Overpopulation has been decried as a major problem for decades. Centuries, actually. “We will run out of resources!” we are told. “The earth can’t support any more people!” Starvation, war and disease are the predicted results. As with most Chicken-Little, End-Of-Days predictions, the “population bomb” scare has turned out to be much ado about little.
It’s true that there are places where population density is a problem. Pack millions of people in a city and you will have many problems. Yet, we seem ever more enamored of the idea that people should be stacked upon people. This is a dubious tendency at best, but that’s another article that begs to be written.
There have been a number of books, popular but somewhat under the radar it seems, about demographic implosion. “What to expect when no ones expecting” is worth a read. “Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America” is a well researched and written book on Russian demographic implosion.
Let’s cut to the chase. If you have fewer workers from one generation to the next and more retired or infirm people due to age, you have a society-threatening crisis. Every society is dependent upon it’s number one natural resource: human capital. Every other resource – mineral, land, energy, etc. – is 100% dependent upon having humans to cleverly utilize the resource in a beneficial way. Put simply, if we didn’t have a need for and ability to exploit oil, it would be useless. Land without farming skills and intent and work is fun to play on but little else. The earth has more resources NOW than at any time in human history BECAUSE there are more clever brains taking worthless stuff and turning into valuable stuff. Worthless goo is turned into energy that propels us around the world to share our ideas.
But what happens when there are fewer people to repair our homes and cars, generate electricity, grow food and the many other complex tasks that only humans can really do? What happens when the automation is insufficient to do the creative work that diagnoses and cures disease? When there are too few humans to support the elderly and infirm? What happens when government services, fueled by the taxes of the working, are scaled back because there are too few workers? This is a practical crisis of monstrous proportions.
This is the self-evident bottom line. We need more than replacement population to keep and enhance our standard of living as a species.
Addressing the doomsday predictions of over-population fretters requires only a cursory knowledge of modern events. The predicted famines, wars and resource shortages predicted by the highly educated End-Of-Days prophets have universally failed. “Peak Oil” hand wringing has come up utterly short. In fact, the best predictions are that we will have unused and unnecessary oil in the ground for all time as other, better sources are now replacing oil.
The moral of the story? If you are in your child bearing years, Get Busy! If you’re not, then help others to hear the most necessary economic and societal message of our time – Breeding is Life! And it’s kinda fun too, at least some parts. But this is a PG blog so I’ll leave it there. Breeders are Leaders!
Sometimes people make the mistake of believing that the total number of people on earth is the important number. This is simplistic and incorrect. What matters most for human survival and for the environment of the planet itself is the demographic make-up of the population. What part of the demographics? The working, resource-creating part of the population compared with the part of the population that is not able to create resources. Again, if you think that resources are the things in the ground or primarily physical, you’ve got a thought that works wonderfully 200 years ago. Today, the majority of resources are created by the human mind, will and effort.
The above thought is not meant to denigrate any part of the population. We all have times in our lives when we necessarily depend on others to support us. When we are born, being a resource creating productive individual is pretty hard to achieve. Unless you consider dirty diapers productive. When we are retired, by the fact of age, we reach a time when we can no longer be as productive any more. This is the natural circle of life. The problem arises if there are not enough people in that resource creating stage of life to support us when we are not. And when too few children are being birthed, this problem multiples many fold. It IS multiplying. As of 2015, the US Labor Department reported that Labor Force Participation – the number of people who are working as a percentage of the entire population – was at a 38 year low. Labor force participation rate falls to 38-year low – Business Insider
The US is not alone in this. In fact, many countries are much worse off. Google it if you doubt it.
What happens if there are too few people working? At the risk of redundancy, the amount that workers have to pay in taxes to keep the roads paved, the lights on and the country safe goes up a lot. The younger workers resent the fact that they are paying so much more, getting so much less and themselves may have fewer children, worsening the problem from generation to generation. Soon, essential services must be cut. Or more productive economies will either invade militarily or assume control of the less productive economy. The US Economy boomed after World War Two primarily because of the Baby Boom. Lots of new births created economic group for the last 50 years. Again, fewer children being born creates a reduction in resource creation which then leads to economic unrest, social unrest and violence, environmental destruction as people ignore the needs of the planet around them because of their own more extant needs, and ultimately, war if it goes unchecked. War results when one nation is weak enough to look like an appealing target for another. Economic, demographic implosion is very clearly an invitation for the subjugation of one society by another. Its somewhat odd that this isn’t more widely understood since all of human history shows this pattern.
Resources for further exploration:
The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity (And What To Do About It)
by Phillip Longman
What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster
by Jonathan V. Last
Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America
by Ilan Berman
Low Fertility and Policy Responses in the European Union
Research Brief by the Rand Corporation
For additional scientific research and policy review, do a Google search on “demographic implosion birth rate”. While there is not unanimity of policy prescriptions, there is a very broad agreement that this is a serious problem with serious consequences.
Related topics include:
Dependency Ratio – This is the formula the provides the percentage of working people in a country to those non-working, typically because of young and old age. As a result of increases in the non-working population, there is increased pressure on the working. At a certain level, the pressure is so great that benefits for the young and old must be eliminated and the economy and society stagnates and has a deep crisis. Given the Labor Force Participation rate in the US has been declining for over 38 years with no predictive data indicating a reversal or even leveling out, the US faces major issues here.