May 29, 2005


A tale of two constitutions (GLYN FORD, 5/30/05, The Japan Times)

On Sunday the world watched as the French electorate voted on whether to approve the new European constitution, and it will watch once again Wednesday when Holland holds a similar referendum. Both results will help determine the future direction and role of the European Union in the world.

Within two years the people of Japan will make a similar choice. For the first time since World War II, they will vote in a referendum on whether to amend their Constitution. Indeed, Japan has a team of senior politicians led by the chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Taro Nakayama, observing the EU process.

Together the Japanese and EU referendums promise to affect the whole nature of global politics. New constitutions will transform the international roles of both Japan and Europe from being merely economic superpowers and global cash cows (currently the two largest donors of international aid) into global political players posing a real challenge to American domination and unilateralism.

Dream on...Four Surprises in Global Demography (Nicholas Eberstadt, August 20, 2004, AEI Online)
Sustained reductions in family size in the context of peace and social progress were first witnessed in late eighteenth-century Europe. In the first half of the twentieth century, European countries unveiled another demographic first: non-catastrophic sub-replacement fertility. During the interwar period, a number of European states reported fertility patterns that, if continued, would lead to an eventual stabilization and indefinite population decline thereafter, absent offsetting immigration. These low fertility regimens were entirely voluntary: heretofore, such low birth rates had virtually always been attended by war, pestilence, famine, or disaster. Europe experienced a baby boom after World War II, but sub-replacement fertility has now returned with a vengeance.

To maintain long-term population stability, a society's women must bear an average of about 2.1 children per lifetime. According to projections of the U.S. Census Bureau, Europe's total fertility rate (or TFR-births per woman per lifetime) is about 1.4. Indeed, nearly all the world's developed regions--Australia and New Zealand, North America, Japan, and the highly industrialized East Asian outposts of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea--are reporting sub-replacement fertility. (Israel remains an exception.) But sub-replacement fertility is clearly no longer mainly a developed-nation phenomenon. If the Census Bureau's projections are roughly accurate, just about half the world's population lives in sub-replacement countries or territories.

Apart from Mongolia, according to the Census Bureau, all of East Asia is sub-replacement, as are Thailand and Burma in Southeast Asia, Kazakstan and Sri Lanka in South Central Asia, many Caribbean societies, and most South American countries. [...]

The United States is the singular and major exception to the demographic rhythms characterizing virtually all other affluent Western states.

In Western Europe, total populations are anticipated to decline between 2000 and 2025, with a substantial shrinkage in the under-fifty-five population and pronounced population aging. In the United States, overall population aging is much more moderate; the overall population is projected to increase, and a higher number of young people are expected in 2025 than today.

Part of this difference is attributable to a significant divergence in fertility patterns. As already noted, Europe's overall TFR stands in the 1.4 to 1.5 range, with Italy and Spain on the low end, at about 1.2, and France and Ireland on the high end, at about 1.8. The U.S. fertility rate has been over 2.0 since 1990 and is just under replacement today--somewhere between 2.0 and the 2.1 replacement level, making it about 40 percent higher than Europe's.

America's fertility levels have diverged not just from Europe's but from those of the rest of the developed world. The U.S. TFR is much higher than Japan's 1.3-1.4, and the gap is even greater with some of the other high-income East Asian countries. Even much of North America does not look so "American" these days: whereas the United States and Canada had nearly identical fertility levels back in the mid-1970s, Canada looks pretty European today, and the United States looks--well, pretty American. While the States is reporting a TFR of over 2, Canada's is around 1.5.

Much of the developed world is caught up in what Ron Lesthaege and Dirk van de Kaa have dubbed "the second demographic transition"--a shift to smaller desired family sizes and less stable family unions. If this is the new demographic revolution, Americans look to be the developed world's most prominent counterrevolutionaries.

America's relatively high TFR does not seem to be explained by any particular region or ethnicity. There are big fertility differences between some states, but forty-two states reported TFRs above 1.9 that year, and thirty-three reported TFRs of 2.0 or higher. In all of Europe, by contrast, the only country with an estimated TFR above 2.0 is Albania.

America's ethnic fertility differentials do not account for its demographic divergence from Europe. Hispanic Americans maintain relatively large family sizes in the United States, with a TFR of around 2.7, but excluding them by no means eliminates the gap between the United States and the rest of the developed world. Nor can the differential be explained by factoring out African-American fertility (which is higher than the "Anglo" rate, but much closer to the Anglo rate than to the Latinos'). In 2000, America's Anglo TFR was 1.84--about 10 percent less than the U.S. national average, but still more than 30 percent above Europe's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 29, 2005 8:27 PM

New constitutions will transform [...] both Japan and Europe [...] into global political players posing a real challenge to American domination and unilateralism.

Ha !
"Posing" is right.
Constitutions are meaningless without the will to spend heavily on military readiness, and to accept the inevitable loss of life when the military is used.

So far, Europe seems to lack the will to do either, and a spankin' new constitution won't change that.

Japan might have the will to do both, but Japanese and U.S. national interests coincide in a number of areas, and clash hardly at all.

Also: [B]y the year 2025, it is expected that one out of nine people [in Japan] will be eighty or older.
A UN Population Division study estimates what levels of net immigration flows would be necessary for developed countries to maintain [...] their working-age population (15-64 years of age)...
For Japan, [600,000] net newcomers a year would be needed [...] for workforce stability. But Japan's net immigration rate today is approximately zero.

Hard to beat the world with geezers, although Japan might, as will the U.S., build combat robots and remote-controlled combat vehicles.
Supervising and controlling such won't call for much strength or endurance, and experience will be a plus, so maybe...

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 30, 2005 8:03 AM