March 12, 2008


The Demographic Winter and the Barren Left (Steven W. Mosher, March 12, 2008, First Things)

The Nation, a hard left publication of secular bent, is no friend of faith, life, or family. Still, I was expecting to be more amused than outraged by the lead article in the March issue, profiling the work of the Population Research Institute (PRI) and several other groups collectively concerned about falling fertility rates worldwide. The piece opens with the eye-catching line: “Steve Mosher is telling me about wolves returning to the streets of European towns . . . [during] the Black Death.”

Nothing calumnious here. I did, over a lengthy lunch at a sunny Main Street café in Front Royal, Virginia, say this very thing—and much more—to the author, radical feminist Kathryn Joyce. In the context of falling birth rates in Europe, I told her a cautionary tale about Europe’s earlier demographic collapse—the one that was caused by the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages—that left the continent in a century-long depression. If the demographic winter that now holds Europe in its grip continues, I concluded, then not only its people but also its economies may be expected to wither and die as they did centuries earlier. Much of the rest of the world seems set to follow, I told her. I have been a demographic bore for some time now, and the conversation was chockablock with numbers, statistics, and fertility rates.

Ms. Joyce did a good impersonation of listening, but her article is almost devoid of demographics.

Looking at the numbers would force them to acknowledge the problem, so they don't. How many analyses have you read of the Israel/Palestine war or the Japanese malaise or the "rising threat" of Russia or China or U.S. housing prices that give demographics the attention they deserve?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 12, 2008 8:50 AM

I doubt the impact will be as bad as the Black Death. Unlike then, productivity is mostly determined by how educated and skilled the workforce is, not by the sheer number of bodies. You also can't put much faith in projections that go over the course of the century. the future is unpredictable. Who knows, the Japanese might get religion and start churning out babies twenty years hence.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at March 12, 2008 9:56 AM

Wolves roaming the streets of Europe would be a relatively benign outcome compared to the more likely alternative of underemployed radicalized Muslims.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at March 12, 2008 11:26 AM