October 6, 2004


Now, dangers of a population implosion: Concerned about projected population decline, some nations are encouraging citizens to have more children. (David R. Francis, 10/07/04, CS Monitor)

For decades, much has been written about the world's exploding population. But 60 countries, about a third of all nations, have fertility rates today below 2.1 children per woman, the number necessary to maintain a stable population. Half of those nations have levels of 1.5 or less. In Armenia, Italy, South Korea, and Japan, average fertility levels are now close to one child per woman.

Barring unforeseen change, at least 43 of these nations will have smaller populations in 2050 than they do today.

This baby dearth has potentially weighty economic consequences for governments worried about everything from economic vitality to funding future pension programs and healthcare. That's why many of them have been taking measures designed to encourage their citizens to multiply. For example:

• Starting this year, France's government has been awarding mothers of each new baby 800 euros, almost $1,000.

• In Italy, the government is giving mothers of a second child 1,000 euros.

• South Korea has expanded tax breaks for families with young children and is increasing support for day-care centers for working women.

• Last year parliament members in Singapore called on the government to do more to keep Cupid and the stork busy.

• Japanese prefectures have been organizing hiking trips and cruises for single people - dating programs to halt the baby bust.

Japanese singles are often called "parasites" because, when they retire, they have no children paying into the national pension system or helping out otherwise.

Estonia's President Arnold Rüütel last year in a television address urged the country's 1.4 million residents to produce more babies, or face a rapidly declining population.

British authorities also worry about the fertility rate. The Office of National Statistics says fertile women will need to have three children to keep Britain's population at 59 million into the future.

Even China, despite its 1.3 billion people, is reportedly considering revising its "one child" rule since its fertility rate of 1.39 is creating an older population - and social and economic problems.

It was easy enough to prey on peoples' natural predisposition towards selfishness and hatred of others to get populations declining, but how do you remoralize the world and get them to care again about something other than their own comfort, to care about a future that will come after they're gone?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 6, 2004 8:06 PM

Now that Howard Stern will soon be going off the public airwaves, maybe society will once again adopt the concept of sex as procreation instead of just plain recreation.

Posted by: Vince at October 6, 2004 8:15 PM

Isn't it just amazing how the facts just keep coming in to support your many year long position on Nations and population.
Yet, you are still, in many ways, a voice crying out in the wilderness.
gotta Love It!

Posted by: Mike Daley at October 6, 2004 8:43 PM

oj, you're asking the right question. Europundits are asking the wrong ones. Will Hutton's Sunday Observer piece faults society for not letting women have it all. He never addresses that we've become self-obsessed to the point where children are a barrier to self-fulfillment. Here's the problem in his words:

The decision to have a child is not just about having your own roof over your head; it is about whether the wider economic, social and cultural structures support women's need both to combine independence and the rewards from working with all the demands that fall to them in child-rearing.

In other words, it's unfair to expect raising children to entail sacrificing other things. How, indeed, does one put that genie back in the bottle?

Posted by: Dave Sheridan at October 6, 2004 10:14 PM

Not only will at least 43 nations have smaller populations in 2050, but, as tangentially noted by the piece, those populations will be on average much older.
Thus, even if the fertile segment of their populations in 2050 started having four kids apiece, (which seems quite unlikely), their populations would continue to decline for some time.

Orrin, your editorial seems to suggest that there were organized attempts to get people to stop having children, which is true of only a handful of nations. For the vast majority of nations with very low fertility rates, the phenomenon was brought about by a combination of factors that was overseen by no one.
I would note that the US would be on that list of nations with sub-replacement fertility if we hadn't had the benefit of robust immigration from Mexico over the past thirty years.
First generation Americans still have higher than average birth rates, although their daughters revert to the mean.

However, it's not necessary to try to institute a modern version of "close your eyes and think of England".
For most people, the future will come long before they're gone, it part because people are going to be living much longer. A vigorous educational advertisement campaign, pointing out that a comfortable retirement depends on having enough future workers, may help slow the decline of the fertility rate.
Also, we could provide large subsidized homes to young couples with children, perhaps paying 20% of the mortgage per child; have five kids, get a free house.
Or, we could pay women an annual stipend per child, say $ 10,000 each. Have five kids, drive a Mercedes.
Such a policy would only have cost approximately $ 800 billion last year.


It's unfair to expect that raising children will entail only feminine sacrifice. Males will have to sacrifice more, if we expect women to have more kids.

Right now, most women would rather be at home with their kids. If we can find a way to order society to allow that to happen, we'll be halfway to a population explosion.

Posted by: Michael "Doing His Best to Increase the Population" Herdegen at October 6, 2004 11:30 PM


Planned Parenthood, the environmental movement, contraception, abortion, etc. social elites conspired to reduce human population.

Americans of European extraction actually do reproduce at replacement rate.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2004 11:36 PM

Further, there may be no reason to desire population increases. The biggest current problem with a static or shrinking population is trying to support the future's projected huge elderly population.

However, it's fairly likely that future increases in productivity and robotics may make such support only modestly painful, a possibility that Orrin once called the "R2D2 and C-3PO ride to the rescue" scenario.
Although we shouldn't depend on such an occurrence to save our (turkey) bacon, it's entirely possible that it might.

A low overall fertility rate is a Darwinian event that is weeding out those strains of humanity that don't value children as much as they do other things.
Even in Japan, a nation that Orrin likes to pick on for their extraordinarily low birth rate, there are many people with no children, and a minority of couples with several children. It's not a situation where every couple has but one child.
Over time, the vast majority that remain will be descendants of people who had more than one child, and those people will be more likely to have larger families themselves, for developmental psychological reasons, if nothing else.

In the US, those dynamics mean that the children of Latter-day Saints, Catholics, Muslims, Latinas, and the currently poor will be the vast majority of the future population.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 1:02 AM

Americans of European extraction currently have a 1.9 child fertility rate; the replacement rate is 2.1.

Planned Parenthood, contraception, and abortion filled an existing demand, they didn't spring up out of thin air.
They weren't sponsored by the government, churches, or big business, they were bitterly opposed by the government and churches.

How much impact did the environmental movement really have on fertility rates ?
There might have been a few members of the Sierra Club who didn't have kids because they feared for the future, but that has a silver lining, for who wants a future population of pessimists ?
There are still a few ignorant Americans who preach about the evils of overpopulation in America; one is Ted Turner, who has five children.

Social elites have certainly succeeded in lowering fertility for their own class, but again, have they really had much impact on American fertility as a whole ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 1:33 AM


Less on America because of our stubborn Christian faith.

Your vision of societies where the elderly are cared for by robots yet folk are happy and society healthy is deranged.

One of the many arguments against Darwinism is the fauilure of populations to correct back upwards and their decline when they had ample resources.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2004 1:36 AM

The wrong people have the children. In the First World, it is the welfare recipients and the non-productive who generally have the largest broods. And the population of the Third World continues to grow exponentially. The problem of scarce resources just gets worse, and desertification is commonplace in Africa and Asia, as herds overgraze the grasslands.

Frankly, what the planet needs is a good epidemic, wiping out about half the First World and about 90% of the Third World. Then, we might actually have a chance of getting things right.

Posted by: Bart at October 7, 2004 7:06 AM


Michael's vision was most certainly not what you allege.

He clearly meant that increases in productivity will provide sufficient additional societal wealth to provide the fiscal wherewithal that would otherwise have to provided by a growing population.

That has nothing to do with robots caring for old people. Your reading of English is deranged.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 7, 2004 7:29 AM


You're not giving Darwinism enough time.
The general decline in fertility rates is only, at most, 30 years old, or two human generations. The uptick in fertility rates is, at most, forty years away, or two human generations.
Thus, there would have been a mild decline, then a mild upswing in fertility, over four generations, which is what, eight rabbit years ?

My vision of the future is that robots can replace many of the people working in restaurants and movie theaters, factories and farms. Helper robots will allow aged people to stay in their homes longer, until they need constant medical oversight. Robots can replace nurse's aids in retirement homes and hospitals.
I do not envision a future where the elderly live surrounded by only robots, with no human contact. Not only would that be undesirable to the residents and their families, it wouldn't be economical, either.


The behavior of third world peasants is logical, for their environment, and if 90% of them died, the remainder would have even more children.
30% of Africans are going to die over the next twenty years anyhow, of AIDS.

Half of the first world dying won't solve the problem of the poor having large families, unless only the foolish and/or low income people died.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 7:47 AM


As you see, Michael's vision is precisely of a future with diminishing contact among humans, especially the aged and infirm, a condition that is making SuperMax prisoners psychotic.


You give Darwinism all the time you want, America isn't.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2004 9:08 AM


Luckily the wrong people are the ones who've stopped having children: secularists.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2004 9:10 AM

It's not enough for whites to replace, they must
outpace other groups in their midst, or stem
the flow. Bio-diversity demands it.

Posted by: J.H. at October 7, 2004 9:26 AM


No, it isn't. It is about a society so much more productive that increased taxes retirement are bearable.

It has not the first thing to do with diminished contact among humans.

Your distortion of obvious meaning would find a proud place at dailykos.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 7, 2004 12:07 PM

"In other words, it's unfair to expect raising children to entail sacrificing other things. How, indeed, does one put that genie back in the bottle?"

Dave, the genie gets back in the bottle when career women realize that the work world is a ravenous beast that never sleeps and will chew them up, glean every ounce of productive flesh from their carcasses and spit out their bones when its done with them. It is not a genie of wish fulfillment.

Michael, having children cannot be justified by a cost/benefit calculation of desire fulfillment. It is either an overriding goal of your life to continue the propagation of Life, to find your core meaning from this duty to preserve Life, or it is not. If it is looked at as a source of personal pleasure to be compared against other sources, or as a "retirement plan" it will lose out, because it will be the most expensive pleasure or retirement plan out there.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 7, 2004 12:19 PM

1) Any ideas on at what level the population will stabilize?

2) Remember the joker in the deck -- the harems of Wahabi/Salafi breeding stock (including those in the "cite" slums of France) keep squirting out little Mohammeds for Jihad. One group has a low birthrate (below replacement rate), the other a high one; which one's going to go extinct and which will dominate from sheer numbers?

Posted by: Ken at October 7, 2004 12:51 PM


I there is more to it than an overriding goal to propagate life.

In pre-modern societies, children were both a source of wealth and care in old age for those few to reach that point. Pre-modern societies have large families.

In other words, there has always been a personal utilitarian component to the decision to have a child.

In modern societies, children are a wealth sink, and people can gain sufficient resources during their productive years to--even absent social security--provide for themselves during their sunset years. In fact, the fewer children, the more to retire with.

There is still a personal utilitarian component to the decision to have a child. The result being all modern societies have far fewer children. I'll bet this is true even for religions which teach world domination through procreation--Mormons, for example.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 7, 2004 2:24 PM

Can't you see bedtime at Casa de Guinn? Good night little wealth sinks and soon to be unplugged.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2004 2:34 PM


You get all of your human contact by working in the backroom at McDonald's ?
If so, then yes, you will be much more lonely in the future.

Further, assume that affordable high-functioning robots don't come about in time to help aged Boomers.
Who exactly do you believe is going to be spending quality time, or any time, with them ?
There won't be enough affordable help to keep Boomers in their own homes, so they're going to be warehoused in gi-normous nursing homes, with a nurse's aid coming around twice a day to get them up and put them to bed, and to give 'em their meds.
If you were to bother to learn anything about nursing homes, you'd see that it's not a pretty situation now for non-wealthy seniors who can't manage on their own anymore, and in a future without robotic peons, it's going to get worse.
Religiously inclined Boomers better be praying that C-3PO shows up.


People make cost/benefit decisions every day about having kids.
Most women aren't at work because they want to be the President and CEO of GE; they work because they believe that they must, to continue to live in the style that they are accustomed to, or in many cases simply to survive.
That's why I had three proposals in my first post aimed at influencing those decisions, two to convince couples that they can afford to have and raise children, and one to sway a few of them with duty.
If you could convince couples to live as the average American family did in 1950, then most women wouldn't have to work, but I'd be shocked if you found many takers.

Do you know many couples to whom the overriding goal of life is to continue the propagation of Life ?
I don't know any, and I know many couples with large families. The whole Earth Mother schtick is certainly part of most womens' makeup, but having kids doesn't require that it be the most prominent part.


800 million, 100 million.
In America, immigration will more than make up for low fertility rates for another century or so.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 2:50 PM

Once the governmenmt stops subsidizing nursing homes they'll move back with their kids and grandkids and we'll import immigrants to help care for them. those kids making $9 at McDonalds will make $15 looking after grandad.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2004 3:03 PM

Wow. A gold-plated utopian fantasy.

Society would have to undergo changes equal to those of the sixties, but in the opposite direction. "Turn off, tune out, drop in", eh ?
Re-read your own editorial to the main post. You don't believe it'll happen.

I'll hail you as the world's greatest futurist if the majority of Boomers are living with their children or grandchildren by 2030, without helper 'bots.

Besides, according to Fukuyama, whose works you've vigorously attempted to defend in the past, since the elderly will comprise such a great percentage of the population, there's no chance that the government will stop subsidizing nursing or retirement homes.

Jeff Guinn:

Regarding Latter-day Saints and fertility rates: Yes, that's true.
However, a "small" LDS family is still a "large" American family.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 8:44 PM


You're gonna hate my guts for writing this, but you and J.H. need to book a room together.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 9, 2004 9:51 AM