Superannuation and civil society

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It is arguable that the method of securing income after retirement via the financial markets needs re-examining.

The question arises: Why bother going via the financial market instead of finding a taxation system which achieves intergenerational wealth transfers, excludes the examples of rent seeking, exploitation of information asymmetries and worse, and allows young people to start their working life without debt incurred while studying?

This argument strikes at the heart of the nature of our civil society.
The social democratic ideal of cradle to grave became the aspirational model in the era after WWII. Evidently, however, even in the most enthusiastic social democratic societies, the model was only ever partially enacted. Moreover, since the 1970s, this model has come under attack, first in the wake of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and then by virtue of voters turning against parties that adhered to the social democratic consensus. Chasing votes, these social democratic parties have changed their tune. This is the politico-cultural setting in which the current finance market based superannuation system worldwide arose.

Now let us look at preferred options from the point of view of citizens. They ask themselves, “How do I fund my retirement?” If I pay taxes now, will a viable and sympathetic state still exist when I come to withdraw a pension? Or are the financial markets a more secure repository of my post-retirement hopes? If you were a German, you might answer one way. If you were a Greek you might answer in another way. Australia inhabits the space between Germany and Greece. How trustworthy are Australian social security institutions? Are they more or less dependable than global financial markets? The answer is not clear and any answer is debatable.

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