Gray Dawn: How the Coming Age Wave Will Transform America -- And the World

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The major economies of the world are on a collision course toward a huge, as-yet-unseen iceberg: global aging. Increased longevity is a blessing, but it carries with it costs and questions few countries wish to deal with. This looming demographic challenge may become the transcendent issue of the twenty-first century, affecting not just our economies but our political systems, our lifestyles, our ethics, and even our military security. In Gray Dawn, Peter G. Peterson, the respected statesman of Washington and ...
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New York 1999 Hardcover First Edition. 280 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Like New. CURRENT AFFAIRS. The major economies of the world are on a collision course toward a huge, ... as-yet-unseen iceberg: global aging. Increased longevity is a blessing, but it carries with it costs and questions few countries wish to deal with. This looming demographic challenge may become the transcendent issue o the twenty-first century, affecting not just our economies but out political systems, our lifestyles, our ethics, and even our military security. Includes an Index. "Pete Peterson is the watchman on deck warning us all to wake up because of the 'Iceberg dead ahead! ' His facts are explosive. His stories, rich. His colution, compelling."-Diane Sawyer, ABC News (Key Words: Demography, Peter G. Peterson, Current Affairs, Aging, Economic Policy, Social Policy, Gender Gap, Trust Funds, Taxes, Social Security, Savings Rates, Sweden, Retirement, Pay-As-You-Go Systems, OECD, Medicare, Life Expectancy, International Monetary Read more Show Less

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Overview

The major economies of the world are on a collision course toward a huge, as-yet-unseen iceberg: global aging. Increased longevity is a blessing, but it carries with it costs and questions few countries wish to deal with. This looming demographic challenge may become the transcendent issue of the twenty-first century, affecting not just our economies but our political systems, our lifestyles, our ethics, and even our military security. In Gray Dawn, Peter G. Peterson, the respected statesman of Washington and Wall Street, sounds the warning bell and prescribes a set of detailed solutions that, if implemented early, will prevent the need for Draconian measures later.
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Editorial Reviews

Robert J Samuelson
[Peterson] is an admitted alarmist on aging....The book [refutes] all the reasons that we have been given not to worry.
The New Republic
Alan Wolfe
When the sky does fall, those once denounced as Chicken Littles suddenly become prophets. Peterson may turn out to be one of them....Americans may someday rue the fact that, back when the emerging problems were so clearly and compellingly described in Gray Dawn, they did not pay attention. —WQ: The Wilson Quarterly
David Kusnet
...Gray Dawn explores the aging of the entire developed world and offers a provocative introduction to an issue whose explications extend well beyond government budgets....Bringing so many children into the world [in the baby boom generation] was an act of faith by families who believed that their fellow citizens would honor their obligations...across the lines of class and generation. —The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
The elderly constitute an increasingly larger share of the population, particularly in the most industrialized countries. Peterson (When the Boomers Retire), co-founder of the Concord Coalition and adviser to governments at various levels, warns that steps must be taken now to avert the crises, primarily financial, that demographic changes could bring. The near future will see each elderly person supported by fewer workers. Social programs differ around the world, as do current and future demographics, but none of the industrialized countries seems prepared for the upcoming demographic changes. Peterson also reflects on the world's political and financial power and how both might shift to countries with younger populations. He calls on leaders around the world to convene an Agency on Global Aging to discuss the issues and find global solutions, offering few answers but doing a tremendous service in keeping the issues open. -- A.J. Sobczak, formerly with California State Univ., Northridge
Chester E. Finn, Jr.
...Peterson is an incurable fretter....[but] Gray Dawn is hardly to be dismissed. It contains a great deal of information and much clear thinking, and presents a number of reasonable objectives toward which we should strive.
Commentary
Robert J Samuelson
[Peterson] is an admitted alarmist on aging....The book [refutes] all the reasons that we have been given not to worry.
The New Republic
David Kusnet
...Gray Dawn explores the aging of the entire developed world and offers a provocative introduction to an issue whose explications extend well beyond government budgets....Bringing so many children into the world [in the baby boom generation] was an act of faith by families who believed that their fellow citizens would honor their obligations...across the lines of class and generation.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
The good news is that we are all living longer. That's the bad news, too. According to all the unequivocal signs, there will soon be more grandparents than grandchildren. It's happening even more precipitously in many other developed countries than it is in the US. There's no stopping the certain ripening of the world population. The baby boom will inevitably become a senior boom, points out graybeard Peterson, a seasoned policy wonk (Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old?), and it will land us in a world of trouble. The scary demography is not news, of course, but only recently have we begun to take the challenge seriously. For those who haven't heard, it is clear that Social Security, born in 1935, will have to file for bankruptcy well before its 100th birthday if help doesn't come. It's clear that Social Security is not a trust fund but a well-intentioned Ponzi scheme. The generous policies of other advanced nations will collapse even before our own scheme reaches senility and dysfunction. Only uninformed optimists foresee a happy world of superannuated Floridians, with 4 p.m. suppers and half-price movies.

Peterson is a realist. He demonstrates fundamental changes with many convincing statistics and clear charts. Health care can't continue as is; economic growth will slow; fiscal policies will implode; Third World countries will beat us; and intergenerational strife may become the norm. The author has a few suggestions: Work longer. Have more children. Stress filial obligations. Save individually for retirement. Pay benefits on the basis of need (though one can hear cries that thrift and industry would be penalized). His peroration is an open letter to world leaders."Convene a global summit and establish an Agency on Global Aging," he urges. The geezers are coming, and they are us. A book a bit prolix but quite sagacious on an urgent topic, that might serve as a handbook for a new world agency.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812931952
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/26/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter G. Peterson is chairman of The Blackstone Group, a leading investment bank. He chairs the Council on Foreign Relations and the Institute for International Economics. He is also a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and is one of the founders of The Concord Coalition. A former secretary of commerce, Peterson has advised presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. He is married to Joan Ganz Cooney, founder of Children's Television Workshop.
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Read an Excerpt


The challenge of global aging, like a massive iceberg, looms ahead in the future of the largest and most affluent economies of the world. Visible above the waterline are the unprecedented growth in the number of elderly and the unprecedented decline in the number of youth over the next several decades. Lurking beneath the waves, and not yet widely understood, are the wrenching economic and social costs that will accompany this demographic transformation-costs that threaten to bankrupt even the greatest of powers, the United States included, unless they take action in time. Those who are most aware of the implications of this extraordinary demographic shift will best be able to prepare themselves for it, and even profit from the many opportunities it will leave in its wake.

The list of great hazards in the next century is long and generally familiar. It includes proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; high-tech terrorism; deadly superviruses; extreme climate change; the financial, economic, and political aftershocks of globalization; and the ethnic and military explosions waiting to be detonated by today's unsteady new democracies. Yet there is a less-understood challenge-the graying of the developed world's population-that may actually do more to reshape our collective future than any of the above.
        
This demographic shift cannot be avoided. It is inevitable. The timing and magnitude of the coming transformation is virtually locked in. The elderly of the first half of the next century have already been born and can be counted-and the retirement benefit systems on which they will depend are already inplace. The future costs can therefore be projected with a fair degree of certainty. Unlike global warming, for example, there can be little theoretical debate over whether global aging will manifest itself-or when. And unlike other challenges, such as financial support for new democracies, the cost of global aging will be far beyond our means-even the collective means of all the world's wealthy nations. How we confront global aging will have direct economic implications-measurable, over the next century, in the quadrillions of dollars-that will likely dwarf the other challenges. Indeed, it will greatly influence how the other challenges ultimately play out.
        
Societies in the developed world-by which I mean primarily the countries of North America, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia-are aging for three major reasons:
  •         
  • Medical advances, along with increased affluence and improvement in public health, nutrition, and safety, are raising average life expectancy dramatically.
            
  • A huge outsized baby boom generation in the United States and several other countries is now making its way through middle age.
            
  • Fertility rates have fallen, and in Japan and a number of European countries are now running far beneath the "replacement rate" necessary to replace today's population. The impact of so few young people entering tomorrow's tax-paying workforce, while so many are entering benefit-receiving elderhood, is of profound consequence.

As a result, I believe that global aging will become the transcendent political and economic issue of the twenty-first century. I will argue that-like it or not, and there's every reason to believe we won't like it-renegotiating the established social contract in response to global aging will soon dominate and daunt the public policy agendas of all the developed countries.
        
By the 2030s, these countries will be much older than they are today. Some of them may exceed a median age of 55, twenty years older than the oldest median age (35) of any country on earth as recently as 1970. Over half of the adult population of today's developed countries and perhaps two-thirds of their voters will be near or beyond today's eligibility age for publicly financed retirement. So we have to ask: When that time comes, who will be doing the work, paying the taxes, saving for the future, and raising the next generation? Can even the wealthiest of nations afford to pay for such a vast number of senior citizens living a third or more of their adult lives in what are now commonly thought of as the retirement years? Or will many of those future elderly have to do without the retirement benefits they are now promised? And what happens then?
        
This is not the first time I have spoken out on demographic trends and the clash between popular expectations and fiscal realities. In 1982, I began writing on the long-term challenges facing the U.S. Social Security system-a concern that is now, at last, moving onto the center stage of national discussion where it should have been long ago. After studying the early Reagan budgets, I spoke out against the danger of ballooning federal budget deficits, and began organizing national bipartisan efforts to control and reduce them. In the 1980s, five former Secretaries of Treasury and I founded the Bi-Partisan Budget Appeal, made up of 500 former public officials and business CEOs. In 1992, with Senators Warren Rudman and Paul Tsongas, I cofounded The Concord Coalition. This organization was devoted originally to balancing the budget. With the short-term budget outlook improving, it is now focusing on the long-term impact of ballooning spending on federal entitlement programs, which threatens to unbalance the budget again early in the next century, and on the great advantage of acting to reform them sooner rather than later. (It was in that context that the White House asked The Concord Coalition in 1998 to cohost a series of televised national conferences on the future of Social Security with an unlikely bedfellow, the American Association of Retired Persons.)
        
In 1996, I presented my views about the aging of America and the impending crisis in U.S. retirement programs in my book, Will America Grow Up Before It Grows Old? So, one might ask, why write another book on what sounds like the same subject? The answer is, it's not the same subject. My last book focused on America's own domestic problem. But while writing that book, I became aware that, imposing as the challenge of an aging society is in the United States, it is even more serious in Japan and much of Europe. In most of the other developed countries, populations are aging faster, birthrates are lower, the influx of younger immigrants from developing countries is smaller, public pension benefits for senior citizens are more generous, and private pension systems are weaker. Most of the other leading economies therefore face far worse fiscal fundamentals than we do. Even some major developing countries-China, for example-face serious aging challenges in the next century.
        
Given the instant and sometimes painful interactions within global capital markets and the likelihood of varying national responses to the coming fiscal challenge, I can easily envision that sometime in the next decade or two demographic aging will trigger unprecedented financial pressures, both on fragile regional economic arrangements such as the European Economic and Monetary Union and on the world economy as a whole. The economic and political outcome could make today's Asian or Russian crisis look like child's play.
        
Demographic aging is, at bottom, a global challenge that cries out for a global solution. That is why I have written this book.
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Table of Contents

1 Gray Dawn 3
2 Is Demography Destiny? 27
3 Fiscal Realities 65
4 No Easy Choices 95
5 New Strategies 127
6 Asking the Right Questions 177
7 Toward Global Solutions to a Global Problem: An Open Letter 230
Acknowledgments 239
Notes on Sources 241
Notes 244
Index 261
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  • Posted September 24, 2010

    Interesting book- Good reader!!!!

    The authors facts are non-bias and straight to the point. The author has had private discussions with President Clinton, Prime Minister Hashimoto, Prime Minster Thatcher, and other leaders of major economy's. You informed that all of these leaders ore all fully briefed on the stunning demographic trends that lie ahead and despite the magnitude of the challenge, the political response has been paralysis rather than action, fear rather than commitment . It is stunning how real and accurate this book is. "Hardly any country is doing what it should to prepare. Hardly any country is doing much at all. Yet year after year the crisis approaches with the measurable certainty of an advancing tidal wave"( Peterson,Peter 7) Maybe everyone in the U.S. should have read this book and the recession of 2007 could have been avoided? It also focuses on the overwhelming attention the Health-care system will be receiving and how a major overhaul is needed. Health-care reform is a hot topic in the white house at this very moment. He is almost like the Nostradamus of or time. Likes: Straight to the point. There are many graphs and pictures to help the reader visualize the numbers and staggering statistics. Chapters are very well organized. Dislikes: Very very repetitive. Many statistics are repeated. Overall I would recommend this book because it is unbelievable and interesting how spot on the author is about the future ( the book is published in 1999 and i am writhing this review in 2010) If you like being told straight up what needs to be done to correct our economy and what is being done wrong; then this is the book for you. I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars.

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