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The De-Population Bomb
In 1970, Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich published a famous book, The Population Bomb, in which he predicted a disastrous future for humanity: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” That prediction turned out to be very wrong, and in this interview American Enterprise Institute scholar Nicholas Eberstadt tells how we are in fact heading toward the opposite problem: not enough people. For decades now, many countries have been unable to sustain a population replacement birth rate, including in Western Europe, South Korea, Japan, and, most ominously, China. The societal and social impacts of this phenomenon are vast. We discuss those with Eberstadt as well as some strategies to avoid them.
Recorded on June 14 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.Published in General
Lots of angry chubby Chinese young men with little hope for marriage.
As a frog in a soup pot, this was an excellent review of the current trends in temperature change. Thanks Peter.
David P Goldman, who wrote for years as “Spengler,” ploughed this ground a decade ago. See It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations. See also How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too).
Readers of those books were alerted to the risks we now see in Russia, China, and Iran.
This is the documentary about The Demographic Winter – it shows exactly what you are talking about. I saw this years ago and was stunned:
Those in charge knew this and they are pushing anti-family policies.
The spectacularly wrong yet highly praised notions like the Population Bomb or peak oil require that one take some quantifiable thing, presume that “civilizational” factors and innovation do not exist, project straight-line bad outcomes, and await adulation for being sciency and insightful. Climate change is shaping up to be another such thing.
I recall a party my parents gave over 50 years ago. I hung out on the edges of the conversations and listened to the adults chatter. One of the guests was a demographer/social scientist by profession. A small group was saying something about poverty and overpopulation and the guy politely interrupted and said they had causation backwards—people have more babies when poverty and chaos (a) threaten group survival, (b) cause high infant mortality, and (c) family ties become even more important when there is no larger societal order. Poverty causes high birth rates, not the other way around. His listeners did not argue the point because they were kind of stunned. That was such a departure from what everybody just knew was right…
I find a lot of current thinking by marriage-age people very foreign (“how you even think about bringing a child into a world where [fill in horrible, fearful thing here]”) My parents produced me and my brothers even though Stalin and his successors had the bomb and there was still overt racism in America. My wife and I produced eight kids despite being broke most of the time, a VA mortgage at 12%, and an outside world still beset with various crises. (We ran with a pretty fertile crowd back then–still do.)
Big families mean friends, lots of aunts, uncles & cousins who help with jobs, and the understanding that a lot of other people have your back if things go bad. It is all supposed to be a shared adventure, not solo life portfolio management. Narcissism, isolation, fear, and a wish for unattainable control make a recipe for unhappiness and even suicide. A genuine Build Back Better program would be about creating strong interpersonal ties (family and whatever can be done to foster close approximations) while encouraging some pretty basic levels of life-welcoming courage and hope.
God save us from “public intellectuals” who make entire careers out of deceiving us.
Paul Ehrlich had to be highly selective in the facts he used to support his thesis: There was no clear upward trend, as fertility rates varied greatly from one country to another, from continent to continent, and from year to year. And as Old Bathos pointed out in an earlier comment, rising prosperity and security leads to lower birth rates. Perhaps Paul Ehrlich was more interested in public notoriety than in honest scholarship and harm-free policy advice.
The guy has a reputation for being a jerk and he has never walked back how he was wrong about everything.
Please listen to this podcast and then make a member feed post about your familial experiences.
Additionally, do you think that maybe you are happy making all those kids and those kids are happy because of your DNA? Definitely the lack of big families make people feel isolated and depressed but maybe depressed people don’t make alot of kids?
Brings to mind Fauci
And climate huckster Michael Mann. And dietary huckster Ancel Keys.
Has immigration really fallen off a cliff? It sure looks like new illegal aliens outnumber live births. Now I can’t trust anything this guy says.
Nick Eberstadt is a treasure.
Not everyone is suited to parenting. And big families are not pre-req for happiness. But contacts, bonds, purpose and sense of self reinforced by those interactions probably is close to being required.
Having a job that matters, supporting a family that needs you and defining oneself in that context has been a guy thing since forever. It is a muddle out there. The weird politics of HR, the elimination of permanent large industrial plants and the other stable jobs that arose in conjunction, the gross overvaluation of “knowledge workers”, the sheer injustice of globalization and a pervasive hostility to masculinity and to the traits and values that went with being the guy who did military service, follows the rules, married, had kids and shows up and performs a job every day… it all adds up and with the easy availability of alcohol, drugs, porn…
The podcast is “good,” and very troubling.
Henry, would you elaborate? I’m listening to the podcast now, but Eberstadt is making a lot of points.
The changes in marriage rates and work activity lead me to believe that genetics isn’t likely to explain much in these trends. I do think that genetics is important, with the strongest correlation being intelligence.
I wanted to point out to Old Bathos that happy people tend to have happy kids. About fifty-sixty percent of your happiness is genetic. I think that there is some dysgenic breeding going on with mentally ill single woman becoming pregnant by useless me aided by the welfare state.
Mostly, the dynamics of what Eberstadt is talking about isn’t genetic though.
About the bolded part — “useless me” — did you mean to write “useless men”?
He has been very, very busy.
I am not Dr. Bastiat. It would be immoral for me to impregnate many women.
Every year there seems to be more evidence for genetic components of various aspects of human cognition, in spite of liberal efforts to shut down all unapproved research. The death of the Blank Slate hypothesis is one of the things that has driven liberals insane. If heredity plays an important role then True Equality can never be achieved, but that conclusion cannot be admitted and so the opinions and policies become ever more deranged.
Our kids are smart. The grandkids are brilliant.
Lake Wobegon, huh?
Regarding the worldwide demographic downturn there has been a rough doubling of the population of the United States, since I was born in 1957. Going back a little more than 100 years (1920), when my paternal grandfather was a young adult, the U.S. population was 32% of today’s. When I graduated from High School in 1975, the population was 65% of today’s.
The estimated population of the world has stark percentage differences, showing considerable more growth, 1920: 32% of today, 1957: 37%, and 1975: 52%.
We have the highest world population in human history.
I’m not really a Malthusian, and have little patience with people who rail on about there being too many human beings on earth requiring enforced restrictions in the number of children, but the human population of earth is the highest it’s ever been in part because famine, pestilence and natural disasters (e.g floods, earthquakes, hurricanes) have decimated populations in the distant past, with less of an affect in the recent past. Maybe mother nature has found another way to bring down the population given the technological advances we’ve made to mitigate the deadly impact to humankind.
It’s not clear how this will negatively impact us in the medium term. I’m pretty sure that in the long term, as in hundreds of years, this is just another blip in the population level.
In the next, say 50 years, after some economic adjustments, will we do ok in the care of the elderly? The nation to look at is Japan who is far ahead of most first world nations with their population decline. What technological innovations will they use to deal with this?
Will things really be as bad Nicholas Eberstadt implies, or will we invent our way out of this?
The worst case scenario is another dark ages era where we have a major economic collapse and lose and forget our technological advances.
But I don’t think things will be that bad.