Paul opens the show by asking if we have to live life in a certain order. In economics, the Life-Cycle Hypothesis (LCH) explains how individuals borrow from future earnings when young and then accumulate in middle age only to deplete in retirement and old age. So-called “consumption smoothing” strives to explain the standard way people approach life. But is this the best way? “What about the opportunity cost of youth?” asks Pete. Isn’t it best to adventure when you’re young and healthy and your knees don’t creak? Young people need confidence in the future if they’re to delay instant gratification. Paul brings up the example of Israel during The Second Intifada (2000-2005). Aware that life could end at any moment, young Israelis engaged in sex, drugs and consumption, demonstrating their lack of confidence in the future. Halfway through the episode, Pete challenges Paul about his life of dabbling: would he have been happier had he stuck with something? They contemplate regret, but then ask if anyone can consciously acknowledge regret because we never know the outcome of paths not taken. After a tangent in which the guys discuss euthanasia and the bestseller, When Breath Becomes Air, Peter and Paul wrap up by concluding that the safety and longevity nearly guaranteed by wealthy Western countries takes the pressure off folks and allows them to drift, partly explaining the extended adolescence of the millennials. In the second half of the show, we tackle The Reversible Society. What happens to a society wherein commitments can easily be unwound? Paul quips that such “flexibility is great because you don’t have to live with your choices.” This is at odds with all the great examples from history and literature in which individuals labor under the weight of their decisions. For one thing, such flexibility creates individuals with low conviction. As Paul explains, war is the the final bastion of commitment: you can’t really flirt with war, you can’t sort-of invade a country. In the end, a Reversible Society creates citizens who are careless with their personal decision-making.
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