Monday, October 25, 2010

Doomed ?

If you really want to be depressed about the state of the nation, and need an illustration of the total triumph of the 60s agenda, don't go to the Guardian. After all, you expect Guardianistas at the Guardian.

No, the Daily Mail's the place where you see the cultural damage in full effect. Remember that these are about the nearest thing to 'the good guys' that we've got in the UK, once you get beyond a select few. Your average Mail commenter hasn't had them removed like his Guardian counterpart - but totally accepts the idea that "what's good for me now" is pretty much the only criterion to live by. For example, the paper's readers are pro-euthanasia and anti-religion - the latter subject you can argue about, but on euthanasia can't Mail readers put two and two together?

Here's a childless (by choice) Sharon Parsons (editor of Top Sante, whate'er that may be - nay, I lie, she's just been replaced), telling us 'I don't need a child to be happy'.

" seems to me that those with a family often have more tangible stages punctuating their lives: there's the day they become parents; later, they may become grandparents; and inbetween there are all the defining events that will be remembered and celebrated, such as the one my friend was enjoying so much, the marriage of her child.

Perhaps, in a few years, she will also see the birth of her first grandchild and another chapter of that particular family's life will begin as their lineage continues onward into the future. It's something people like me will never know.

And that - for me, at least - is a jolting part of being childless. However pretentious it may sound, there's the startling fact that my husband and I have severed the thread in our personal ancestry (unless, of course, he should decide to run off with a fertile 20-something).

Despite our respective nephews and nieces taking up the family baton, he and I know that we are not passing anything of ourselves on to future generations.

After an infinite genealogical timeline - impossible to imagine - we have drawn the mark in the sand. Enough. No more. Our bloodline stops here."

Hmm. Very Lionel Shriver. What's impressive are the best-rated and worst-rated comments.

"There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with a woman choosing not to have children." +784

"It had nothing to do with my career, finding a partner, wanting to do things before having children. I just didn't want them." +572

"Children are supposed to look after you when you're old - if you bring them up well." -678

"I have 4 children aged from 16yrs - 10 months. I have an unconditional love for them and they fill my life with happiness. I am blessed. I will reach the age of 50 and be surrounded in love.." -373 (I've reached the age of 50 and am surrounded by bickering - takes all sorts - LT).

"Now with the spending cuts and more old single people ending up in hospital, who is going to make sure they eat the bad food they are given. The nurses don't have time or care to be frank. What I am saying is, when you women who have chosen not to have children are old, infirm and in hospital, whose gonna look after you? Forget the government they are not going to help. Bet by then you'll be wishing you had children to care for you." -367
Once again, these people seem incapable of reading the news and putting two and two together. While you can never be sure that you won't end up feeling like King Lear did about his kids, I think it's reasonable to expect a modicum of care from those you cared for when they were helpless. No matter how good the health system may be (and how good will it be when the elderly boomers are fracturing care budgets right and left ? Some council care staff will almost certainly be cut this year - what will it be like in fifteen or twenty years?), there's nothing like familiar faces at the bedside, or popping in at your house.

We're entering unknown territory, both energetic and demographic. The industrial revolution and our subsequent economic growth has been built on ever-cheaper energy - and it's going to get more and more expensive. Similarly 'our' population has been ever-increasing - but as I've blogged many a time and oft, that came to a halt twenty years back and the decline has only been halted then reversed by mass immigration - to the point where nearly a quarter of children in English primaries are ethnic minority.

According to this interesting Weekly Standard piece by Jonathan V Last, "no society has ever experienced prosperity in the wake of contracting population." I'd like to see some references for that - while it's common-sense, is it the prosperity driving the increasing population ? Affordable Family Formation, in fact ? And contracting population historically hasn't tended to be a matter of choice - think the Black Death or the Second World War.

It strikes me that a number of factors are coming together. Our elites are terribly keen on economic growth. We've had getting on for 200 years of exceptional growth since Trevithick, Boulton and Watt. This has been accompanied by population growth, and I doubt many people worried about whether and to what extent the two were connected. The creation of the post-war Welfare State was/is also predicated upon population growth - as 'National Insurance' is no such thing, and pensions/benefits are paid straight out of government income.

But energy supplies are getting more and more expensive, and people are having fewer babies all over the world. What does this mean for growth ? Doesn't look rosy to me.

In 1950, China had 550 million people; today it is home to 1.33 billion. According to projections from the United Nations’ Population Division, -China’s population will peak at 1.458 billion in 2030. But then it will begin shrinking. By 2050, China will be down to 1.408 billion and losing 20 million people every five years.

At the same time, the average age in China will rise dramatically. In 2005, China’s median age was 32. By 2050, it will be 45, and a quarter of the Chinese population will be over the age of 65. The government’s pension system is almost nonexistent, and One-Child has eliminated the traditional support system of the extended family—most people no longer have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews. It is unclear what sort of havoc this atomization will wreak on their society. China will have 330 million senior citizens with no one to care for them and no way to pay for their upkeep. It is, Eberstadt observed, “a slow-motion humanitarian tragedy already underway.”

By 2050, the age structure in China will be such that there are only 1.6 workers—today the country has 5.4—to support each retiree.
This looks like trouble for China. But most of her competitors will be in worse trouble. Prosperity isn't just a question of lots of babies - or South Yemen and Burkina Faso would be economic powerhouses. California's seen mass immigration from the failed state to the south - and no one would say the Californian economy's in better shape than thirty years back. Germany and Japan will hit the demographic buffers first, while Britain and the US will IMHO find that quantity of people isn't a substitute for quality.

"Today there are 26.6 million legal immigrants living in America and roughly 11.3 million illegals. We need these workers to prop up the entitlement programs we’re no longer having enough babies to fund. "
How's that working out in the Golden State ?

One of the best predictors of fertility is education: The more educated a woman is, the fewer children she will have. The total fertility rate for American women without a high school diploma is 2.45. With each subsequent level of educational attainment, fertility falls—it drops to 1.6 for women with a graduate degree. One of the drivers of our fertility decline was the making of college de rigueur for middle-class women.
Education level is a fair proxy for intelligence in a Western democracy. The above implies that we're getting more stupid, as clever women fail to pass on their clever genes. This also doesn't bode well for economic growth.

So for all the above reasons, the rate of growth we became used to for the last two centuries seems to be in danger, if not on the way out. Which society will be the first to successfully adjust to this ? I don't see any preparation for it anywhere in the world.


AndrewWS said...

"The above implies that we're getting more stupid, as clever women fail to pass on their clever genes" - precisely the point made by Thilo Sarrazin in his recent book on the impact of low-grade mass immigration on Germany, which has caused no litte uproar. But it has to be said - quality is no substitute for quality, and you only get quality if people are required to provide for themselves rather than rely on the State.

Anonymous said...

The modern skoptsy, although this time no auto-surgery is involved.

Blognor Regis said...

On (commercial) radio news this morning: "the most popular new born boy's name this past year was," I interject with the obvious, "Oliver."

Yes. Of course it was....

Anonymous said...

You may be interested in this Laban:
Economics crash course
It is a video made by a guy called Chris Martenson about the economics of our continual need to 'grow' and our use of oil to facilitate that growth.
Basically he is saying that cheap oil allowed us to be wealthy above and beyond what was ever possible before and this caused a money system based on this growth that may not function well when we get short of 'cheap' oil.
I don't agree with all he says, but it is interesting all the same, as he tries to tie in 'grow' , oil, and demographics.

He makes the interesting point that all these 'baby boomers' who think their house is their pension are going to find out otherwise because the generation behind them is not as big and therefore there will be more sellers than buyers so the price could come down dramatically.
(depending on the demographics of each country)

Anonymous said...

"Education level is a fair proxy for intelligence in a Western democracy. The above implies that we're getting more stupid, as clever women fail to pass on their clever genes."

Depends on your definition of clever.

In the animal kingdom success is judged on the number of surviving offspring.

In biology a lifeform that intentionally allows itself to become extinct is not considered successful, quite the reverse.
Its a dead-end.

And another point I made on your blog several times a while ago.
The pill alters hormones and makes some women less 'broody'.
I read about it on a science blog but I had heard it before then also, but it is rarely talked about.

It might be something worth looking into since you are so keen on demographics, culture yes has a big effect but its far from the only factor.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Mark Steyn Book Club.

Anonymous said...

The thing about delaying child rearing - Like a lot of blokes I thought I didnt want children until I had one. Now I want loads!

Classic paradigm shift.

I think one would find the same with a lot of men and women.

Moriarty said...

I think a large part of the damage caused is that so much of what passes for 'culture' these days is transmitted via the media rather than through social interaction. The 60s agenda triumphs beause that's the kind of shallow worldview that appeals to people in the entertainment industry. Too many people, particularly in the West, live in a world where reality is whatever you want it to be and truth doesn't really exist at all.

Too many things have just become a means to an end, we've seemingly forgotten what their purpose is for. Marriage, education, economics, democracy...

Sgt Troy said...

Can I suggest that the major obstacle in this regard is the disasterous housing situation?

Laban said...

Sgt Troy - yes, that's it exactly. Affordable Family Formation means being able to buy a house on one average wage, in an area where you're not worried about letting the kids go out to the shops. Something that's been less and less possible over the last 25 years.

Foxy Brown said...

@ Anon - 4.17pm

And another point I made on your blog several times a while ago.
The pill alters hormones and makes some women less 'broody'.

Ironically, it kills female libido. The soixante-huitards didn't reckon on that little side effect. Also, men are less attracted to women taking hormone-based contraceptives - the subject of another of Laban's posts.

Borealis said...

" society has ever experienced prosperity in the wake of contracting population."

I'm dubious that Last could back that statement up. Workers lives improved considerably after the Black Death - not to mention the succeeding cultural efflorescence. And iirc the plague tended to select the young and strong for culling, leaving a just dreadful demographic profile which of course no country could ever, ever, recover or benefit from.

But I wouldn't be surprised if it could be demonstrated that GDP declined, and we all know that GDP is a sacred number that defines all human prosperity, so, obviously everything went downhill after the Black Death and Europe never recovered because there wasn't enough in-migration from points south and east to revive poor old knackered Europe.

I don't think demographers have a clue about how things would shake out in "aging" countries if they were let be. I find it very hard to take seriously the sorts of people who confidently insist, e.g., that the Japanese are, of course, going to go extinct, because they've got too many old people and only a few tens of millions of current or future potential breeders - who of course will follow current trends until none of them reproduce at all. Uh huh. Allowing large-scale immigration (colonization) at Japan's current juncture, as Europe is doing, and as the sages advise for Japan's salvation, is probably exactly the thing that would seal the doom of the Japanese.

I doubt contracting populations are doomed to poverty, but I'm damned sure that fertility rates aren't nice and linear and easy to extrapolate accurately.

We're talking about people who apparently believe, in defiance of actual human demographic history, that population reduction is always the end of the world, that what goes down (like population) must keep going down, and what goes up (like housing prices) will always go up, that prosperity requires infinite growth, i.e., that Ponzi schemes can be made to work indefinitely - that is, if you're willing to follow their expert advice about the absolute necessity of importing millions of culturally incompatible (and mostly economically net-loss) people.

In other words, they're crazy. I no longer pay any attention to them.

(Avoiding the rise of the idiocracy with the population you've got is another matter.)

Laban said...

Borealis, the Black Death occurred to me, to. By making labour a scarce and valuable resource, it raised wages and can be argued to have put the skids under serfdom - certainly in England, anyway. I'd say those were both economic goods.