What Should be Done About Bulgaria’s Population Decline?

Bulgaria has the fastest declining population in the world. From a peak of nearly 9 million around the time of the communist fall in 1990 Bulgaria’s population is 7 million today and projected to fall to around 5 million over the next generation. Entire villages have been depopulated, especially in the poorer Northern region.

A correspondent wrote me asking what to do. I responded what’s the problem? Of course, there are plenty of things one could do to make Bulgaria a richer and better place to live, some of which Bulgaria has been doing and some of which they have not. The more fundamental question, however, is why the number of a particular type of people located in a particular geographically proscribed area should be a measure of welfare?

Instead of focusing on Bulgaria let’s focus on Bulgarians. One of the reasons the population of Bulgaria has been falling is that Bulgarians have been leaving for better lives elsewhere in the European Union. Over one million Bulgarians live abroad. It is not always easy to move nor to stay in a village that is bereft of young people. But how fortunate is that those young people could move elsewhere. Instead of thinking of them just as Bulgarians lets think of them as citizens of the European Union. Problem solved. The EU population is increasing!

Is that a facile answer? Perhaps but note that in the United States great swaths of the country have seen declining populations since the 1930s or even earlier. We tend not to regard this as a big deal. In part because many of the areas with declining populations were small to begin with but also because we regard it as a good thing that Americans can move about the country. Indeed, because people have been free to move to opportunity the people remaining have not seen big declines in their standard of living. Ghosts are better than zombies.

Addendum: Bulgaria has some great beaches and historic sites at very reasonable prices!


I responded what’s the problem? Of course, there are plenty of things one could do to make Bulgaria a richer and better place to live, some of which Bulgaria has been doing and some of which they have not. The more fundamental question, however, is why the number of a particular type of people located in a particular geographically proscribed area should be a measure of welfare?

A "richer and better place to live" seems to be a gross reduction of the problem to economics. Rich people don't have children either. Poor Bulgarians used to but suddenly they have stopped. That is interesting. And depressing. The world needs Bulgarians or it is a lot poorer. Simply making someone comfortable in a hospice is not a substitute for a happy and fulfilling life with their family.

I would suggest it is a reaction to the end of Communism and the embrace of a culture of death. Bulgarians have been taught to reject the future in favor of material living standards now and so they have. The EU has not dissuaded them from this course. A good place to start would be in schools where children would be encouraged to think about what will make them happy in the long run. I doubt that means cleaning toilets in Paris.

"The world needs Bulgarians or it is a lot poorer."
"A good place to start would be in schools where children would be encouraged to think about what will make them happy in the long run. I doubt that means cleaning toilets in Paris."
Beats cleaning toilets in Sofia. Or just living in Sofia. Also, can you spell social engineering?


I can’t believe you made such a good commentary. Are you not Thiago?

BTW, although the intellectualism of Tyler is stimulating, the post of Alex are generally more interesting. I wish he posted more.

I really do not know what you are talking about. I am myself.

Bit of a one note samba, though, eh?

Oh, you are familiar with Jobim's One Note Samba? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SD0LnNrB
Actually, as the lyrics points out, there are other notes on the song, but the basis is one. In a certain way, can't we say it echoes Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One."

"This video is unavailable."

It's region locked ... to Brazil.

No, the link was not complete. My bad. It lacked the "m8" part. Now, it must work.


Yes, it is awesome.

........"Bulgaria" is a totally artificial & subjective concept associated with arbitrary geographic lines.

it is and should be of little concern to most people on this planet.

the humans currently residing in "Bulgaria" do not require the political construct of "Bulgaria" to survive or prosper. declining population there is very likely a good thing, reflecting reasonable choices by people there... among the options available to them.

I doubt Bulgaria is an artificial construct; they have their own language, and the Balkan wars of 100 years ago were fought over what exactly, among other things, was the geographical confines of Bulgaria.

Bonus trivia: Basil II the Byzantine ruler is NOT popular in Bulgaria, even today. Read why here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_II (Keyword: "one-eyed").

Doubtless the Bzyantines would agree. They participated in Bulgarian population decline(while fighting for their lives).

If borders are so artificial, why is it so important to some people that they be on my side of them?

You misspelled "Webster."

The devil you say.

You're some kind of World Government Soros activist?

When you're next in Sofia, don't miss this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tripe_soups#Bulgaria

My impression is that Bulgaria happens to be a part of Europe where the locals never happened to be the top dog bully boys for very long. The locals were usually paying taxes to somebody else to turn the other guys' capital (e.g., Rome, Constantinople) into a giant monument to themselves. So, Bulgaria is a little short on tourist attractions because tourist attractions tend to be built by conquerors who are extracting taxes from somebody else, such as the poor Bulgarians.

Indeed, what is the problem. Take a look at Africa with their over population problem and the trillions of dollars spent there to try to help them, My god if someone smart enough to understand the problem had 50 years ago forced everyone in Africa to use birth control today Africa would be a paradise instead of a collection of shithole countries.

Yay! All hail eugenics! But only for thee, never for me!

I think he's advocating universal access to free birth control, like ObamaCare, not eugenics.

"forced everyone in Africa to use birth control."

As Thiago (!) points out, "forced" is the key word. That's textbook eugenics.

I really don't know what tou are talking about. I can assure you I am myself, not another person.

"I can assure you I am myself, not another person."

I think we all understand that part, what's confusing is why you changed your username from one Brazilian soccer player (Thiago Ribeiro) to another (Charles).



You mut be mistaking me for another person. I know no Thiago. And Charbes is not the same as Charles.

Well Charbres isn't a typical American name. What nationality is it?

I have chosen it ramdomly.

Charbes/Truth Seeker/Thiago:

Come on, just own it. You're not the first person to change your screen name, and you're not fooling anyone.

I really do not know what you are talking about. I have not changed my screen name. I am the same Charbes I have ever been.

Now you're just being a liar, the same as you have ever been.

You are mistaken.

That’s textbook eugenics.

No, it would have to be selecting for something for that. If it affects everyone equally, it's not eugenics


It doesn't affect everyone equally- only Africans are being forced to use birth control in this scenario. So yeah, its eugenics, because there are going to be a lot fewer people with black skin, etc.

Seems to me there's a lot of room to maneuver between forcing people to use birth control and encouraging them by sign or deed to reproduce.

I would suggest it is a reaction to the end of Communism and the embrace of a culture of death. Bulgarians have been taught to reject the future in favor of material living standards now and so they have.

If only the Bulgarians had not abandoned communism, with it's forward looking, future oriented attitude. Then their children would have stayed home to take care of their elderly parents. What a mistake!
Not to mention the sense of social purpose entailed by working together to build the glorious Socialist workers paradise. Now they are just materialists with no sense of meaning.

It's possible that the remittances are significant enough to make it a net positive, but young and talented people leaving (presumably that is how the emigrants skew) is usually bad for the welfare of people who remain in their home country. Policy makers are of course going to focus primarily on people living within their borders.

Then the young and talented practice family reunification(you break up your family, then we reunify it) and bring their aged parents in. There's even a section of Social Security for this. I don't know what it's called buy you take out tho you've never put in.

Some of the lamentations are cultural. The collective culture we mark as Bulgarian is marked by a particular language, a distinct religion, foods. works of art, etc. Bulgarians who move to and raise families in Europe or the US (in the US, I have a colleague down the hall from Bulgaria) will raise children who will be much less familiar with these things, which ultimately disappear from the human tapestry. For the older, who are not mobile, the sense of being abandoned is all the worse.

Note that the same effect exists if the culture you grew up with is being altered by large-scale immigration.

Economically too, the old consume in many societies partly at the expense of the young. Older people feel today’s young are breaking the contract.

Successful societies are societies in motion, is is true. Bulgarians in Europe can create modes of living that meld where they came from and where they are, and people where they are can also benefit. But people of a certain age, or a certain level of risk aversion, are hostile to declining populations, whether through immigration or lower fertility, because they have a lot at stake in preserving what is. It’s true that the individualist attitude (Bulgarians) provides different answers from the collectivist one (Bulgaria), but some individuals live through the collective.


"Perhaps but note that in the United States great swaths of the country have seen declining populations since the 1930s or even earlier. We tend not to regard this as a big deal."

I disagree. I think dying rural communities in America - if they weren't a big deal before - have become a big deal through two major recent storylines: the opioid crisis and Trump's election. The decline of these communities has been inextricably tied to the population decline and flight of all promising youth.

Some subtlety here is warranted between parts of the US settled more or less recently.

For the Homestead Act areas opened after the Civil War, it's not a living memory anymore, but living generations still grew up hearing the stories from those who settled the Plains. The homesteaders had a few motivations, but a hope for a better economic future for the family was always there. If a better economic future for the family now means leaving the homestead, they'd understand. (Indeed, it's not new. Given large family sizes, children have been leaving the farm to seek their fortune elsewhere since the first generation that grew upon the farm.)

East of the Mississippi, the settlement generations are lost beyond memory, and for those with a history in the place, they came from the place not from the people who settled there. The loss of place is more central to loss of identity.

a hope for a better economic future for the family was always there

Not for the native Americans

Ahhh yes, Trump's focus on dying rural communities. That means you can bet rural communities will almost certainly accelerate their dying.

This is an old story. The US is spotted with 'ghost towns' from the old west that vanished when a train line went out of business If the US followed Europe's geography, it would be dozens of nations and some of them would have declining populations for long eras of US history.

I'd add that the Bulgarian political class will also care deeply about population decline. The amount of resources they control is roughly proportional to the number of individuals living in the geographic area.

And, if they are geopolitical realists, military power is also strongly correlated to population / birth rate.

Well said. I am a Bulgarian living abroad and agree with pretty much everything you said.

Why is the EU's population increasing if people from Bulgaria (a member state of the EU) migrate within the EU from Bulgaria to another EU member state?

+1, that was my first thought.

I think he means that the EU's population is increasing in general, separate from any consideration of Bulgaria. So if EU population as a whole is increasing, and we think of Bulgarians only as EU citizens, then there is no problem.

Because he's let slip that in his mind EU = Germany + France. Very true in many ways (hence the Brexit vote), but you're not meant to admit it in polite company.

Actually, according to a Dutch translator I know, Americans think Europe=Paris. Which is uncomfortably close to the mark, actually.

Which is the more laughable stereotype? Americans thinking Europe = Paris, or you and your Dutch friend thinking that about Americans?

Boom goes the dynamite.

Considering I'm American, I was surprised at his acuity - basically, many Americans do think Paris represents all that is Europe. Which just might explain why Disney thought that having a theme park in a cold gray part of Europe would make good business sense, for example.

But Germany is losing population (perhaps not the last two years because of the refugees but in general since several decades and in the projected future until 2050). France's population is slightly increasing, and the total France+Germany is very slightly increasing, as is UE as a whole -- very very slighty, +0.8% total since 2010 (excluding Croatia that entered in the UE in between).

After the departure of UK, whose large population is slightly increasing too, I suspect that the total population of UE would start decreasing if the current trends persist.

Slightly? France has added about 7 million people since 2000.

Millian February 16, 2018 at 1:59 pm
"Slightly? France has added about 7 million people since 2000."

That much closer to the Islamic Republic of France.

But they're not French. In 100 years French, German and Italian will only be spoken in hell(and Quebec which isn't much different).

Baby boom coming up in Germany after they visit Bulgarian beaches (which hosts all those beautiful Russian W's, Ray Lopez would approve)

But on the other hand, a lot of middle-classed westerners are buying properties there. And in fact repopulating some villages near the sea shore and some resorts. It is also ironic that while most of Bulgaria is being depopulated the biggest cities are growing. So it is not only people leaving Bulgaria as a whole but there is a lot of migration and urbanization within the country too.

I remember reading an article somewhere in mid 80s about declining birth rates there. And the issue was already well detectable and mentioned. It just happened that the Bulgaria did the demographic transition faster than most countries. Probably the strongest factor is woman education and delaying childbirth which have become the norm long ago.

There is a certain amount of logic to this answer, but I see some big flaws.

1) While population decline itself may not be a problem, it is probably evidence that there is a problem. Rejecting concern about population decline is kind of like a doctor saying "Who cares if you have a cough? Nobody dies of coughing too much." The fact that people can move somewhere better doesn't remove whatever the underlying problem is; it only (partially) mitigates it. Bulgarians would be better off if life in Bulgaria was really great AND they had the option of moving throughout the EU.

2) It is rather tone deaf to what sort of outcomes most people actually care about. Most people care strongly about concrete things, not just abstract measures of overall human welfare. Most Americans care strongly that the USA as an entity exists and thrives, over and above the welfare of the people in America, and presumably a lot of Bulgarians care strongly about Bulgaria, too. I suppose one could argue that this is the problem, and people should not care about such things. But it doesn't really work to blithely dismiss the concerns.

"Most Americans care strongly that the USA as an entity exists and thrives": are you quite sure? Hillary got more votes than Trump, after all. Though I'll grant you that nobody knows how many of her votes were bogus.

"Liberals want to destroy America" is a stupid argument.

However, it's true.

Two reasons for Obama's multiple failures are one, he hates America; two, he hates approximately 63,000,000 Americans.

“Liberals want to destroy America” is a stupid argument.

Liberals want to replace the current culture of America with a more progressive culture. A culture that will probably look nothing like traditional American culture, That's a pretty good argument. For someone who enjoys traditional American culture, it's going to feel like "destruction".

I have no problem with intelligent arguments that liberals want to significantly change America, and that these changes will be for the worse. I do have a problem with claims like "Liberals hate America" or "Liberals want to destroy America".

The latter are typically not just a reduction of the former. They are different claims; rather than about goals and efficacy they are about character and motives.

"The latter are typically not just a reduction of the former. They are different claims; rather than about goals and efficacy they are about character and motives."

Well to fair, “Liberals want to destroy America” was your comment. dearieme actually said: "“Most Americans care strongly that the USA as an entity exists and thrives”:: are you quite sure?"

Those statements are not identical. Weren't you also guilty of making "different claims"?

Hear hear dan1111. By the way this goes both ways, plenty of folks thought GWBush wanted to destroy America, and of course plenty think Trump wants to as well. It's the most childish kind of partisanship.

This is pretty off topic but then again, it does show that whatever liberals want to do to America, the current administration shows that non-liberals aren't exactly selfless lovers of their country either:

President Trump’s inauguration committee steered $26 million to a firm, WIS Media Partners, controlled by First Lady Melania Trump’s longtime friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Apparently Wolkoff founded the firm about a month and a half before the inauguration. She has since been brought on as a senior advisor to Melania Trump’s official government office. [The New York Times]

@JWatts, that's a valid point that my interpretation of dearieme's comment may not have been fair.

Without waiting into the libs-destroying-America morass, I will say this. I recently read a book called Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750, which I would unreservedly recommend despite its somewhat arid title. The primary takeaway I had was how *different* that culture was in almost every respect. We have this fiction that there's this clear line between the 17th Century polity "New England," to the 18th century invention "United States of America," to the 21st century US. But reading that book, it really struck me that there was a genuine break somewhere along the way; it's not that our culture is a later iteration of this 17th century culture, it's something that is completely and absolutely foreign in every way. In a very real way, the "United States of America" that Thomas Jefferson thought he was helping create just doesn't exist anymore, it's gone and there's some other country that just happens to use the same name and share the same territory.

On that point, and staying in the same region of the globe, I'm struck by the recent Hungarian decision to take on the mantle of "bulwark of Europe against Muslim immigration." I'm no Hungarian expert but it seems a pretty clear attempt to reach back to a past where Hungary did have that clearly defined identity and culture, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was rhetoric floating around about the battle of Nicopolis or whatever. Of course Hungary is a little different because it's a tightly geographically centered population with a unique language.

@Urso: interesting point, hard to disagree. Then again, I would say most places on Earth are very different from how they were in the 17th century. Is France the same place as 1650? Germany? China? Nothing stays the same, especially culture.

1/3 of the population of Norway, the country that's totally NOT a shithole, immigrated to the US. Today, there are more Norwegian-Americans in the US than ethnic Norwegians in Norway.

@dan1111: i guess these immigrants care more abstract measures of human welfare than concrete things.

And let's not bring up the Irish. Because their country was pretty much a shithole in the 1800s, though arguably, the Irish were not to blame. Which then just might bring up questions of colonialism, and its effects.

"And let’s not bring up the Irish."

And yet, you just did. To what end, I'm not sure.

To what end? To correct someone, of course.

' To what end, I’m not sure.'

Actually, to point out that colonialism most certainly can make a country a shithole, using Ireland as a concrete example. Admittedly, that may have been just a bit too obscure - because before the British started going global, they practiced their ever so enlightened and benevolent colonialism on the Irish first.

And strangely, the Irish still seem to feel less than eternally grateful to the British about that part of their history.

Nope. For example - http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= - It would seem that good as Ireland's post-famine performance was - and it was good enough to locate the Irish economy, in per capita terms, among the richest in the world in the 1870s and on the eve of the Great War - the Irish economy lost ground after the 1870s to most of the advanced economies outside the United Kingdom. The relatively superior productivity growth performance of Ireland compared to Great Britain, implies a degree of convergence within the United Kingdom.

Not a shithole a la Trump (low productivity, low development society far from the technological frontier). Read more about the history of the Irish economy. Lack of political and religious representation (and so nationalism), and a crop disaster, are distinct from low quality of general education, per capita incomes and productivity, etc. outside those conditions.

Sure, now that Norway is a petro-state.... but there was much less opportunity when the immigration actually happened.

According to Wikipedia, Norwegians migrated due to crop failure and not being able to produce enough food to support their population (as well as the promise of free land in the United States).

It sounds like the outward migration was, indeed, driven by a pretty big problem.

'It sounds like the outward migration was, indeed, driven by a pretty big problem.'

No historical parallels coming to mind?

"Today, there are more Norwegian-Americans in the US than ethnic Norwegians in Norway."

Most Norwegians have four Norwegian grandparents while most Norwegian-Americans would be lucky to have 2. Even if you add up all self-described Norwegian-Americans, it still doesn't equal the number of Norwegians, according to Wikipedia.

Possibly it would help if they shave their armpits and legs.

Shaving the armpit is such a barbaric habit.

"We tend not to regard this as a big deal."

When discussing the U.S., sure. But when directed externally, Tyler's point that some countries are just sh-tholes is something that must not be said.

The underlying point is an interesting one, but I am not sure that the factual predicate is correct -- Moldova, which i have some familiarity with, has lost around 25-30% of its population in the same period.

Moldova is an artificial construct.

So in recessions, should stimulus be directed toward financing people who want to move?

I've heard that argument, and it kind of makes sense. It would incentivize people to move towards areas with better job opportunities which are more likely to need more labor. It would also reduce wage pressure from the area they leave, which would act as an income boost to the local wage earners.

It wouldn't be nearly as effective if you have high levels of immigration from outside the country, of course.

I agree that if you remove unemployed people from an area, you reduce wage pressure there.

How much is this offset by the reduction in consumption when they leave?

I have a headache so maybe this is obvious and someone will tell me so, but right now I can't even figure out which effect is bigger.

Actually, I think that's a really complicated question.

It's going to depend on marginal consumption and marginal employment, etc.

Was the person that left unemployed, were they working part time, were they working full time at a job below their skill set, etc.

The comparison with the US is not apt as, in the EU, the retirement (social security) system is run at the state, not at the federal, level. Thus, if falling populations imply an increased pensioner/worker ratio (and in, this case, they do as it is the younger people who leave), then this is a problem for the people who do stay who are now responsible for a larger amount.

+1, good point.

In the long run we are all Bulgaria.

Yeah, dying.

Yes but without having to eat quiiiiite as much pickled stuff.

First off, it's hilarious that someone was apparently worried about the declining population of Bulgaria, decided that something needed to be done, and concluded that the first step was to seek direction from.... Alex Tabarrok.

US econ teachers are apparently like Batman when it comes to demographic concerns in small eastern European nations. Just pick one and fire off an email, like you are shining a spotlight into the sky.

But I'm afraid Bat-Alex has whiffed badly here, with his "I literally could not care less what country you live in, and neither should you" approach to these matters. He thinks it is high-minded, but it is lazy-minded. Millions of people have lived in Bulgaria for centuries and are now fleeing, which means something is very wrong in that part of the globe. The thought-experiment question is, can it be fixed?

The answer is not "Who the hell cares, just erase all the borders, problem solved."

What Mr. Sailer says. Libertarianism = applied autism.

" seek direction from…. Alex Tabarrok"

That part does seem pretty daft. Libertarians like progressives tend to vastly underestimate the subjective importance of things like language and culture to people and vastly overestimate how easy those are to change even when the people involved are open to the idea. If they're not open to the idea you get rolling disasters like Merkel's limited open borders experiment (which is somehow never referred to as an open borders experiment...)

"What Should be Done About Bulgaria’s Population Decline?" Done by whom?

Anyway the answer was publicised just the other day. Each Bulgarian should be allowed to import an indentured servant.

Perhaps but note that in the United States great swaths of the country have seen declining populations since the 1930s or even earlier.

No, rural counties in the Great Plains have had declining populations. Only a low-single-digt minority of the population as a whole ever lived there. These counties were intensely invested in agriculture and the people departed with consolidation and mechanization in that sector.

Bulgaria has depressed fertility rates. They need to undertake policies which encourage people to have more children.

Just what the world needs-more people!

Is This the Roman Catholics' answer to every problem?

The population in the county my father is from in south central Kentucky peaked in the 1890 census.

The only time it grew since then was the 1930s when many like my grandfather returned to the farm, at least they could feed their families that way.

I don't care much about Bulgaria. I don't live in Bulgaria either. Why are you asking me?

Sadder, but also more addressable, would be What Should be Done About Borneo's Orangutans' Population Decline? (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/15/science/orangutans-endangered-species.html) Wonderful animals.

Better than Bulgarians.

About equal to Brazilians.

Actually, Brazil is an advanced country and a good ally of Brazil.

* of the United States, I mean.

Sure, but the people are like orangutans.

No, they are not. Acutally, Brazilians are widely thought as noble, thoughtful, public-spirited and diligent. The exactly opposite of orangutans.

I rather like orangutans. I don't have any gripe with Latin Americans either. We even had one in the family. Cosmopolitan, that's us.

Brazilians re not typical Latinos.

They are far inferior, yes.

This is what I never understand: what about the people who cannot move?

You have the elderly who priced out of the nice places (i.e. good luck trying afford any "nice" metropolitan area on low end Social Security), you have the people who are social capital rich (e.g. grandparents for baby sitting) but personal capital poor (e.g. do not have strong computer, engineering, finance, skills), and you have people who have geographically limited skillsets (e.g. farmers, coal miners). Exactly how do you propose they relocate? They all, for one reason or another, lack the abilities of the typical job follower (young with high personal capital) so a real cost of emigration is vastly higher for them.

Okay so what happens when they stay behind? Overhead costs grow per capita. Certain services (e.g. medicine) become scarcer and they suffer direct hardship (e.g. die earlier).

From what I have seen in the depopulating areas, immigration is not so much a free lunch that betters people as it is a transfer of burden from those who are well endowed in the current economy to those who are not. Can you think of many more regressive targeting schemes than to tax those who are single parents, on fixed incomes, or who lack job mobility?

What is worse is the habit of these emigrants to have used up considerable amounts of capital from the departing region. After all if Wyoming spends say $30K building human capital in K-12, and then the individual emigrates to MIT and Boston, how is this not a transfer of resources from WY to MA? Okay, we believe in free flow of capital ... except that there is no way for this capital to flow back to WY without being taxed in MA first.

Emigration is one of those things that always seems to reek of Bastiat's unseen. Why exactly should we believe that emigration is net negative just by quoting to returns to the emigrees and their new hosts? Should not a full accounting look at how the problems of scale left behind are real costs that may partially or completely counterbalance this?

Billionaires lavish a ton of money on spergs like Alex to keep it that way. If he were to wake up tomorrow and acknowledge the down sides of immigration he'd be sitting in a room with the head of Mercatus and a lawyer handing his keycard in by noon.

Alex would be better off being besties with Melania, as the item posted above shows.

Who wouldn't?

For any economist, what is variable that contributes to AD and AS curves? Population growth or decline.

TBH, I think this is going to be the biggest issue in the coming generation for all developed nation outside of Israel. While Bulgaria population decrease is because of emigration, I believe the nations of Russia, Ukraine and Japan have naturally falling populations and most European nations start falling over the next 20 years. (In the case of Ukraine I think it is of the contributing reasons why the economic recession was hard with a falling population there is no natural force of growth of either the AS & AD curves.) And the depopulation of the certain US areas will be a huge problem for a number of states, such as West Virginia and Maine, in the next 20 years.

Since this is happening in the most competitive global economies, then how should libertarian economist fix this? Families can't afford to have 3 children any more.

Yes, this has been something I think about too. And it's worldwide, population will peak globally around 2050 and start declining, what does that mean for global capitalism and welfare? Japan is doing ok with it, so maybe the whole world will too.

As in most cases, the answers you seek may be found in a Sequest DSV episode.


Agreed! I do often turn to Seaquest for the answers to important questions.

Of course, if you really want enlightenment, a related series is better: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0278877/

"Bulgaria has some great beaches and historic sites at very reasonable prices!"

True! I visited Bulgaria a few months ago.... food was good, prices were about half of those in western Europe, plenty of people spoke English, and it was easy to get around (subway and buses... no Uber, though). Surprisingly good local wines.

This is not to say I'd want to live there... just that it was a pleasant place to visit on a budget.

Latvia's population has declined more rapidly:

Noooo!!! Not Latvia!!

Now THEY have hot women.

Be CONCERNED now, internet!!!

Just out of curiosity, has Alex Taberrok even been to Bulgaria? Actually lived a life in Bulgaria? I’m not talking about a two week fact finding mission either. Most likely not. But evidently that doesn’t him or anyone else from talking out of their orifice. And I’m not talking about the one on your face. Seriously Alex do you really expect anyone to take you seriously? I doubt the elite or the general population of Bulgaria are monitoring this blog for a long awaited insight .

Impressive. You also left a link for the Lonely Planet website on Bulgaria. Wow that is some really comprehensive, in depth and unique information.

Apparently he had two minutes to spare and decided to enlighten us on the plight of Bulgaria.

I’m not an economist but I didn’t travel to Bulgaria and it’s neighboring states in the 90s. What I recall was: communism hadn’t exactly perked up industry, the entrepreneurial spirit was flagging, people seemed poor harried and depressed, and the goal was to get your kids into a good school so they could get a govt job.

I gather Bulgaria worried the EU because of the rampant corruption.

And apparently Bulgaria isn’t exactly ganglord free...

Sorry, I “did” travel to Bulgaria


Let's be blunt: Bulgaeia is an unmitigated disaster.

Have you been there?

No, I haven't been to Hell, eiher.

So, never visited Brazil then.

Yes, I have visited Brazil. It is an awesome country, populated by a noble people.

Bulgaria's GDP per capita is $22,000.

Let's look up Brazil....

Oh my, $16,000.

1) Actually, the difference is much lower. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_IMF_ranked_countries_by_GDP
2) We must remember that Brazil lived under the totalitarian rule of Portugal. While Franklin was a prosperous printer, Brazilians were legally banned from owning printing shops and munufactures. From an extremely low basis, Brazil became the eighth biggest economy in the world. The biggest neither White nor Asian economy in Man's history.
3) Money is not the real mesure of a people.Never will be. Unlike Bulgaria, Brazil has a rich history of artistic and scientific contributions to mankind's spiriua treasure that goes from the airplane to Brazilian National Anthem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyyOahYXhUQ . Brazil is not a decadent, declining country. It has its eyes on the prize. Brazil plans to launch a satellite before next decade ends.

"Brazil plans to launch a satellite before next decade ends."

America sent men to the Moon in a 9 year period in the 1960's and the best that Brazil can do is plan to launch a satellite over the next 12 years. I mean how hard can it be. The Chinese, Japanese and Indians have all done it. Even the North Koreans have done it.

Oh well, not all people are as talented, smart and industrious as the Japanese and Indians.

"I mean how hard can it be. The Chinese, Japanese and Indians have all done it. Even the North Koreans have done it. Oh well, not all people are as talented, smart and industrious as the Japanese and Indians."

It is now true at all!! Those countries built rockets as part of their militarist, fascist policies. Mao built rockets while his Cultural Revolution terrorized and murdered the Chinese people. Indians built rockets to murder their Muslim neighbours and persecute Christians. Japan murdered its Catholic population and commited unspeakable atrocities against Asians and the Allies. North Korea is a totalitarian hell. Brazil is a peaceful country that never fought a war of aggression. We should support Brazil.

I meant, "NOT true at all!!"

I'm reminded of the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels that trace his ancestors back to Adam and Eve. Now that's a genealogy. So Bulgaria may lose a million or two. In the second half of this century, demographers project that China will lose 400 million. 400 million! Now that's a population decline. I suspect Cowen won't be blogging then and his loyal readers won't be commenting. But Cowen's friend Peter Thiel might beg to differ.

So, harvesting the blood of young males works?

"Is that a facile answer? Perhaps but note that in the United States great swaths of the country have seen declining populations since the 1930s or even earlier. We tend not to regard this as a big deal."

Huh? This is a large ongoing issue in many states, such as my state of Kansas.

So yes, this is a facile answer.

Bulgaria has a fertility rate of 1.53. Like most European nations, it's committing suicide.

There's no reason to think that birth rate will be set in stone for all of eternity. How many Bulgarians were there back in the day of Tsar Boris who more or less founded the early Medieval Bulgarian kingdom? Any reason why Bulgaria cannot exist and maybe even thrive with similar "small" numbers? Why can't all of Europe for that matter do just fine with no more people than it held when Columbus set sail?

The more basic question is whether population decline is a problem.

It is somewhat. It's also symptomatic of bigger problems, namely immorality and lack of innovation.

What's immoral about not overpopulating? Seems to me that an act of prudence-- and prudence is a virtue.

How about this revolutionary new idea: let Bulgarians worry about their declining population. PS: "proscribe" doesn't mean what you mean it to mean in that sentence.

And even nearer when I posted here but Alex seems to have forgtten. When I get nearer *and* nearer, he won't forget. Just let me handles fictional decline in population problem.

Are Bulgaria's politicians paid more if Bulgaria's population increases? No?

If you want more population, pay for more population.

You could also pay for increased GDP. That also implies population growth in most cases.


But as of 2013, Bulgaria's birth rate exceeds that of neighboring Greece. So the population there is 'doing their part', but people just keep emigrating.

"You want my advice? Go back to Bulgaria." Humphrey Bogart, as Rick in "Casablanca".


What should be done? Very simple. The people of Transnistria, who are already Orthodox/Slavic/Cyrillic-using, should be given incentives to immigrate to Bulgaria. That will, simultaneously, improve their economic prospects, give Bulgaria more population, and reduce the excuse for the Russians to keep a military presence in Moldova.

Transnistria is a legimate part of Moldova, which is a legitimate part of Romania.

Trying to compare Bulgaria and the EU to the US completely overlooks the tribal nature of this area. If you ahven't spent time here, you may not realize it, but there are tribal conflicts here even within single countries like Spain, not to mention the Balkans. But even otherwise "civilized" countries in Western Europe are nothing like states in the US when it comes to local identity.

Question from a non-economist: One of the leading arguments in support of immigration is the idea that immigrants don't take American jobs because there's not a fixed number of jobs in an area (ie jobs aren't zero-sum). Yet when rural depopulation is discussed, we're told the silver lining is that it lowers unemployment and maintains the standard of living...which seems like a zero-sum statement to me.

I'm sure I'm missing something--can someone help me figure it out?

Economists don't really know anything - but don't tell anyone.

But they're not French. In 100 years French, German and Italian will only be spoken in hell(and Quebec which isn't much different).

Language is not genetic. There's no reason to think those languages will not be spoken in the countries where they currently are spoken, no matter what happens with birth rates and immigration. People with English ancestry (especially exclusively English ancestry) are a minority in the United States-- yet English is spoken by tens of millions of people whose ancestors never got within two hundred miles of Great Britain.

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