Banking on Death or Investing in Life : The History and Future of Pensions
Banking on Death offers a panoramic view of the history and future of pension provision. A work of unique scope, it traces the origins and development of the pension idea, from the days of the French Revolution to the troubles of the modern welfare state. As we live longer, employers are closing their pension schemes and many claim that public treasuries will not be able to cope with the retirement of the babyboomers. Banking on Death analyses the challenge facing public schemes and the malfunctioning of private retirement provision, concluding with a bold proposal for how to pay for decent pensions for all. Robin Blackburn argues that pension funds have been depleted by wasteful promotion and used as gambling chips by ruthless and overpaid top executives. This is the world of 'grey capitalism, ' where employees' savings are sequestrated from them and pressed into the service of corporate aggrandisement. Even the best companies find it hard to run a business and a pension fund at the same time--especially when the latter is larger than the former. The fund managers' notorious short-termism and herd instinct, and their failure to curb the greed and irresponsibility of the corporate elite, lead to obscene inequalities and a blighted social landscape. The pension privatisation lobby, Blackburn shows, has lost major battles in France and Germany, the United States and Italy, because of the popular fears it evokes. And the case for privatisation looks intellectually threadbare after withering critiques from such notable theorists as Joseph Stiglitz and Pierre Bourdieu. Banking on Death shows that pensions are political dynamite, and have undone governments from France and Italy to Argentina. Popular outcries led Reagan, Clinton, and Blair to change tack: will this happen to George W. Bush too? Blackburn argues that the ageing society will generate increased costs but, so long as the new life course is properly financed, all age groups will gain. He proposes a public regime of asset-based welfare, drawing on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Rudolf Meidner, that could ensure secondary pensions for all and foster a more responsible, egalitarian and humane pattern of economic development.
- Paperback | 550 pages
- 152 x 204 x 38mm | 839g
- 10 Jan 2004
- Verso Books
- London, United Kingdom
"One of the best books I have read on pension funds." - Independent "Blackburn does an excellent job of tracing recent developments." - Economist "In stormy waters and under darkening skies, Banking on Death stands like a lighthouse, providing a beam of orientation on a solid rock of research." - Goran Therborn "Blackburn is particularly good at disentangling the different dynamics that make the pensions problem so intractable for mature, aging economies." - Sir Howard Davis, Director, FSA, Guardian "...required reading for all those interested in the pensions industry. That is, all of us." - Barry Marshall, Public Service Review: Finance "This is an important and disturbing book. Blackburn is a master of the complexities of pension provision. He unsettles belief in a commercial fix to the challenge of social insurance." -- Richard Sennett "Plenty of food for thought" --Times Literary Supplement "If Karl Marx were alive today, he would be in the British Library devouring everything he could find on pension funds: the new fuel of global capitalism. Robin Blackburn has read everything, and in this urgent and brilliant book, proposes a new strategy that unites workers of the world around the democratic control of their savings." -- Mike Davis "Timely and important reading." - Kevin Phillips, Los Angeles Times
About Robin Blackburn
Robin Blackburn teaches social history and political economy at the University of Essex in the UK and the New School University in New York and is and editor of New Left Review.