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Ed Driscoll

It’s Still the Demography, Stupid

March 27th, 2014 - 7:08 pm

For those who weren’t around the early 1970s, the phrase “Zero Population Growth” quickly swept the-then still very much mass media, once Paul Ehrlich’s doomsday eco-crankery, The Population Bomb was published in 1968, and Ehrlich began appearing on shows such as the Today Show and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. (Then and now, you can count on NBC for plenty of left-wing doooooom), and Walter Cronkite took up the theme on the CBS Evening News.

Outside of news and chat shows, you can see how the obsession with overpopulation played out in this bottom-of-the-barrel last season Star Trek episode, or several “documentaries” from the period that now look like the ’70s equivalent of Reefer Madness. Or simply check out the trailer for the Mystery Science Theater 3000-quality British sci-fi film ZPG from 1972, starring otherwise A-list British stars Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin and Diane Cilento, then married to Sean Connery:

Of course, as Canada Free Press noted yesterday, rounding up several quotes from politicians and journalists in honor of the centennial birthdate of Norman Borlaug, who passed away in 2007, Ehrlich hadn’t anticipated on the tremendous advance in agriculture when he wrote The Population Bomb:

Congress gave a place of honor Tuesday to agriculture visionary Norman Borlaug, adding his statue to the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, but congressional leaders said an even better way to carry on his legacy is to continue his research to feed the world. Congressional leaders unveiled a bronze statue of the Iowan on Tuesday, which would have been his 100th birthday and is also National Agriculture Day.—Jacqueline Klimas, The Washington Times, 25 March 2014.

Today, we live in a very different world from the one that Norman Borlaug was born into. It’s a world with less preventable misery, less hunger, and more hope for the hungry . What a legacy for this humble farmer from Iowa — this unlikeliest of revolutionaries, this man who changed the planet with a grain of wheat.—Mitch McConnell, The Washington Times, 25 March 2014.

In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. ‘The battle to feed all of humanity is over,’ biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn’t work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. Borlaug, who unfortunately is far less well-known than doomsayer Ehrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has made against hunger.—Ronald Bailey, Reason Online, 13 September 2009.

Norman Borlaug is the best proof of Julian Simon’s belief in humans as “the ultimate resource,” as ingenuity leads to technological advances. And this theory has aged well, evidenced by the world poverty rate declining 80 percent since 1970 as things get better and better. Norman Borlaug lived from March 25, 1914, until Sept. 12, 2009, and is estimated to have saved the lives of 1 billion people. That’s news worth spreading.—Jarrett Skorup, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 25 March 2014.

Flash-forward 45 years from the days of The Population Bomb and its media aftermath, and it’s come to this: “Video: ‘Do It for Denmark’ reveals demographic trap for Western nations,” as spotted by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:

The video hints at the problem in Western nations, which is not so much the lack of babies as it is the growing number of older adults in systems with extensive social-support systems. The ad itself doesn’t even bother to make its pitch on the basis of boosting Danish culture as much as it does a self-serving plea for more future workers to support the expanding number of pensioners. Instead, it features an attractive woman in various (but work-safe) states of undress as the enticement to win some free diapers and to be able to claim that “you did your duty.”

While the entire concept is amusing, it’s also astonishingly utilitarian in both substance and presentation. Is the only value of children in Denmark (and other similarly situated countries) their contribution to the pensions of others? Given the widespread acceptance of abortion in the West, perhaps we should not be surprised by this, but it’s still a rather grim and constricted view of the value of life and the blessings of family.

The “kill ‘em all, let Gaia sort out it” arguments of Ehrlich and his disciples, who include Al Gore and John Holdren, now Mr. Obama’s Dr. Strangelove-esque “science” “czar,” were entirely utilitarian — and entirely eco-fascist as well, to borrow from the title of James Delingpole’s recent book. So it’s not all surprising that their successors today also argue from a similarly utilitarian worldview, even as they swing — so to speak — in the entirely opposite direction:

Or to put it another way, “Since 1945, a multiplicity of government interventions – state pensions, subsidised higher education, higher taxes to pay for everything – has so ruptured traditional patterns of inter-generational solidarity that in Europe a child is now an optional lifestyle accessory.” In other words, as Mark Steyn warned in 2006, whether it’s Europe or America, “It’s the Demography, Stupid.” Steyn added that, “By 2050, Estonia’s population will have fallen by 52 per cent, Bulgaria’s by 36 per cent, Italy’s by 22 per cent. The hyper-rationalism of post-Christian Europe turns out to be wholly irrational: what’s the point of creating a secular utopia if it’s only for one generation?”

Related: Speaking of cheesy early ’70s, sci-fi, Glenn Reynolds links to an article on “The Rise and Fall of Professional Bowling.” Which instantly called to mind the Philadelphia UHF channel I watched as a kid on Sunday mornings circa 1972 — which was either Channel 17 or 29 (I think the latter), which aired reruns of Gerry Anderson’s UFO series. UFO was Anderson’s high-water mark for non-puppet-filled shows, and the special effects hold up pretty well, even today. It was followed every Sunday morning by an hour of…televised professional bowling.

I doubt very much Obamacare covers that level of pop culture schizophrenia today, so you imagine how jarring it was back then.

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All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
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If it's not to be a demographics problem, then it's a trepidation and a lack of ruthlessness problem. If you don't make enough babies then humanity is optional......

May the state take care of us. If not on our terms, then most certainly on theirs.....'>>.......
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
What all the kids better hope is that robots and automation can pick up the slack left by the demographic trap we set for ourselves. And that all those folks who don't "share our Western values" decide that they need us around to amuse them or something.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The problem here is that yuppies have a very low birth rate, because apparently they have to go to Aspen to mate." -Dave Barry

My mother had two kids, both conceived on vacation. Me in a hotel in Italy 266 days before my birth, and my sister in a campground in another state. FWIW, I have four kids so far, all conceived at home.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Denmark's fertility rate at 1.73 it is huge compared to that of Poland (1.33), the Ukraine (1.30), South Korea (1.25), or Singapore (0.80). No country in Europe is above 2.1, usually considered replacement. It never ceases to amaze me how little people know about fertility rates and what the implications of low rates are. It is a narrative that the mainstream press suppresses, so it is encouraging to see it pop up in a commercial.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
The commercial from Denmark is just that, a commercial from a travel agency.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
So yes, the commercial is NOT an official communique from Big Brother to do your Duty to the Party but a travel agency ad to gin up customers for their honeymoon getaway package.

The fact that it's a "real" ad, completes the surreality. Straight out of the sci-fi dystopias.

If gummint (supposedlly) will take care of your pension and medical in old age, why bust your ass raising children? Let some other sucker handle that. And why bust your ass building an estate when it will only be taxed away?

We could have a list of all those nations that have reached that tipping point where the only sensible course of action for the ambitious young is to get out of Dodge rather than be sucked down into their country's death spiral of taxation.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Government At A Glance, government expenditures per person:

New Zealand $12,252
Australia $13,819
Spain $14,771
Canada $16,655
Italy $16,811
Germany $17,263
United Kingdom $18,155
France $18,866
United States $19,266

http://www.steynonline.com/6179/beyond-europe
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is no fertility problem in DK, OK?

If there is one in DK then there is one in the US. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
This reminds me of people having a child in the expressed hope that it might be a source of organs for transplants. Now the pitch is having children so that they can inherit the national debt and continue the Ponzi schemes of social benefits.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
But you have to admit Soylent Green was kind of cool.

(And I think it was Channel 29 too with regard to UFO).
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I rewatched SG with my sons a few years back. I realized at the end of the movie, watching Charlton Heston being chased around by hundreds of secrity officers at the SG plant that, in order fot the plot to work and the discovery of the truth be confined to the bookwormish clique of intellectuals, that every last one of those security guys and the thousands more that worked at the plant would have never told their wives what they did for a living. Impossible.
Did the same with Bridge Over the River Kwai. In the fist five minutes Obi-Wan successfully intimidates the Japanese prison camp commander with the prospect of being reported for violations of the Geneva Convention. In the real world, this would have gotten him shot in the face on the spot. Obama and Kerry think they are living in a world like that in the movie right now and can intimidate Putin the same way. Putin is not Ian Smith. They don't seem to know that.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wrong on most counts. Demographic transition is a result of the Industrial Revolution. Fertility rates have been falling in France since 1800, in all Western countries since the mid-1800s.

It's Baumol's cost disease. As nutrition, sanitation and other factors increased the likelihood of child survival, the cost of raising a child to adulthood dropped. The cultural value of being parents dropped along with it - parenthood never paid very well, but it always used to be high status. As a result of the new ease of raising children to adulthood, parenthood became a low-status job.

So, people given the choice of earning money or raising children now choose the former high-status job instead of the latter, low status job. Marriage gets re-engineered to be about personal fulfillment instead of about raising children. Once it is about personal fulfillment, homosexual (and other non-fecund forms of) marriage become socially legitimate.

Once that happens, society is finished.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
That is one weird ad. Seems like something out of The Onion ... and I doubt they could top it.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Juxtapose? (slightly off topic)

"Today, we live in a very different world from the one that Norman Borlaug was born into. It’s a world with less preventable misery, less hunger, and more hope for the hungry . What a legacy for this humble farmer from Iowa — this unlikeliest of revolutionaries, this man who changed the planet with a grain of wheat."—Mitch McConnell, The Washington Times, 25 March 2014.

"To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for thirty years, in a visible or public way, on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Or, you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee." - Bruce Braley in a recently released video at https://www.americarisingpac.org/video-bruce-braley-mocks-chuck-grassley-farmer-iowa-never-went-law-school/

BTW, our intellectual betters not only incorrectly predicted food shortages, but raw material shortages as well. (http://www.economist.com/node/455855) "The Club of Rome made similarly wrong predictions [early 1970s] about natural gas, silver, tin, uranium, aluminium, copper, lead and zinc. In every case, it said finite reserves of these minerals were approaching exhaustion and prices would rise steeply. In every case except tin, known reserves have actually grown since the Club's report; in some cases they have quadrupled. 'Limits to Growth' simply misunderstood the meaning of the word 'reserves'."
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25 weeks ago
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