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Columnist criticizes American ‘gerontocracy’

Julius Krein writes in the New York Post that it’s time for Americans to reconsider the impact of relying on older political leaders.

From Donald Trump to Joe Biden to Bernie Sanders to Nancy Pelosi to most of the Senate, one might think that the biblical three score and ten had become a mandatory minimum for holding office.

While gerontocracy is most obvious in politics, it is present throughout American life. The average ages of university professors and administrators, banking executives, corporate CEOs and others have all been steadily rising for some time.

The fragility of this gerontocracy has been ruthlessly exposed by the COVID-19 epidemic. The crisis has also shown the damage that can be caused by a ruling class more qualified to be in long-term care than to hold important and intensely demanding positions.

One of the most amazing aspects of the global response to the coronavirus has been the total refusal to classify and treat populations according to age-related risk. Although COVID-19 can be quite deadly among older populations, it is well established that it poses a fairly minor risk for people under 50. For those under 30, the risks associated with lockdowns — increased domestic abuse, suicide, depression, drug abuse, economic hardship — are almost certainly worse than the disease itself.

Instead of imposing blanket lockdowns on everyone, it would make far more sense to isolate the elderly, while allowing those under 50 (or even 40 if one wants to be really cautious) to go to work, visit restaurants, go on vacations, attend gatherings and have real lives.

Fortuitously, places like large office buildings, restaurants and airports are already well quipped to check IDs and ages, as opposed to enforcing (somewhat arbitrary) “social distancing” requirements.

All this certainly would have been — and still would be — much better than shutting down the entire country for everyone. But it was never even considered.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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