By: Glenn H. Reynolds
In: New York Post
When I was a kid, everyone was worried about the “population explosion.” Paul Ehrlich’s book, “The Population Bomb,” was a runaway bestseller.
This led to a lot of dystopian science fiction, like Harry Harrison’s novel, “Make Room, Make Room,” which became the famous movie “Soylent Green.” It also led to a lot of policy changes, from China’s disastrous one-child policy to many policies in industrialized nations aimed at people having fewer children later in life.
The culture also changed. My mother reports that when she was married, even married couples weren’t considered fully adult until they had children. Raising kids was seen as one of the most important things people did. Now, it’s seen as a distraction from the pleasures and opportunities of adult life, things like promotion at work or dating.
The looming population explosion never happened. Instead, we’ve now got something closer to a population implosion, as birth rates fall below replacement levels around the globe. Philip Longman worried about this nearly 20 years ago in a Foreign Affairs article, “The Global Baby Bust,” and now it’s happening for real.
People of the Paul Ehrlich era would no doubt see today’s problems as beneficial: Fewer people means more stuff to go around, right? Not exactly.
Demographer and futurist Joel Kotkin writes: “On the contrary, we need to worry about the potential ill-effects of depopulation, including a declining workforce, torpid economic growth, and brewing generational conflict between a generally prosperous older generation and their more hard-pressed successors.”
Shrinking populations tend to do poorly, economically, socially and militarily. One need only look to China, where the one-child policy is producing a huge overhang of pensioners with not enough people to support them, or to Japan, where the average age keeps climbing while young people seem to lack direction and confidence, to see what lies in our future.
As Kotkin notes, “John Maynard Keynes warned that ‘chaining up of the one devil [of overpopulation] may, if we are careless, only serve to loose another still fiercer and more intractable.’”
Read the rest of this piece at New York Post.