by John Krehbiel on 18 February 2013
It’s always been pretty clear to me that many of the problems we face are indirectly caused by the simple fact that there are way, way too many people on the planet.
If there were 70 million people instead of 7 billion we could use resources pretty much as we saw fit. “If you don’t like it, leave” would be a workable solution. We could harvest whatever wildlife we wanted to with minimal risk of permanently depleting populations.
To me, it is very good news that when standards of living go up, and when people are given control over their own lives, birth rates go down. It was true in ancient Rome, it’s true in modern Europe, it’s true in the US, and there’s no particular reason it couldn’t be true worldwide.
But when a country gets it right (in my view) and their population starts to fall, the economists get all panicky. Japan, Ireland, and other countries which have or have had shrinking populations are said to be in “crisis.” Well, it seems to me that economists need to figure out strategies to have a healthy economy in a shrinking population. If we’re running out of codfish, we have to figure out how to do without them, not figure out how to catch more.
But there are a couple of other consequences of shrinking population that are more subtle. Families, on average, are smaller. Some adults choose not to have children at all. Social institutions and marketing strategists, businesses and government services have had to change their approach with a changing demographic. We “Boomers” had to overpay payroll taxes beginning in then 80s to finance our own benefits. (This was a change from the previous reality, where payroll taxes were entirely used to pay for current benefits. That won’t work in a shrinking population.)
But the strange consequence that inspired me to write this at all is this: If there are a lot of single child families, and especially now that kids don’t “go out and play” the way we used to, then girls grow up without boys around, and boys grow up without girls around, at least at home.
And that leads to this kind of idiocy.
On a similar note, I once saw a TV program about some kind of early childhood education internship. The young woman in the program was upset when a little boy ran up to her when she first arrived, pointed a finger at her, and said “Bang! You’re dead!” She was upset that he didn’t even know her, but already hated her and wanted her to die. Good Grief! My first thought was “I’ll bet she didn’t have any brothers.”
-- 2013-02-18 » John Krehbiel