THE DEMOGRAPHIC BOMB

R. A. Hettinga rah@shipwright.com
Thu, 18 Oct 2001 17:03:10 -0400


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At 4:30 PM -0400 on 10/18/01, R. A. Hettinga wrote:


> RTFM:

Sorry. Didn't mean to be so snippy. :-).

However, if you do root around in that Google search, you'll see that
as life expectancy goes up, something fairly well correlated with
wealth, :-), fertility declines. If you're going to live longer, you
tend to put off childrearing for a number of reasons, not the least
of which the lack of a need to have children to provide for you in
your old age, but also for all the other reasons that western women
ignore their biological clocks, sometimes until it's too late to
worry about it anymore.  The longer they live, more people end up
parenting memes instead of genes, in other words.

India is a fairly good case in point, where life expectancy has
slowed birthrates, but even supposed exceptions like China qualify.
For instance, Chinese life expectancy (modulo the odd
government-caused famine, like the "Great Leap Forward") has been
going up considerably from where it was in feudal times. (Okay, Mao
was just as feudal as any emperor was, but you get the idea...)
According to the data, China's increasing life-expectancy would have
caused a demographic transition, and, frankly, the proof of this, for
me at least, is that the Chinese wouldn't have tolerated their
government's draconian "one-child" policy if they didn't know they
were going to live longer.

So, like most things, I think population, like markets, should be
left alone as either a matter of government policy, or, for that
matter, even as an issue of "social" reform, to be remedied by
"charitable" (read government subsidied "non-profit" -- not taxing
revenue and income is the same as a government grant, of course)
institutions.

I think if a mother is educated enough to demand birth control,
including abortion, or, more to the point, if she has a life
expectancy long enough that nobody around her demands that she become
pregnant as soon as possible, the market, and the demographic
transition, will take care of things just fine -- without, as Mencken
called them "busybodies and bluenoses" getting into the issue.

Cheers,
RAH


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-- 
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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
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"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'