*What to Expect When No One’s Expecting*

by on February 9, 2013 at 7:32 am in Books, Uncategorized | Permalink

That is the new book by Jonathan Last, which I liked very much.  Last recently wrote “In the end, demography always wins” and you will find that view writ large in the book.  He also wrote “Global demographics, not domestic policy, will control who comes and who goes.”

I am one who believes that the inability of a society to reproduce itself is per se a major problem, even if you don’t accept the most pessimistic fiscal interpretation of demographic collapse.  Geopolitical influence also shall not be neglected.  Here is one bit:

Low-fertility societies don’t innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care. They don’t invest aggressively because, with the average age skewing higher, capital shifts to preserving and extending life and then begins drawing down. They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don’t have enough workers to pay for the retirees. They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces.

That is from Last’s WSJ essay, based on his book.

Here is an article on why Germany may be failing to raise its birth rate.  And here is a good response to Dean Baker’s lack of worry about the fiscal  issues.

Here is a critical Ruy Teixeira review of the book.  Here is Reihan on the critique.  Here is Maggie Gallagher.

Dan Cole February 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

“They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don’t have enough workers to pay for the retirees.”

Isn’t that partly a function of the number of available jobs and the country’s immigration policy? If the economy is growing and creating jobs quickly enough (recognizing that not all economic growth creates jobs; increasing productivity can actually reduce jobs) and entry barriers for workers are low, then in theory a country with declining birth rates could still pay for its aging population (at least up to a certain point).

Dan

derek February 9, 2013 at 9:47 am

Great idea, but what ends up happening is the high skilled and educated are smart enough not to come to a place that is highly structured and regulated and taxed and old. They are in most cases fleeing from such places. The immigrant populations end up being low education, which is fine but takes a generation to turn into highly educated productive folks that could generate the economic activity necessary. But even the resources to assist will be sucked up by the demands of caring for the elderly.

By definition a modern welfare state with an old demographic is paying huge amounts of money to people who are not going to produce anything. Every tax increase that is going to be seen in the US over the next decades is going to simply be money taken from productive to the non productive. Who in their right mind would invest themselves or their resources into someone else’s black hole?

The problem isn’t an elderly population. It is the cost structures. A defined benefit versus defined contribution.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm

A high fertility society will have the same problem but in reverse: children do not produce anything either and must be supported by the productivity of others– and yet the baby boom era did not result in stagnation (and that despite the fact that were paying down the debt from WWII and assisting a number of other countries in rebuilding). The existence of a large number of dependent non-producers would not itself appear to be an answer.

Dangerman February 9, 2013 at 4:43 pm

it is when those dependent non-producers can vote and own a huge portion of the assets.

Roy February 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Also the children may turn into productive membersof siciety, it is very unlikely the same can be said of pensioners.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm

The pensioners were productive members of society. Same thing, only with the time arrow reversed.

mrmandias February 10, 2013 at 7:34 pm

If you reverse the time arrow, decline is growth.

Floccina February 10, 2013 at 8:15 am

People feel different about supporting family members than they feel about supporting government programs like SS and Medicare (and yes government schools but those were cheaper).

mrmandias February 10, 2013 at 7:33 pm

More than a generation in some cases. Blame multiculturalism or poor education or the internet or who knows, but today’s immigrants aren’t assimilating that fast.

the commentariette February 9, 2013 at 9:53 am

The problem is that fertility decline has become a global phenomenon – those immigrants have to be born *somewhere*. And with increasing development in much of the world (a good thing and partly *due to* the demographic dividend), fertility rates have been declining pretty much *everywhere*.

For example, Mexico is just above replacement rate, while Brazil and most of C and S America is already below. Immigration policy aside, there’s simply going to be fewer potential immigrants available, especially if we assume that Europe will address its (much larger) fertility deficit through immigration from nearby N Africa and mid-East.

Most of the countries that still have high fertility are the development nightmares: Mali, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc. With their terribly low levels of literacy and stability, it’s not clear that they can be useful sources of mass immigration in the medium term.

Of course, the US can expect to continue to attract some immigrants from low birthrate countries — as long as it continues to be a wealthy and attractive option, compared to all those other countries that are also going to have to attract lots of immigrants, too.

But even in the best case, immigration practice will change. Emigrant families have traditionally left one or two siblings at home to look after their parents in their old age, while the others settled permanently abroad, supporting the stay-behinds. Emigration from one or two child families can’t work that way. Someone’s still going to have to deal with the aging parents.

Immigrants from some countries have been able to leverage pay differences to hire assistance (e.g. professional immigrants from S and E Asia). Others rely on their countries’ strong social service provision (e.g. W Europe) It’s not clear how either of these strategies work in the long term or how immigration practice might change – immigration isn’t so useful if every young worker brings two old people with them…

Last and Cowen are right – it’s a real problem.

JWatts February 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

“The problem is that fertility decline has become a global phenomenon…For example, Mexico is just above replacement rate, while Brazil and most of C and S America is already below.”

Yes, but the US is highly attractive to immigrants from such countries. If we were to seriously attempt to attract the highly skilled workers from those countries we certainly could. It’s not really a matter of what their underlying demographics are, it’s a matter of can the US make a better offer. Granted, such a policy might have a highly negative effect on the country of emigration.

Matt2 February 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

“They cannot project power because they lack the money to pay for defense and the military-age manpower to serve in their armed forces.”

Really a minor point, but doesn’t projecting power require paying for offense, not defense? We should probably go back to calling it the War Department.

Mario Rizzo February 9, 2013 at 10:56 am

Agrred. I consider this “problem” a good thing. I would rephrase it as “They cannot get themselves into all sorts of trouble and needless wars because they lack the money and military-age cannon fodder that will stupidly sacrifice themselves.”

BenK February 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

One key point is how the risk aversion which permeates older societies impacts the people in those societies who do reproduce. For instance, the emphasis on life extension and health care is a kind of risk aversion. Combined with low birth rates, there is a tendency to be very defensive about childrens’ health. Defense is a very expensive game; big car seats are just one highly visible sign of the defensive posture; so are expensive educations, expensive playgrounds, and so on. Children are buffered on all sides very much like the elderly. But this apparent child focus also makes large families increasingly impractical; there was a time when a small car could fit a family of 5, or even 6; but with large car seats, it can only fit a family of four at most. Mandatory expenditures of all sorts – including the extreme supervision of play and other lifestyle expectations – make larger families difficult to sustain. The largest families that are visible today are often in some sense media spectacles and derive income from their size; but because of the need for two incomes, etc, families with 4-8 children are increasingly impractical. This is a burden not inherent in modern life, but inherent in a society built around the expectations and regulations and values passed on as the result of aging.
As an aside, this risk aversion impacts the education of the young as well; making it more challenging for children who need risk, creativity, conflict, and so on to mature; making it easier for children who need structure, calm, authoritarian harmony. This has sometimes been framed as a boy-girl divide; there may be a gender issue there, but I don’t think we need to invoke gender to see that the challenges are going to disadvantage some of the most creative children, which were always ‘at risk’ – and whose risk-taking is quite valuable in forming and shaping character. Further, if you value things that are risky, you need more attempts to get successes – more children, and higher rates of failure, produce a different population in the end.

JWatts February 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm

“there was a time when a small car could fit a family of 5, or even 6; but with large car seats, it can only fit a family of four at most.”

Indeed, we have a pair of two year old twins. The car seats are huge!

lemmy caution February 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

This is a good point. Parents used to spend less time with their kids and this allowed them to have larger families.

http://www.unb.ca/crisp/pdf/pbrief_parents_time_use.pdf

Parent’s are becoming more child focused even as they are having fewer kids.

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 9:46 am

What a thought-provoking post and I especially enjoyed the range of views in the additional links.

The chicken-or-the egg question looms large here, but I still think of fertility as more of an outcome, a reflection of economic well being and cultural norms on individual, family, and community success. I can see how fertility could drive innovation, but I could also see how the Boomers need to cure cancer could push that research into overdrive.

Second, the linked German article raised many red flags about how much policy can change fertility (even at great public expense). I found it amazing that after pointing out the minimal results of tax incentives (money should be powerful) they instead advocate other spending. The cited study said that building new day cares raised fertility in German communities…don’t count on it, there’s no way were those randomly built. Still a good piece.

Third, lower fertility may simply follow from more relative freedom to choose a other life paths … some of which have lower or delayed fertility attached to them. Those keen to capture the education premium are likely to delay child birth. (My PhD probably put the third child beyond reach and several of my friends are just now having their first child.) In addition more individuals are choosing non-traditional living arrangements in which children are less likely, but certainly still possible. All of this is going to push down the fertility rate or at least delay it until we’ve adjusted to a new equilibrium. And yet it could still raise overall life satisfaction. I’d trade an iPhone upgrade for more life choice any day…tradeoffs abound.

derek February 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

The US saw a presidential election which was essentially argued over contraception and abortion, and the necessity of taxing more to pay for all the goodies we want. The social democratic parties of the west in Europe and in North America have had as a fundamental issue the goal of low fertility. The current focus on fertility is akin to someone hitting 64 and figuring they better start saving for retirement.

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 10:01 am

which US election are you referring to? … before my time, I suppose. Also read the Germany article it’s all about the government money spent to *boost* fertility…may not have worked, but let’s be honest about the goals. also a book like this seems to show a dialogue before population decline kicks in, we can only worry about so many *problems* so it’s best to pick ones that are in fact.

Derek February 9, 2013 at 11:42 am

Quebec has been trying to increase their birth rate as well, partly for nationalistic reasons, a desire for ‘ pur laine’ quebecois. Oddly this comes after a generation of effort to get rid of a social structure where it was common for women to have many children. Jean Chretien who was prime minister during the 90′s came from a large family, 11 kids iirc. Quebec now has the highest abortion rate in canada, and the lowest marriage rate, reflecting a vigorous rejection of the social structures of past generations.

All this would be fine but for a few unfortunate details. Old age is great if you have savings and no debt, low expenses. The problem is the defined benefit social programs whose costs increase as a nation ages, and the substantial debt and servicing costs accumulated. Hence we see enormous efforts to create emerging economy growth rates in mature economies.

prior_approval February 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

‘…but let’s be honest about the goals.’

Well, on the one hand, Germany does have a bit of historical experience in terms of ‘family policy’ – something which Germans prefer to avoid repeating, in general. And no, the way the other totalitarian government in Germany raised birth rates is also considered essentially unacceptable.

Second, this point from the Spiegel article is absolutely critical to understanding why the Greens/SPD have been so successful –

‘Outdated Notions of Family Life

The findings run counter to a traditional view of the ideal family still held dear by many in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party: Dad earns the money, Mom stays at home and looks after the children. That, say the government-commissioned experts, can no longer serve as the basis for modern policy-making.

The government’s latest policy initiative caused intense controversy, with opposition parties saying it was trying to transport Germany back to the 1950s. Launched at the insistence of the CDU’s staunchly conservative Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, the “childcare allowance” will come into force this August — and pay a benefit of €100 per month to stay-at-home mothers.’

However, after losing another Bundesland election, the odds of that CSU proposal being implemented are close to zero.

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm

prior, I agree that there’s a long history of varying fertility measures in Germany, especially if you compare the former East and West. And yet, currently compared to the US there is, on balance, more direct subsidies and protections for children and their parents in Germany. The goal does seem to be to boost fertility of Germans, but it seems that the over-arching institutions, culture, and counter-vailing forces are not as supportive. Not surprising as the decision to have a child is about much more than the tax and transfer system. I suspect the Greens/SPD will ‘fail’ just as badly at boosting fertility as the CDU/CSU did.

prior_approval February 10, 2013 at 1:02 am

‘I suspect the Greens/SPD will ‘fail’ just as badly at boosting fertility as the CDU/CSU did.’

Quite possibly – but that failure will likely be due to the fact that the Greens/SPD cannot successfully implement a French/Scandinavian model in Germany. Though who knows? In this region, where France is a few minutes away, most parents speak highly of what the French child care system provides – and this is also the region where, quite unexpectedly, the SPD mayoral candidate won an absolute majority in the first round.

Germans are quite aware of their low birth rate, and slowly, the non-functioning CDU/CSU perspective is being knocked down. Whether its replacement – whatever that replacement is – works is another question. But a full generation of policy direct to married mom staying home with kids, and that is the only model worth supporting with government funds, is being changed. (And what happened in East Germany shows just how clearly this social policy went – along with trying to force a couple of East German states to have mandatory religion classes, like in most of Germany, even though no one in those states wanted it, and that eduction is a Bundesland level responsibility according to the German federal system.)

And the CDU knows it, since it is happening over their loss of power in places where they had been comfortably ensconced for decades – it is just they haven’t even a clue what to do about it. As for the CSU? Maybe in another generation.

JWatts February 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm

“The cited study said that building new day cares raised fertility in German communities…don’t count on it, there’s no way were those randomly built.”

Good point. On the other hand, lowering the tax on alcohol….

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Of course, if you build it some will come, but it’s not clear how much bang for the buck you get from building day care centers, especially in a country where money transfer didn’t seem to do much good.

prior_approval February 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

‘but it’s not clear how much bang for the buck you get from building day care centers’

Well, considering just how much resistance there has been to the idea (see the CSU counterproposal), even though day care availability for 3 year olds has been mandated for a decade and a half. With a continuing shortfall in certain places – and only the cynical would notice how the influence of the Catholic Church in local politics plays a role in that. Or how that role has been counterbalanced by the Greens and SPD sweeping Bundesland and mayoral elections in a certain no longer secure stronghold of the CDU.

And finding day care for children younger than 3 is still very difficult, at least in this region. What is left unsaid in so much of this is how the typical American response of two working parents (a deeply flawed answer in my opinion) is not really an option for many German women, unless they can find someone to take care of children.

Whether day care on the French model, as just one example, will work in Germany is not known – but slowly, as the CDU continues to lose power due to its nostalgic approach to social issues, one will be able to see.

What makes this less theoretical is the comparison to the universal day care available in Eastern Germany, a system that the CDU led West German government happily dismantled as quickly as possible. Along with several other incentives, it was a major factor why the East German state was able to maintain a surprisingly high birth rate. Not that it mattered in terms of East Germany’s economy – demographics is like anything else – in the long run, everything dies.

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm

“American response of two working parents (a deeply flawed answer in my opinion) …” THIS critical sentiment in the parentheses is the ‘problem.’ There’s a reason why those day cares haven’t opened. If they do the German moms will then be bombarded with the ‘mothers of young children shouldn’t work full time’ lecture. And don’t even get me started on German strollers …

prior_approval February 10, 2013 at 1:11 am

‘THIS critical sentiment in the parentheses is the ‘problem.’ ‘

I think you misunderstand, because I didn’t write it. Making men be involved in child care is what I meant – child care is a lot of work, and that women are the ones to do it is not merely a German perspective. Though it is certainly a deep one here.

What has happened in the U.S. is unfortunate, as there is not really any practical way to imagine how those two earner families can have one parent stay home for childraising. In Germany, it is at least imaginable (though one can say the odds aren’t favorable) to shift things so that women are not the sole people raising children.

Children should have adults who care for them around – parents, grandparents, etc. And the broad American model does not provide this.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 10:11 am

An interesting piece, though I’m not sure how far I should trust it, or worry about it. I think it might misunderstand innovation in a networked world, and it might be too GDP centered in considering success.

As an example, Aftrica is transforming now, and I think enjoying, waves of cellphone innovation. Africans did not need to invent the cell phone. It just needed to propagate to them. It has done (in historical terms) very, very, quickly. Take something like the steam train or the telegraph and chart wide adoption in darkest Africa. What did it take, 100 years? What did cell phones take? 10?

Brock February 9, 2013 at 10:20 am

Ah, but countries are just a place on the map. Within any large country there are many cultures and peoples, who all have different demographic destinies. The demographic destiny of a country isn’t up or down, it’s replacement by those who show up. The coastal liberals are an endangered species, while Mormons and few others seem to be doing just fine.

IIRC, Iceland is the only industrialized country with a growing native population. And it’s so small there really is only the one culture (unlike America). The women there have children while they are young (18 – early 20s), and the State University had on site free daycare.

More importantly though, I think, the family laws were cooperative rather than combative. If a girl had a child at 18 but married some other guy at 22, the father of child #1 was still welcome in the home and expected to help with parenting. I can see how that would increase the birth rate, if the young woman in question was fairly sure she wouldn’t be abandoned.

Part of that is culture and size too though. There’s no where to run in Iceland. If either parent didn’t stay cooperative and allow the other to participate, literally everyone they knew would know that. The whole country is only a few generations removed from everyone else in the country.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 10:32 am

My Icelandic genes are now in California, as a case in point.

Millian February 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm

“The coastal liberals are an endangered species”

That trajectory would presumably imply a great move towards conservatism in the last 60 years of American history. Yet the opposite happened.

Are people seriously assuming that the belief systems of social groups are not only exogenous, but immutable? Looking forward from 1900, that would suggest a Catholic theocracy of giant Italian and Irish families running the USA by now. Also hasn’t happened.

As for universally “native” population growth rates in rich countries, that’s 1. wrong and 2. seriously racist. Perhaps the non-US natives should get out and leave the place to the real native Americans.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Re: The coastal liberals are an endangered species

No, they will be replaced by new liberals from the hinterlands. In fact, it’s a very ancient pattern that talented, ambitious people from the provinces flock to the metropolis to make their fortune. Up until the 19th century that was the only reason cities could exist at all since urban death rates exceeded urban birth rates. The latter is no longer true of course, but even if all the coastal elites took vows of celibacy they would still be replaced by new elites moving in to fill their places (which of course is also why monasticism did not die out after a single generation).

Major February 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm

No, they will be replaced by new liberals from the hinterlands. In fact, it’s a very ancient pattern that talented, ambitious people from the provinces flock to the metropolis to make their fortune.

California and New York are both experiencing net outflows of domestic migrants. The up-and-coming metropolises are not LA and NYC, but Atlanta and Houston and Dallas and Phoenix.

Roy February 9, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Yes, but the children of the creative classes in places like Houston, dreams of New York and Cali, amd then moves there.

NY is not going away, neither is Washington.. They will just skim part of what comes to the top in the places still producing population.

JonF311 February 9, 2013 at 11:07 pm

And Houston is already voting Democrat. Phoenix, not yet– but Tucson is.

ElamBend February 10, 2013 at 11:12 am

There was an Econ-Talk a couple of month ago where Russ Roberts interviewed a guy whose research showed that (with a very few exceptions) that higher density living = more liberal voting and mind-set.

Alexei Sadeski February 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

I wonder how much of this can be blamed on the bizarre “child support” laws common throughout the world now. (Can I call something bizarre if it’s common? Hmm.)

I know that I, personally, would certainly have several children if not for the fact that I must deny women the opportunity or else have my income garnished.

affenkopf February 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Probably less than you think, the Scandinavian countries and France have much higher fertility rates than the rest of Europe while having similar child support laws.

Millian February 9, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Empirical evidence is so shattering, isn’t it? Rich countries that have a high economic and social position for women have higher fertility rates (France, the Scandinavians). Rich countries where women are more subjugated have lower rates (Germany). But it’s much more fun to find a way to blame godless Communist socialism for women’s reluctance to be impregnated!

Alexeisadeski February 9, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Is this supposed to be in response to me?

My post certainly did not imply that women are reluctant to be impregnated. Quite the opposite!

France and Sweden both have rational, reasonable child support regimes (in contrast to the American bizarre regime) so your empirical evidence supports my point, no?

Alexeisadeski February 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Don’t know about France, but Sweden at least does not share the US’s wacky child support laws…

So I guess you agree with me?

Alexeisadeski February 9, 2013 at 9:14 pm

After a bit of googling, found French child support requirements as being “generally low.”

So my theory’s got some legs, doesn’t it!

msgkings February 9, 2013 at 12:38 pm

So Alexei would love to have a ton of kids as long as someone else has to pay for their upbringing? Stay classy, bro.

Alexeisadeski February 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Would be happy to pay for them. On my own terms.

Alexeisadeski February 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Also, you don’t seem aware that American child support laws are not in fact for the benefit of the child. It’s adult support, explicitly, and the terms are quite outrageous.

msgkings February 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm

I’m unaware because I have no need to be aware, nor do I expect to.

And if you want your own terms, just go Michael Jackson style: hire a surrogate, or adopt, no wife necessary!

Alexei Sadeski February 9, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Surrogate fatherhood is probably not a great way to increase the fertility rate.

msgkings February 10, 2013 at 12:06 am

How does it not? You get an egg donor, a surrogate, and boom, there’s a new human that wasn’t gonna be there. Repeat as often as you like. No wife, no child support, for the win!

Alexei Sadeski February 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I’m not saying that it’s not a great idea for me, I’m saying that it likely wouldn’t move the needle regarding fertility rate.

As opposed to, say, reforming child support laws.

msgkings February 11, 2013 at 12:55 am

So I misunderstood, you were making a general point about American child support policies reducing birthrates, not your own preferences. Read what you wrote, you can see where I got confused. You did say ‘I personally’, I thought I’d help you figure out how to have the bunches of kids you want without child support risk. You’re welcome!

I don’t think your idea holds a lot of water, plenty of places with even lower birthrates than our own with less stringent child support policies. Sweden and France for example, per your post above.

careless February 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Whether he knocks the woman up himself or adopts, he’s still on the hook for child support. Doesn’t affect it at all.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

You might try getting married and being faithful to your wife. You will not have several women suing you for child support if you do that. In fact as long as you are not a jerk and do not choose a wife who is psycho you won’t even have to worry about one woman doing so.

Alexeisadeski February 9, 2013 at 9:15 pm

That you for this completely irrelevant comment.

jseliger February 9, 2013 at 11:04 am

I agree that in the long term demographics are a major problem, but Last’s WSJ excerpt argues that “the root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate,” which I don’t buy in today’s framework.

Dangerman February 9, 2013 at 11:09 am

This was probably the best criticism of Last I’ve read yet… far better than that New Republic piece.

prior_approval February 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm

What a great opening –

‘Responding to specious articles in the Wall Street Journal is largely a fool’s errand because the hard news sections of the paper have been gutted and too frequently replaced with right-wing pablum or with the same headlines you can find on any news site.’

El February 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Oh good, I can ignore the rest of the article.

Yancey Ward February 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Almost the way I feel about PA’s comments.

prior_approval February 10, 2013 at 1:13 am

Ah, another contented fan of Murdoch’s.

jimmy February 9, 2013 at 7:22 pm

So the great stagnation and powerful financial sector are the root of all the problems?

But then why is finance so powerful? Is it not because they create what lots of people want? Old people want a means of retirement; income from loans to young people. And when there are not enough young people to support pension holders? How about derivatives being invented that simulate non-existant young people buying non-existant houses?

As for the great stagnation, well seniors think that “Technology is great!”

Dangerman February 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

The title of Last’s book is incorrect in the headline. Unless there’s a joke or witticism I’m not getting.

It’s “What to Expect When NO ONE’s Expecting.”

Tyler Cowen February 9, 2013 at 11:32 am

Thanks, fixed…

A Berman February 9, 2013 at 11:41 am

Though many will have issues with the politics, manner of writing, and even the title of the book, I strongly recommend ‘How Civilizations Die, and why Islam is dying, too’ by David Goldman (aka ‘Spengler’), for an interesting breakdown of the interaction between faith, culture, economics, and demographics.

dearieme February 9, 2013 at 11:45 am

Many of these problems will be solved by the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. God provides.

Colin February 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

While antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise, their increase has been less quick than previously anticipated. Indeed, it is certainly plausible that we’ll see a computational solution (whereby a novel antibiotic is rapidly developed using in-silico techniques) within the next 5-10 years. In that time, computational solutions will be 10-100x easier than they are now, not including advances in algorithms in that problem space.

Just ensure that your immune system is in tip-top shape for the next 10 years, and, with a high likelihood, you’ll be fine.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm

The population boom started some generation before antibiotics were discovered. Safe water supplies and basic hygiene are more important than antibiotics in keeping a population relatively disease free.

AC February 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

What I take away from the German article is that people REALLY don’t want to get married – or rather, avoid single parenthood. Thus bribing them to have two-parent households is really expensive. If you want to increase your birthrate, the argument goes, subsidizing single motherhood + work instead has a better ROI because that’s what people want to do anyway.

Let that sink in for a moment. Somehow, in the last few generations, the traditional family model that people have been eagerly perpetuating for centuries has suddenly become incredibly unappealing. People don’t want to get get married, and women in an incredibly wealthy country would rather add a little additional income rather than spend time raising their children. (Whatever happened to diminishing marginal utility of money?)

Conservatives need to realize that the cultural ground has mysteriously shifted under their feet and they’re up against a hugely powerful, evolutionary novel change in social attitudes that a few tax breaks alone are incapable of changes. Liberals need to realize that something really powerful and strange is going on and that these powerful forces may not be friendly to the liberal – or the human – project.

Paul Rene Nichols February 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Being selfish and not reproducing is not evolutionary change, it is an evolutionary dead end.

Church going, cultural conservatives have values that place an emphasis on early marriage and childbearing, and they are outcompeting their more liberal counterparts in the baby-making game. They will have more babies, they will pass on their values, and their worldview will take over.

If you want your cultural views to last into the future, you have to have babies. If your culture doesn’t reinforce the importance of family and fecundity, then your culture is, by definition, maladaptive, and it will die out.

AC February 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

There is some truth to what you say but I’m not sure that it’s the whole story. After all, all the “liberal” folks today were the product of an entire ancestral line who did in fact reproduce. They may have a slightly different distribution of personality traits but they’re not aliens. And while there may be some differential fertility, the fact that we’re having this conversation at all indicates that lots of kids of “conservative” folks were easily converted to an anti-fecundity mindset. Cultural evolution beat biological evolution.

No, us vs. them may explain a little but it doesn’t seem to be the most useful theory here. I’d think more along the lines of superstimuli. Children of pretty physically fit ancestors become obese when they get a nutritional superstimulus – like a candy bar – that tastes more sweet than real food could possibly be.

Some form of cultural-status superstimulus is suddenly making career jockeying more appealing than family for both sexes. (Imagine a peasant saying “yeah, I could have kids, but I’d want to work hard until I’m 35 and get a few more oxen like the neighbors before I want to take that step, you know?”) Similarly, for women, somehow “doing mostly boring office work” has become more appealing than “doing sometimes boring childcare work” despite the fact that, again, we know that a little extra income in rich countries doesn’t actually produce much happiness.

msgkings February 9, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I believe you’re over-thinking it a bit. Prior to the 1960s controlling fertility wasn’t so easy. Furthermore, in agrarian societies kids = labor. Finally, kids used to die off at a rate we’d find horrifying, so you had to have a bunch. These three factors to me mean much more than career choices, although women entering the workforce is probably a factor too.

AC February 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

There’s good evidence that kids were *never* a good economic bet, only less-negative than they were today. (As a thought experiment, why not hire labor when you need it?)

And the ancients had reasonably good birth control, and were willing to use it if they really wanted to: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_control#History

So the ancients did want to avoid having kids…maybe they couldn’t avoid having them altogether, but they could have leaned very strongly towards having fewer and later kids, and we’d see historical evidence of that preference. That is not the case. Human preferences have indeed changed.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Values do not pass on perfectly any more than genes do: they undergo a sea change across generations (and indeed, with a higher mutation rate than genes show), otherwise the immense changes in societies across the centuries would be impossible to explain– we’d all be living in caves and worshiping the thunder still. In a century the descendants of today’s conservatives may still call themselves conservative, but they will be as accepting of gay marriage (to use one example) as any modern liberal. After all, it’s not as if conservatives today are still fighting to keep the vote from women, let alone to restore slavery– or monarchy– even if their conservative ancestors did all those things and considered female suffrage, or abolition, or republican government appallingly radical.

“Time changes all things and we steo not twice in the same river”– Herakelitos.

Brian Donohue February 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Heh. Not just conservatives. I’m rereading Shirer’s Rise and Fall. This guy is a rock-solid liberal and the book was written in 1960. One of the most striking things I’m finding, reading the book in 2013, is his critique of Nazi leadership, peppered with references to debauched homosexual perverts like Roehm. Sea change indeed.

Konkvistador February 10, 2013 at 6:13 am

Well actually I’m staunch advocate of monarchy, not only think giving women the vote was a bad idea but giving it to men without property as well. I have argued and think that our society does a terrible enough job at suppressing slavery ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking ) that we ought to at least consider legalizing it to improve the conditions under which those slaves live. it isn’t at all clear to me that would not be a utilitarian win.

eddie February 10, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Your children will not inherit your culture.

Brian Donohue February 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

The nuclear family is not merely a social construct, it’s a GOOD IDEA. If it disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, it would rapidly be rediscovered. The death of the traditional family is greatly exaggerated.

Engineer February 9, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Liberals need to realize that something really powerful and strange is going on and that these powerful forces may not be friendly to the liberal – or the human – project.

Translate that statement into “snark”. Liberals don’t pay attention unless you speak their language.

John February 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Kids from happily married parents perform better on all sorts of life outcomes (childhood aggression/hyperactivity, adult criminality, early mortality, dropping out of school, emotional health).

Matt February 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Low-fertility societies don’t innovate because their incentives for consumption tilt overwhelmingly toward health care.

Technological innovation in the 20th century seems to be correlated with reduction in fertility (lower fertility societies and sectors of society are more technologically innovative, on a global scale and over the last century). Were they innovating less than they otherwise would’ve? What is the metric for technological innovation?

What is meant by “low fertility societies” here? Below a certain threshold?

They cannot sustain social-security programs because they don’t have enough workers to pay for the retirees.

How is the income to a social-security program a function of the number of workers, rather than the wealth of those workers and the taxation of both them and people who are just not workers at all?

mrmandias February 10, 2013 at 7:43 pm

At first, low-fertility societies are hugely productive and innovative because they have a high proportion of working-age adults who are in fact in the workforce. Then their workforce ages and they tend to stagnate.

Chet Manly February 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I’ll take Last’s argument seriously when he’s willing to put some money into solving it. Or heck, when he’s willing to support immigration reform.

Either you change the incentive structure for having kids or you don’t. The rest is handwaving and ineffectual exhortations.

Yancey Ward February 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I think the response would be that he does support such policy changes, just not the kind you would support.

Chet Manly February 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Even if you think the fertility rate is a problem, you have to admit that 1) cutting Social Security taxes, 2) making college cheaper, and 3) building more roads is an utterly insufficient response to the problem.

Why should unshackled globalization and a weaker safety net help family family formation? Why should a family in Michigan, or Oklahoma for that matter, replicate itself on a model of the 1970s when the economic conditions of that day are gone?

Last, Murray, Douthat, Salam, Brooks, they all seem to have this blindspot when it comes to economic pressures on the middle class. Potential parents are not more likely to have kids when their jobs, their health care, their retirement are all more precarious than ever. A middle class job isn’t sufficient for the type of family creation these folks want to see more of, but it is surely necessary.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Right, unions, protectionism, good public schools, the minimum wage, Social Security and so forth all contributed to the Baby Boom by making family formation affordable.

Likewise, the highest fertility Americans is found in Utah, where the Mormons run a sort of private version of New Deal America for Mormons.

For example, today, most private colleges are expensive and extremely stratified by SAT score. BYU, however, is relatively cheap (there is no magic to this — they just have big class sizes) and has one of the widest ranges of SAT scores of any private college. If you have three kids, you can probably afford to send them all to BYU, and there is a good chance they can all get in and all will want to go there.

Likewise, if you are a good Mormon and have an unlucky break, you can be confident you’ll get some help from your fellow Mormons.

All this encourages people to get married and have more kids.

MC February 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Good point, but the sustainability of the Mormon New Deal is greatly dependent on the fact that malingerers and spongers will eventually be cut off.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Right.

The first time you screw up your life, Bishop Romney comes over to your house and helps you out. The second time you screw up, Bishop Romney comes over and gives you a lecture. The third time, nobody comes and even your friends stop talking to you.

MC February 10, 2013 at 1:45 am

Well, speaking from experience, you’ll only be “cut off” financially. Mormons will actually never stop visiting you if you don’t want them to. But for people who are just in it for the welfare, the end of financial assistance and the end of church involvement are typically simultaneous.

Brian Donohue February 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm

“Potential parents are not more likely to have kids when their jobs, their health care, their retirement are all more precarious than ever.”

I just don’t think this is true. OK, health care costs a fortune compared to 40 years ago, but I don’t see any silver bullet ‘family-friendly’ policy to change that.

Overall, though, people who grow up in comfortable surroundings don’t want to jeopardize that. My folks, born in the 1930s, knew real poverty. In retrospect, they led a much more precarious financial existence while raising five kids in the 1970s than most people lead today.

Urso February 11, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Depends on what you mean by precarious. They certainly had less, but that also means they had less to lose. One corollary of having a lot of cool stuff is that you become (irrationally?) afraid of losing it.

Brian Donohue February 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

The fact is, we have enjoyed several decades of a relatively low dependency ratio (old people plus kids / workers). This is a one-off phenomenon due to the Baby Boom and subsequent bust.

That period of comparatively easy growth, our seven fat years, is drawing to a close. But rather than putting our public finances in order ahead of the seven lean years, we’ve done the opposite. Shame on us- all of us.

jdgalt February 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm

This doesn’t offer much hope for the future of any of the world’s big rich countries — but at least China (the current most likely candidate for the world’s next dominant power) suffers from the same problem.

Of course, there is one way a country can change its “age profile” in less than decades — immigration. None of the rich countries is close to having open borders, at least with respect to immigration from countries whose populations are now growing. This may be a great opportunity for us.

JWatts February 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Open borders for low skilled immigrants to a country with large entitlements would be a quick and drastic fiscal disaster. You can’t offer immigrants substantially more in benefits than they generate in taxes for any significant period of time.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I presume your first US ancestor was a PhD then? (Mine were domestic servants, then tradesmen, then college men.)

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

It’s funny how Ancestor Worship has become the default way to avoid thinking about immigration policy.

msgkings February 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Not as funny as how racism has for many always been the way to do it.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Oooh, good one! So much original genius poured into one comment!

john personna February 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I’m actually fine with favoring skilled labor a bit more strongly, but I know from my experience, my region (Orange County, California) that immigrants already work hard and create great things. Just about everyone in a high tech startup had great grandparents who were farmers or peasants somewhere. Four generations ago, the vast majority were farmers or peasants. In my own grandmother’s day, farm kids in Denmark did not get shoes. Her son got a Masters at USC.

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Steve, check out Mankiw’s new piece, spoiler alert you might not like the ending … http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/business/how-economics-has-benefited-from-immigration.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0

john personna February 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Wow, Mankiw is an Ancestor Worshiping rapscallion!

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Yes, Mankiw has long let his feelings of Ancestor Worship stop him from thinking objectively about immigration policy.

As illustrated in Mankiw’s NYT essay, the default mode of today’s conventional wisdom when it comes to thinking about immigration is ethnocentric Ellis Island kitsch.

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Now I didn’t tell you to skip to the end … there was plenty of economic analysis sketched out in the piece.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Back in the Bush Housing Bubble days, Mankiw used to open his blog up to comments. When he’d support Bush’s immigration policies, he’d simply lose the argument to his skeptical commenters because he didn’t (and, evidently, still doesn’t) know many facts about immigration in recent generations. He’d always end up falling back to his four grandparents being immigrants.

Judging by his latest effusion on immigration, he’s learned nothing since then. But learning about immigration is considered to be in bad taste these days. All you need to know to be an expert today is when your ancestors arrived.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Any smart immigration policy can be phrased in a race neutral way. Anyone with race as a center-point is not smart, they are just people with prejudices and rationalizations. I mean God help ya, if you actually wanted IQ you could have tests and millions more passing applicants than you actually want, including members from all races.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

(Though I think a strong IQ bias would be foolish. There is more to life. The best people I know have a mixture of smarts.)

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

John Persona says:

“Any smart immigration policy can be phrased in a race neutral way. Anyone with race as a center-point is not smart, they are just people with prejudices and rationalizations.”

Exactly. And, if you stop and notice, all the pro-immigration conventional wisdom today is centered around race. Mankiw is in favor of immigration because of his ancestry. Amnesty is being pushed endlessly in the media as pro-Hispanic, as a way to stick it to Old White Men, those losers.

john pesonna February 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I’m pretty sure it’s the racists who introduce race into every MR discussion, as is typical. Their worldview demands it. Any question is a racial question. Danish/Icelandic boys just think of the hard-working *people* they see in the neighborhood, and are brought up short every time.

Look at the thread above. JWatts worries about the poor arriving. I say “my grandparents were poor.” Mankiw says “my grandparents were poor.” You say “see, you are talking about race!”

No, actually we were not.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 4:22 pm

John Perssona says:

“I say “my grandparents were poor.” Mankiw says “my grandparents were poor.” You say “see, you are talking about race!” No, actually we were not.”

I’m sorry about being snappish. It’s easy for me to forget how few people in today’s intellectual climate grasp the intimate connection among ancestry, race, ethnicity and so forth. For example:

- In my dictionary, the first definition of “race” is “lineage.”

- The President’s bestselling autobiography is entitled “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.”

- It’s widely assumed in the press that Marco Rubio naturally should negotiate immigration reform with Obama for the Republicans. Why? Because of his expertise on the subject, his close study of the data over the years? He has none and he knows nothing. No, solely because of his ancestors.

And so forth and so on.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Again, racists only see race. For me (and probably Mankiw) it was about poor people with humble beginnings who would fail any “don’t let in the humble” test. It took a racist to say “wait, race was the important thing there.”

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Here’s an amusing paragraph from Greg Mankiw’s piece in the New York Times today:

“THIS competition from abroad may reduce the salaries of American-born economists like me, but it has improved the university, much to our students’ benefit. For one thing, such competition keeps down the university’s labor costs. Many parents are shocked at how high college tuition is, but it could be worse.”

Dr. Mankiw is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Economic Department at Harvard. He has tenure, an endowed chair, and chairmanship of a department at the most richly endowed university in the history of the world. He’s not actually out there in the open market competing against Latvian wunderkinds for his salary.

It’s the sheer shamelessness of the Cheap Labor lobby that cracks me up.

Brian Donohue February 9, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Steve, does a long history of nativist/ anti-immigrant sentiment in this country, using, AFAICT, many of the same arguments you use, but applied to Irish, Italians, Jews, Slavs, etc. every ‘new’ group that has ever washed up on these shores, give you even one moment of pause?

Steve Sailer February 10, 2013 at 12:52 am

Dear Brian:

As I’ve noted, the mainstream conventional wisdom on immigration policy is far more obsessed with avenging insults upon Ellis Island ancestors than in thinking about America’s future.

As far as letting the conventional wisdom give me pause, I’ve considered it at vast length, as in this 2001 review of Michael Barone’s “New Americans.”

http://www.vdare.com/articles/barone-backsliding-into-bankruptcy

Barone gave the Bush-Rove thinking on illegal immigration the best historical spin it could have, but since then Barone has come mostly to seeing that I was right. Why? Because my model did a better job of predicting the last dozen years than his.

Brian Donohue February 10, 2013 at 10:25 am

Steve, Interesting. I’m a big fan of Sowell’s book and would love to see an update.

It seems to me the biggest differences nowadays are broader cultural attitudes rather than innate differences.

Immigrant groups used to be concerned about the impression they made on the larger community, and took responsibility for improving that impression in a variety of ways, such as self-policing their own ‘bad actors’. A classic example is among the Jews. Early arriving German Jews were much more sophisticated than the later-arriving Eastern European Jews and were, frankly, embarrassed by them. Jacob Schiff, a prominent German Jew from New York, was concerned that waves of ragamuffin Russian Jews concentrated in teeming Jewish slums in New York would make a bad impression, and he worked to ‘spread out’ the newcomers to other places, like Galveston.

This was the prevailing ethos among all groups 100 years ago, blacks included. Of course, that sounds like Uncle Tom today, and we live in a culture of victimology (which you yourself dabble in for your preferred group, by the way), so that nowadays things are completely upside down, and America blacks have running gags about crazy Caribbean blacks embarrassing them by coming to America and being hard working and industrious.

The culture that is America- 2013 version.

Steve Sailer February 10, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Dear Brian:

Well said.

Individuals used to try to avoid bringing shame to their groups by not living down to stereotypes. Today, the shoe is on the other foot: blame is assigned to those who notice the stereotypes. In the reigning worldview, noticing patterns of average behavior induces Stereotype Threat, which is what causes members of Designated Victim Groups to live down to stereotypes. The solution is to never notice anything.

El February 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm

That reply doesn’t warrant any consideration.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Right, because thinking about immigration is in bad taste. The only thing we should do these days is _feel_ about immigration. Dr. Mankiw finds that the topic of immigration allows him to air his feelings of ancestral piety, so who needs to actually study, say, how immigration interacted with the disastrous Housing Bubble?

john personna February 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm

That is some serious projection. Mankiw talks about his grandparents:

“None of them had more than a fourth-grade education, and none could speak English when they set foot on their new homeland. Yet they found work, made a living and raised families. They lived modest lives, but their children did better than they did, and their grandchildren did better still.”

You say “that’s about race,” when no, actually it is not. It was about hard work and education.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Mankiw flat out admits in today’s New York Times that ancestral emotions are overriding his rationality on the topic of immigration:

“In the end, even as an economist committed to rational policy analysis, I have to acknowledge that the immigration debate also has a visceral, emotional element. In my case, that is shaped by family history.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/business/how-economics-has-benefited-from-immigration.html

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Steve, *also has* does not mean *is over-ridden by.* Try again. I applaud economists who try to add another layer to rational analysis, not necessarily our value-added but we are people too. Mankiw’s piece gave you both angles..why not pick apart his substance arguments instead of his family tree?

mrmandias February 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

What large entitlements were your ancestors entitled to back when they were domestic servants?

not too late February 10, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Your immigrant forbears got nothing for free from the US taxpayer. Not food, not shelter, not social security, not healthcare, not anything. They provided more value than they cost.

prior_approval February 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm

From the Baker critique – ‘Dean argues that productivity is better than population growth, but of course these aren’t either-or options. There’s nothing about higher immigration that precludes productivity growth. In fact there are many reasons to believe it will help, including by making our government and it’s productivity enhancing investments and public goods more affordable.’

So, if I understand that correctly, we simply need more to make government programs more affordable – which is interesting, because really, it seems impossible for a certain class of person to understand that paying for something requires, well, paying for it. Things that aren’t paid for don’t become more available, after all.

Millian February 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm

“the inability of a society to reproduce itself is per se a major problem”

Why? For whom? This is an example of Cowen’s being a gadfly advertising his reading habits, rather than an intellectual engaging in debate. He is an excellent arguist when he puts his mind to it, but that has regrettably become less frequent since peak MR.

prior_approval February 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

The Great Stagnation as applied to a blog?

jdgalt February 10, 2013 at 12:36 am

It seems to me that the true way in which “a society needs to reproduce itself” is not that its members necessarily raise lots of children, but that its ideas propagate to people who are willing (and allowed) to carry them on. Thus immigration by those willing to assimilate should be encouraged, while “progressive” education, which is deliberately intended to change America into something very un-American, should be resisted.

Millian February 10, 2013 at 7:34 am

But it’s clear, then, that a society doesn’t need to reproduce itself by that definition. If its ideas are that great, they’ll survive. Like American slavery, for instance, which wasn’t such a great idea.

careless February 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Given that slavery is roughly as old as civilization and American slavery lasted longer than America has to this point, I do not think you have made the point you intended.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

While the quantity of births has shrunk in the Obama Era compared to the Bush Era, the quality has improved slightly: births to poorly educated single women have declined faster since the Housing Bubble burst than births to better educated married women. For data and links, see:

http://takimag.com/article/american_birthrates_quantity_v_quality_steve_sailer/print#axzz2KQjJFbUJ

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Is anyone here familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 essay “Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind”?

http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/28/29569/primarysources1_5_1.html

Franklin offered brilliant insights into the economics of fertility, marriage, and immigration that were a couple of generations ahead of their time, outlining a more optimistic approach to what Malthus came up with 44 years later (as Malthus admitted in the second edition of his main work). Yet you never seem to hear much about Franklin’s historic breakthrough work. I wonder why?

Claudia February 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm

thanks for reminding us how far we’ve come. you know there was a time when we believed the earth was flat too. #progress

not too late February 10, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Really when was that?

Eratosthenes of Cyrene (c. 276 BC – c. 195 BC) was the first person to calculate the circumference of the earth.

I guess that it was an orb was common knowledge, else he wouldn’t have thought to try to measure its circumference.

john personna February 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I’d like to credit old Ben, that “almost every Slave being by Nature a Thief” is recognition that slaves feel justified in seeking compensation, and I hope that he left off “every en-slaver is certainly a Thief” as a problem for another time …

(Being of Viking stock, and “by Nature” an en-slaver of Britons, I can see the arbitrary nature of it all.)

Brian Donohue February 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Heh. Steve, I just commented above on this. From your Franklin link:

“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”

Classic.

Harold Lloyd February 10, 2013 at 12:06 pm

German immigrants played a large role in the War of Northern Aggression.

“German-Americans in the American Civil War were the largest ethnic contingent to fight for the Union. More than 200,000 native Germans served in the Union Army, with New York and Ohio each providing ten divisions dominated by German-born men.”

Which side will you be on in the next one?

Brian Donohue February 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

No question the South had more cultural and economic affinity with Britain than the North.

I recall a story about Lincoln taking the train to DC after the 1860 election. The train broke down in Indiana, and Abe thought he’d work a crowd of locals who came out to see what was happening. After rapping at them for a few minutes, it occurred to him that they did not know a lick of English- it was an insular German community.

This was more than 100 years after Franklin’;s comment. Ben could be forgiven for claiming he was correct. I’m sure many ancestors of these folks later complained about the inability of other groups to assimilate.

To your question: my ancestry is Irish, so I don’t reflexively favor the side of the English.

Harold Lloyd February 10, 2013 at 8:14 pm

The revolutionaries of 1848 that were kicked out of Europe landed in America and continued their work. Mexico’s troublemakers and their peasant army will do the same thing a century and a half later.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Yeah, Benjamin Franklin, devout Flat-Earther.

And remember how Franklin believed lighting was caused by witchcraft? What an idiot!

Thank God we’ve progressed so far that nobody is familiar anymore with Franklin’s breakthrough in economics.

Engineer February 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm

TC and Jonathan Last are pointing out that there is a fundamental contradiction between perpetuation of a successful dynamic society on the one hand and the self-indulgent cult of “life choices” on the other..

The SWPL response (judging from these comments) is to try to reengineer society even more, so that there is no need to make tradeoffs.

One excellent way to create an incentive to have kids: allow the zero interest rate and volatile stock market situations to continue. People will start having kids so that someone will help take care of them in their retirement.

Millian February 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm

TC is doing nothing of the sort. He is engaging in “mood affiliation”, I think, though that’s a sort of vague term.

The negative response in the comments is primarily against bad arguments introduced by other comments (e.g. “political beliefs are genetic”, “women done got liberated enough”, “American single mothers are low-quality people”, “immigrants are lame”).

The most successful societies by many socio-economic measures have low birth rates, so your claim is preposterous. Before you wilfully misinterpret this statement, less-successful societies have both low and high birth rates.

mrmandias February 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm

The negative responses are contentless mood affiliation.

JonF February 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Re: One excellent way to create an incentive to have kids: allow the zero interest rate and volatile stock market situations to continue. People will start having kids so that someone will help take care of them in their retirement.

No, quite the opposite: they will become so fearful of the future that they will avoid having children since they won’t be sure they will be able to support them. Having children requires reasonable faith that the future is not going to a disaster, and that what one has will continue, perhaps even improve.

Millian February 9, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Good analysis. Unfortunately, this thread is now about right-wing Manichean-millenarianism. Let’s spin the wheel and choose the next thing to blame for Everything Today Being Worse Than 1850. The EPA! I’m sure there’s a tendentious link to fertility.

Chet Manly February 9, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Fluoridated water and Beyoncé, and not in that order.

Roy February 9, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I blame central heating, if we still needed kids to chop firewood… Or maybe it was the reaping machine?

Go, Kings Go! February 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Countries poached each other’s populations by the hundreds of thousands in the 17th Century. Maria Theresa, the Dutch Republic, Elector Frederick William et al established agencies that sent promoters and manifestos offering immigrants relocation subsidies, free land, seeds, equipment and livestock, military exemption, freedom of worship and forced labor, etc. Frederick William famously greeted the first immigrants under his program at Berlin’s gates, with his whole court, and knelt together to offer gratitude for their immigration; and it worked, by 1720 1/5 of Berlin’s population were immigrants (of course, Catherine the Great poached 27,000 Germans who swelled to 600,000 in a few centuries).

But they targeted the young for more energetic industry, flexible cultural values and, of course, second order demographic stimulus (young breed large families).

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Canada and Australia both have immigration policies explicitly intended to recruit those newcomers who will most benefit their current citizens and keep out less desirable foreigners:

http://www.isteve.com/Canada_Doesnt_Want_Me.htm

Judging by the PISA scores of their immigrants’ children, this strategy seems to be working.

In America, however, immigration is increasingly viewed as a matter of civil rights, of proving yourself on the winning side of the demographic future, and of winning 100-year-old battles over the desirability of your ancestors. Not surprisingly, this mindset is not conducive to clear thought about immigration policy.

JCW February 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm

This discussion seems to completely ignore the fact that population growth has significant drawbacks, too. I would argue that those are worse than the problems raised by the current fairly low rate of population reduction. At current rates, it will take much longer for reduction to create catastrophic problems than if rates were to suddenly re-skew positive in every major industrialized nation, with the associated shifts in resource consumption that such a shift would entail.

As a society, we are already quietly running into weird little resource consumption barriers/problems, from helium to the pursuit of ever-less-efficient petroleum sources, that are what you would expect from a global population whose size and consumption have steadily grown for, well, all of human history. You don’t have to be a Malthusian to believe that’s not an infinitely sustainable situation.

Steve Sailer February 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm

The U.S. had rapid population growth in 2003-2007 due to immigration and high fertility among immigrants, especially illegal ones, and among the unmarried and poorly educated.

How’d that all work out, anyway?

Millian February 10, 2013 at 7:37 am

Relative to Europe, great! Relative to China/other shiny dictatorships, still four times as wealthy, or there abouts. Your point is not clear to me.

Steve Sailer February 10, 2013 at 9:45 pm

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”
Orwell

prior_approval February 11, 2013 at 6:57 am

Double plus good duckspeak.

Robb Lutton February 9, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Well if you make the assumption that birth rates ought to be higher (a big if), it seems to me that the big issue is women’s social security.

If the basic idea of our culture is that you are personally responsible for your own economic welfare, having children is a pretty risky idea for women in general. The only way to have any personally security is to develop some marketable skill and to market it. If you stop, your skills atrophy and your market value stagnates.

If there is a man around there is no guarantee that he will stay and once he leaves, there is no assurance he will have the resources to support two households even if he tries to do the right thing. So this means that even if you want to have children the only rational thing is to try to keep some kind of work going…which makes the whole child rearing thing a difficult undertaking.

To me the whole problem is essentially that in advanced countries women are in some sense on strike against their traditional roles. This phenomena is most advanced in places like Italy where the smallest advances for feminism have been made.

To my mind women are behaving rationally.

not too late February 10, 2013 at 11:41 pm

There is just something fundamentally different about a group that has a large number of offspring and only the strongest, smartest, etc. survive and a group that barely makes enough to keep going and 95% all offspring make it and the strongest, smartest etc. have the fewest children. Something tells me the numbers aren’t going to work. Margaret Sanger preached more from the fit, less from the unfit. Well, we are doing about the opposite. Even assuming that those of us who were born here are willing to commit demographic suicide, it is not like we are leaving an awesome situation to the bimodal distribution of immigrants we are receiving. For every one skilled immigrant, we import five unskilled immigrants and any discussion of the topic makes many defensive and hysterical. Not referring to present company, but in general that tends to happen.

prior@approval February 11, 2013 at 6:56 am

‘For every one skilled immigrant, we import five unskilled immigrants and any discussion of the topic makes many defensive and hysterical.’

Well, back in those long ago days of completely open borders, we ‘imported’ unskilled immigrants at a ratio undoubtedly higher than today’s – if only because the number of people required for agricultural labor was at least an order of magnitude higher than today. And look at what happened in a couple of generation’s time to the U.S. after all that unskilled immigration.

‘Not referring to present company, but in general that tends to happen.’

Don’t be coy – this is a very welcoming comments section for all sorts of racists, or as some of them prefer to be called, ‘racialists.’

The Anti-Gnostic February 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

It’s funny how this “Hispanics [Meso-Americans, actually] are the new Germans-Irish-Italians-Slavs-Jews” argument overlooks American blacks. Why aren’t they the new “Germans-Irish-Italians-Slavs-Jews?” Now that America is past the bad old days and is now the land of opportunity for people from any and every background, I guess we can dismantle Title VII, the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Housing Opportunity Act, the Equal Employment Act and some others I’m doubtless forgetting. After all, if President Marco Rubio can make it anybody can.

People on this site live in high IQ bubbles. On the ground, Meso-Americans are recreating their homelands. One million immigrants will assimilate, ten million will want their own country, complete with Cinco de Mayo, Univision and their own segregated bus lines. Not that that’s as bad as things can get, or even necessarily bad if you like Mexican weathergirls but if we wanted our children growing up in Mexico we’d move there. Does anybody seriously think immigrants are coming here to pay taxes for old white strangers, much less the historical grievances of black America? Modern immigrants come here with a full buffet of welfare and civil rights laws originally intended to level the playing field for the descendants of American slaves. There is really no historical comparison.

Abelard Lindsey February 13, 2013 at 1:06 am

I just finished the book. Its actually quite good.

One thing the book makes abundantly clear to me: The over-population argument against radical life extension is completely debunked, once and for all. Since this was the only semi-legitimate argument against radical life extension (all others are spurious), there are NO legitimate argument against the development of radical life extension (SENS, stem-cell rejuvenation, etc.) at all. Any argument opposing the development of effective anti-aging therapies is nothing more than emotive non-sense.

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