – the village – has changed.  It is not as nurturing as before.

In the era of empowered youth, employment opportunities were limited; therefore the civil service got the brightest and best.   Today students head for the private sector where the pay is much better.  It is mostly the second tier that comes to the public service, but they don’t come to stay and they say so.  It is difficult to fully invest in such persons.

Funny as this may seem, maybe today’s 50 year old in yesterday’s 33 year old.  By this we mean that people are living longer and the retirement age is going higher and higher (some countries are removing it altogether).  We already posited that yesterday’s youth maturity level is equivalent to that of today’s  mid-lifer.  Yesterday, persons could have exited the public service as young as mid 40’s with full pension rights and with a life expectancy into the early 60’s.   Now they can stay until age 60 and expected to live to late 70’s.

Maybe this is nature’s way of balancing the economics of life.