Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How retirement evolved

My article "From Bismarck to Bush: How the Idea of Retirement Evolved" is now online at Research magazine. The print version includes an old cartoon of "Bismarck struggling with a Socialist jack-in-the box." Here's how the piece opens:

On November 17, 1881, German Kaiser Wilhelm I issued an imperial decree stating that “those who are disabled from work by age and invalidity have a well-grounded claim to care from the state.” The driving force behind this pronouncement was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who had unified Germany, unleashed victorious wars against Austria and France and was now intent on creating the world’s first broadly available pension system.

Throughout the 1880s, Bismarck pushed for the creation of government social programs. The German pension system, financed by mandatory contributions from employers and employees, was enacted in 1889. When critics contended that such measures were socialistic, Bismarck replied insouciantly: “Call it socialism or whatever you like. It is the same to me.”

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