In this episode of the Bradley Lecture Series Podcast, Jonathan Last discusses his 2014 book “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Crisis.”  Last predicted that, within two years, the world’s population would begin contracting sharply, with dire economic, political, and cultural implications. Last puts this predicament in perspective: middle-class American women are now voluntarily reproducing at about the same rate as Chinese women, who have been subjected to 30 years of an official, brutal, one-child policy.

Why is this happening, and how can we reverse the trend? Please join us in this Bradley Lecture as Last explores the roots and consequences of the population implosion, explaining why, as P.J. O’Rourke notes, “the only thing worse than having children is not having them.”

This lecture was originally given on February 11, 2013. Full details can be found on the original event page here.

To view a full list of the Bradley Lectures, see the Bradley Lectures page on the AEI website.

Bradley Lecture Series Podcast: What to expect when no one’s expecting with Jonathan Last
Wilson Shirley

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  1. RS711 Member

    The idea of a “demographic winter” is sobering.  The World will lose population for the first time since the Black Death and no one seems to care.

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  2. I Walton Member
    I Walton

    This is good, especially its realism and rejection that governments should somehow foster bigger families.  However, he is quite willing to dismiss specious correlations that elbow their way into such issues, but then points to examples of bad things that happened in the few times in human history when populations collapsed for very unique circumstances that had multiple and lasting effects as evidence that a slow population decline is threatening.   Important reasons it negatively affects us, he says I think correctly, is primarily because of social security and the demographics of the work force.   So– privatize social security and people will try to work as long as they can, and will save what they need to retire if they want to.    We do not have to import unskilled workers as long as we have unemployed employables, untrained trainables and kids that waste too much time in bad unproductive schools. He also says that economic growth and innovation will decline as the population shrinks and gets older.  Per capita income growth is what matters not GNP and even if the population drops by half over the next 100 years we’ll still have more population than we had during the dynamic and creative 19th century and many of them will remain young.  Moreover our educational system is still designed to turn out colonial administrators and to restrict competition among existing professions and trades.

    His last point that people who go to church have more children is a good one.  I’d add that people who have kids also think about the future instead just about themselves.  He doesn’t mention the millions who aren’t born because of abortion.  In any event demographics isn’t one of the things I would worry about except as insight into culture and to structural problems we are solving by creating other more serious problems, such as allowing unskilled illegal and legal immigration to flood us so we can pay for government programs that should be abolished or replaced in their own right.

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  3. Taras Coolidge

     Population decline didn’t cause the Dark Ages, the Dark Ages caused population decline. 

     Population decline didn’t cause the Black Death; the Black Death caused population decline.  Indeed, the social and economic after effects of this decline are usually presented as positive, with Europe evading the Malthusian Trap.

      Both social and biological evolution is going on. Some cultures have more children than other cultures; they will gradually come to dominate.  Some people – women, especially – have more or less desire for children; the ones with the greater desire will dominate future generations. 

     In a way, we may be engaged in breeding Feminism out of the human race.

     In general, I’d be interested in hearing what Last has to say now, as opposed to almost six years ago. 

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  4. Taras Coolidge

     I should add, the trend of the economy is to no longer have much use for vast armies of factory workers. 

     Similarly, the trend of the military is to no longer have much use for vast armies of ground pounders. 

    • #4