Science and Economics

 

The Guardian:

One of Saudi Arabia’s leading conservative clerics has said women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and bearing children with clinical problems, countering activists who are trying to end the Islamic kingdom’s male-only driving rules.

A campaign calling for women to defy the ban in a protest drive on 26 October has spread rapidly online over the past week and gained support from prominent women activists. On Sunday, the campaign’s website was blocked inside the kingdom.

As one of the 21 members of the senior council of scholars, Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan can write fatwas, or religious edicts, advise the government and has a large following among other influential conservatives.

His comments have in the past played into debates in Saudi society and he has been a vocal opponent of tentative reforms to increase freedoms for women by King Abdullah, who sacked him as head of a top judiciary council in 2009.

In an interview published on Friday on the website sabq.org, he said women aiming to overturn the ban on driving should put “reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions”.

Meanwhile, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s prime minister and a figure that The Economist persists in describing as “mildly Islamist”, reminds an audience that Turkish women are not, in his view, having nearly enough children (the birth rate in Turkey is a little over 2, a tally that has, mercifully, fallen by more than a half since the late 1970s);

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged a group of women in Mediterranean Turkish province of Denizli to have at least four children rather than his previously advised three…Erdoğan has noted in the past that Turkey’s annual population growth rate should be at least 2.5 percent and if Turkey continued with its existing trend, its population would rapidly become an aging one after the 2030s. Erdoğan has also linked aging populations and low birth rates in European countries to economic recession.

And that last sentence tells you all that you need to know about Erdoğan’s grasp of economics. The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them. 

There are 32 comments.

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  1. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Andrew Stuttaford: And that last sentence tells you all that you need to know about Erdoğan’s grasp of economics. The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them.

    *cough*

    *gasp*

    *wheeze*

    My hatred for central economic planning knows no bounds. But to come right out and say “The European recession has many causes… but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them” about some of the most socialist economic systems in the world is deluded.

    • #1
    • September 29, 2013, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Paul Snively
    Andrew Stuttaford: And that last sentence tells you all that you need to know about Erdoğan’s grasp of economics. The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them.

    *cough*

    *gasp*

    *wheeze*

    My hatred for central economic planning knows no bounds. But to come right out and say “The European recession has many causes… but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them” about some of the most socialist economic systems in the worldis deluded. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I don’t quite follow that: birth rates have fallen dramatically just about everywhere in the world, almost regardless of economic system. 

    • #2
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:20 AM PDT
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  3. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Mike Rapkoch: Gilder might disagree too. 

    On what do you base this conclusion? A conclusion must follow from the evidence analyzed. No evidence, no analysis, means a conclusion is meaningless.

    Mike, it was merely an observation (and Erdogan didn’t offer any explanation either!), but, since you ask, the recession began in 2008, triggered by the credit crunch and the collapse of Lehman, and has been given a savage extra twist by the travails of the euro. It’s hard to see what declining birth rates had to do with it.

    • #3
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:26 AM PDT
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  4. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Knotwise the Poet: Mark Steyn may disagree with you on that point. · 1 hour ago
     The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them. · · 1 hour ago

    I cannot speak for Mark, but I’m not sure about that.

    As I understand it, the primary focus of his concern over Europe’s shrinking birth rates relates to their effect on the religious balance (and, more specifically the percentage of the population that is Muslim) within those societies. That’s a separate issue from the causes of the recession, but it is one made more pressing by the political elite’s insistence that there was a labor shortage (thanks to declining birth rates) that could only be fixed by mass immigration, an insistence that is rather difficult to reconcile with the decades-long persistence of high levels of unemployment in Europe. 

    • #4
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:36 AM PDT
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  5. SParker Member

    Traditionally population decline isn’t a sign of anything good, but how could a long-term phenomenon be the cause of a sudden decrease in economic activity? And a counter-example of a population decline being really good for standard-of-living (of the surviving) would be the Black Death in 14th-Century Europe. Not that I’m advocating it.

    • #5
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:38 AM PDT
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  6. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Devereaux

    Low birth rates are signs of dying cultures – wherein they old rely on other people’s young to pay for them (check out Social Security). There then becomes no real incentive to have children but rather simply spend your money on yourself – until you are old, when others will spendtheir money- on you.

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I don’t think so. Over the short term, birth rates are affected by economics (but they are a consequence not a cause of hard times). The broader pattern of decline that we have seen in the last century (even, more recently, in countries with little in the way of social security) owes more to ‘modernity’ (higher levels of education, better health care and so on) than anything else. 

    • #6
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:46 AM PDT
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  7. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    SParker: Traditionally population decline isn’t a sign of anything good, but how could a long-term phenomenon be the cause of a sudden decrease in economic activity? And a counter-example of a population decline being really good for standard-of-living (of the surviving) would be the Black Death in 14th-Century Europe. Not that I’m advocating it. · 7 minutes ago

    What SParker said!

    • #7
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:47 AM PDT
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  8. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Devereaux

    That’s why Erdogen is so worried. The birth rate in Turkey may be just over 2, but it isn’t from the ethnic Turks; it’s the Kurd. In 20 years 80+% of military eligible males will be Kurd. Iran has the same problems. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I don’t know the percentages, but that’s a much more plausible explanation than economics. 

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ilanberman/2013/05/29/turkeys-kurdish-arithmetic/

    • #8
    • September 30, 2013, at 1:51 AM PDT
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  9. raycon and lindacon Inactive

    With Turkey’s declining birthrate we face a bleak Thanksgiving this year.

    • #9
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:11 AM PDT
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  10. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    Andrew Stuttaford: I don’t quite follow that: birth rates have fallen dramatically just about everywhere in the world, almost regardless of economic system.

    Yes. The key connection, though, is countries having established transfer payment systems from the young to the old, whether they’re called “public pensions” or “Social Security” or what have you. These hide a number of implicit assumptions, the most obvious being that the working population keeps pace with the no-longer-working population, and that inflation doesn’t result in the working population paying so much in real terms to the no-longer-working that they can’t afford to sustain themselves.

    tl;dr declining working population in any economic system with transfer payments from young to old—which, to a first approximation, is all of them—is a rather obvious problem. The only question is when the problem reveals itself, and I’m certainly not disagreeing that other pressures can serve as triggers.

    • #10
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:17 AM PDT
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  11. Great Ghost of Gödel Inactive
    SParker: Traditionally population decline isn’t a sign of anything good, but how could a long-term phenomenon be thecause of a sudden decrease in economic activity? 

    By reaching an inflection point.

    And a counter-example of a population decline being really good for standard-of-living (of the surviving) would be the Black Death in 14th-Century Europe.

    14th-Century Europe didn’t have a tradition of transfer payments from young to old.

    • #11
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:19 AM PDT
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  12. drlorentz Member
    Andrew Stuttaford
    Paul Snively

    *cough*

    *gasp*

    *wheeze*

    My hatred for central economic planning knows no bounds. But to come right out and say “The European recession has many causes… but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them” about some of the most socialist economic systems in the worldis deluded. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I don’t quite follow that: birth rates have fallen dramatically just about everywhere in the world, almost regardless of economic system.

    Did you bother to follow any of the links? Try Slowing Birthrates Weigh on Europe’s Weak Economies.

    There are low birth rates, and then there are birth rates below replacement. Furthermore, low birthrates mean that the number of workers per retiree has been decreasing. This means fewer taxpayers and higher costs. Erdoğan may be wrong about a host of issues, but there’s a least a case to be made for his assertion.

    • #12
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:26 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Devereaux Inactive
    Andrew Stuttaford
    Devereaux

    Low birth rates are signs of dying cultures – wherein they old rely on other people’s young to pay for them (check out Social Security). There then becomes no real incentive to have children but rather simply spend your money on yourself – until you are old, when others will spendtheir money- on you.

    Edited 1 hour ago

    I don’t think so. Over the short term, birth rates are affected by economics (but they are a consequencenot a cause of hard times). The broader pattern of decline that we have seen in the last century (even, more recently, in countries with little in the way of social security) owes more to ‘modernity’ (higher levels of education, better health care and so on) than anything else. · 32 minutes ago

    Harder to show that. We have had “hard times” at lots of times in our history, but our birth rate has never been low – until now. And it continues to be sustaining only because of the evangelicals, who have 4-5 kids; the libs in NYC have — 1.

    ?What might be their characteristic. Self-centered, faithless, narcissistic, unwilling to sacrifice – for anyone or thing. There’s your slump.

    • #13
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:30 AM PDT
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  14. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    drlorentz
    Andrew Stuttaford
    Paul Snively

    *cough*

    *gasp*

    *wheeze*

    I don’t quite follow that: birth rates have fallen dramatically just about everywhere in the world, almost regardless of economic system.

    Did you bother to follow any of the links? Try Slowing Birthrates Weigh on Europe’s Weak Economies.

    There are low birth rates, and then there are birth rates below replacement. Furthermore, low birthrates mean that the number of workers per retiree has been decreasing. This means fewer taxpayers and higher costs. Erdoğan may be wrong about a host of issues, but there’s a least a case to be made for his assertion. · 1 minute ago

    Yes, and none of them explain how declining birth rates were the cause of Europe’s current recession. They are (mainly) arguing that higher dependency rates will be a problem in the future. There is undoubtedly something to that, but neither higher birth rates nor mass immigration are the answer. 

    It’s worth remembering, incidentally, that the postwar years when Italy did have a much higher birth rates were years of large scale emigration. Labor shortages were not Italy’s problem, then or now.

    • #14
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:45 AM PDT
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  15. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Devereaux
    I don’t think so. Over the short term, birth rates are affected by economics (but they are a consequencenot a cause of hard times). The broader pattern of decline that we have seen in the last century (even, more recently, in countries with little in the way of social security) owes more to ‘modernity’ (higher levels of education, better health care and so on) than anything else. · 32 minutes ago

    Harder to show that. We have had “hard times” at lots of times in our history, but our birth rate has never been low – until now. And it continues to be sustaining only because of the evangelicals, who have 4-5 kids; the libs in NYC have — 1.

    Please take a look at the tables here. You will see that American birth rates have been falling since 1800. There was a particularly steep drop between 1920 and 1940, from 3.17 to 2.22, much of which can be attributed to the Depression.

    • #15
    • September 30, 2013, at 2:56 AM PDT
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  16. TeamAmerica Member

    Andrew-

    I don’t know if declining rates caused or exacerbated the Euro-recession, but fewer young workers combined with early European retirements requires ever-higher tax rates, which are a drag on economic growth.

    • #16
    • September 30, 2013, at 3:07 AM PDT
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  17. drlorentz Member
    Andrew Stuttaford

    It’s worth remembering, incidentally, that the postwar years when Italy did have a much higher birth rates were years of large scale emigration. Labor shortages were not Italy’s problem, then or now.

    A shortage of taxpayers is one of Italy’s many problems. The same goes for Europe in general. As TeamAmerica notes:

    … fewer young workers combined with early European retirements requires ever-higher tax rates, which are a drag on economic growth

    This may not explain everything, but it is unjustified to suggest that Erdoğan is a moron because he makes a demographics claim. Right or wrong, this is part of the conventional economic wisdom. More than that, I’d go as far as to say it’s probably correct.

    Edited for clarity.

    • #17
    • September 30, 2013, at 3:28 AM PDT
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  18. Snirtler Member
    drlorentz
    Andrew Stuttaford

    I don’t quite follow that: birth rates have fallen dramatically just about everywhere in the world, almost regardless of economic system.

    Did you bother to follow any of the links? Try Slowing Birthrates Weigh on Europe’s Weak Economies.

    There are low birth rates, and then there are birth rates below replacement. Furthermore, low birthrates mean that the number of workers per retiree has been decreasing. This means fewer taxpayers and higher costs. Erdoğan may be wrong about a host of issues, but there’s a least a case to be made for his assertion. · 1 hour ago

    I’ll have to agree with drlorentz here. And from the Erdogan article linked to, it doesn’t seem that he was referring specifically to the recent recession in Europe, but to the link more generally between economic growth (or lack thereof) and demographic shifts–falling birthrates, aging populations, shrinking workforces, rising dependency ratios, poor economic growth.

    • #18
    • September 30, 2013, at 4:08 AM PDT
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  19. Snirtler Member

    James_Capretta_writes:

    … Productivity is still improving, but workforces around the world are now barely growing and, in some countries, are about to shrink steadily for the foreseeable future.

    For instance, according to 2006 projections from the European Commission (EC), the size of the EU-wide population in their prime working years—those aged fifteen to sixty-four—was about 307 million in 2004. By 2025, the EC expects that number to have fallen to about 296 million people, and by 2050 to about 255 million people.

    This shrinking workforce will dramatically slow economic growth … 

    But with a shrinking workforce, potential growth is expected to be far, far below historical levels. The 2006 EC report projected that the EU-wide workforce contraction would average about 0.1 percent per year through 2025. Even if productivity improvement grows to 2.0 percent annually, overall growth—1.9 percent each year—would still be well below what it has been historically. And it will only get worse over the longer term. From 2025 to 2050, a dramatically contracting workforce will drag average growth down to 1.2 percent annually—making it impossible for Europe to generate the resources necessary to finance the burdens of_improved_longevity.

    • #19
    • September 30, 2013, at 4:17 AM PDT
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  20. Ross C Member
    Andrew Stuttaford

     In an interview published on Friday on the website sabq.org, he said women aiming to overturn the ban on driving should put “reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions”.

    This is the money quote IMHO. I am going to pause a moment and let the “reason” flow over me.

    • #20
    • September 30, 2013, at 6:35 AM PDT
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  21. outstripp Inactive

    What about china? They’ve done pretty well with a low birth rate. The future is not computable.

    • #21
    • September 30, 2013, at 7:33 AM PDT
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  22. Snirtler Member
    outstripp: What about china? They’ve done pretty well with a low birth rate. The future is not computable. · 1 minute ago

    China knows it’s facing a demographic problem.

    In January this year, China’s statistics bureau revised the definition of working age from 15-64 years old to 15-59 years old. The 15-64 segment of the population is still growing, but the 15-59 is not; they might have revised the measure to draw attention to the problem of a shrinking workforce. 

    • #22
    • September 30, 2013, at 7:57 AM PDT
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  23. Andrew Stuttaford Contributor
    Andrew Stuttaford Post author
    Snirtler: James_Capretta_writes:

    … Productivity is still improving, but workforces around the world are now barely growing and, in some countries, are about to shrink steadily for the foreseeable future.

    For instance, according to 2006 projections from the European Commission (EC), the size of the EU-wide population in their prime working years—those aged fifteen to sixty-four—was about 307 million in 2004. By 2025, the EC expects that number to have fallen to about 296 million people, and by 2050 to about 255 million people.

    This shrinking workforce will dramatically slow economic growth … 

    3 hours ago

    The dependency ratio could well be an issue in future, but it does not account for the recession today.

    Going forward, those who argue that Europe needs a growing population to sustain its welfare model have to explain what this population is actually going to do. The problem of growing structural unemployment speaks for itself. Quite how the unemployed are going to pay for the pensions of the retired remains a mystery. 
    • #23
    • September 30, 2013, at 8:14 AM PDT
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  24. Brian Clendinen Member

    It is interesting whether population growth is good or bad in economic development is actually a huge debate of disagreement in academic circles (or it was 10 years ago). 

    I am in the camp that I believe most economic growth comes from population growth and it is the biggest driver of expanding economics. It is a huge driver in the the need to expanded Limited resources and this in turn increases the rate of economic growth. Secondly, all economic growth comes from people the larger the population the more chances and people you have that can come up with great ideas and create scientific, engineering, business, and artistic breakthroughs and great works that in turn help increase economic growth.

    However, in reality the biggest reasons I am of this opinion is religion. I am a christian and when I read the bible no were do I see anywhere having kids (aka population growth) is considered unwise, only a blessing. Heck it was one of the only things God asked Adam and Eve to do before sin came into the world. Therefore I tend to believe things God considers good on average almost always have a positive economic benefit to them.

    • #24
    • September 30, 2013, at 8:18 AM PDT
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  25. drlorentz Member
    Andrew Stuttaford

    The dependency ratio could well be an issue in future, but it does not account for the recession today.

    If I make an assertion without evidence and subsequently face a barrage of independent counterarguments by several people, it gives me pause. I wouldn’t consider simply repeating my original assertion. Different strokes…

    Andrew Stuttaford

    Going forward, those who argue that Europe needs a growing population to sustain its welfare model have to explain what this population is actually going to do. The problem of growing structural unemployment speaks for itself. Quite how the unemployed are going to pay for the pensions of the retired remains a mystery. 

    I commend to you the writings of Julian Simon. Just because you can’t figure out what people will be doing in 20 or 30 years doesn’t mean there will be nothing for them to do. Many people are doing jobs today that could not have been foreseen in the 1990s.

    Back in the 1970s, the US had quite a problem of structural unemployment. The term was quite in vogue. (Yes, I am that old.) We had rampant inflation too. Then came the 1980s. Who’da thunk it?

    Mystery solved.

    • #25
    • September 30, 2013, at 9:13 AM PDT
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  26. TeamAmerica Member

    I’d add that Canadian libertarian Karen Straughan has noted that men who are breadwinners work harder, i.e., are more productive and therefore earning more money than they’d be doing if they were without a family to support, which also contributes to faster economic growth.

    • #26
    • September 30, 2013, at 9:52 AM PDT
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  27. drlorentz Member
    Andrew Stuttaford

    The problem of growing structural unemployment speaks for itself.

    A little trip down structural unemployment memory lane fer ya from a 1984 publication, Sources of secular increases in the unemployment rate, 1969-82:

    Progressively higher rates of joblessness suggest a strong structural component in today’s unemployment; the influx of women and young workers was an important factor early in the study period, while later years show a decline in the employment picture for prime age men.

    This (1982) was followed by a steep decline in unemployment and decades of economic expansion. By the way, demographic factors figure prominently in this analysis too.

    latest_numbers_LNS14000000_1982_2000_all_period_M12_data.gif

    • #27
    • September 30, 2013, at 11:04 AM PDT
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  28. Knotwise the Poet Member

    Mark Steyn may disagree with you on that point.

     The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them. · · 1 hour ago
    • #28
    • September 30, 2013, at 12:09 PM PDT
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  29. Devereaux Inactive
    Knotwise the Poet: Mark Steyn may disagree with you on that point. · 15 minutes ago
     The European recession has many causes, most notably a dysfunctional single currency, but the continent’s low birth rate is not one of them. · · 1 hour ago

    I would disagree with you on that. Low birth rates are signs of dying cultures – wherein they old rely on other people’s young to pay for them (check out Social Security). There then becomes no real incentive to have children but rather simply spend your money on yourself – until you are old, when others will spend their money – on you.

    That’s why Erdogen is so worried. The birth rate in Turkey may be just over 2, but it isn’t from the ethnic Turks; it’s the Kurd. In 20 years 80+% of military eligible males will be Kurd. Iran has the same problems.

    • #29
    • September 30, 2013, at 12:29 PM PDT
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  30. Mike Rapkoch Member

    Gilder might disagree too. 

    On what do you base this conclusion? A conclusion must follow from the evidence analyzed. No evidence, no analysis, means a conclusion is meaningless.

    Plus, a shrinking population (e.g. Russia) is symptomatic of a nation in a death patrol.

    • #30
    • September 30, 2013, at 12:31 PM PDT
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