13 February 2010

A Point of No Return? Not Enough Fertile Women

Europe, Japan, Russia, and a handful of other advanced nations are seeing their native populations shrinking before their eyes.   Modern women are not reproducing, and suddenly real estate prices are plunging as more and more properties go unoccupied.  Tax receipts are shrinking and governments must rely more and more on deficit spending to meet entitlement obligations to an aging citizenry.  At a point, the process becomes irreversible, when too few fertile women remain to provide enough young men to defend the country from outsiders who covet what earlier generations have produced.

By mid-century they will have barely half as many inhabitants as they do today, and half of those who remain will be elderly. Hardly men of military age and women of child-bearing age will remain. Their economies will implode long before the mid-century mark, as soaring retirement costs crush state budgets, and young people emigrate to escape the burden of supporting the elderly. _Spengler
Spengler is referring here to Georgia, the Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus.  But Russia and several Eastern European nations are close behind in the race to depopulate themselves.  Japan, Italy, Greece, and Spain are well within reach of the leaders.

But history offers no examples of a society that has demonstrated sustained material advance in the face of long-term population decline. It seems highly unlikely that such an ambitious agenda can be achieved in the face of Russia’s current demographic crisis. Sooner or later, Russian leadership will have to acknowledge that these daunting long-term developments are shrinking their country’s social and political potential. _WorldAffairs
 Long-term population decline means long-term economic decline.   And what is true for Russia and Eastern Europe is also true for most of Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and a few other countries.

We have long argued that Japan has put itself into a horrid place demographically as her birth rate keeps on plunging and as Japan is no longer replicating itself. Things have gotten so bad demographically that the government itself says that Japan’s population shall halve in another 50 years…. At this point, little… indeed it appears nothing… can be done to stop this terrible demographic collapse. We are watching a demographic train wreck happen in very slow, but inexorable motion. _DennisGarman_via_HSDent
The train wreck becomes inexorable when a combination of low numbers of fertile women + psychological inertia + the original forces which caused the low birth rates all combine to prevent a resurgence of population. This "irreversibility" of demographic collapse is far more likely to occur in some countries currently experiencing a decline in fertility, than in others.

It is a matter of "patriarchy", in a sense.  Countries which can more easily revert to patriarchal values and traditions will find it much easier to re-build once declining populations.

Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.
Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents' investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it. _TheReturntoPatriarchy
Nations with strong traditions of patriarchal tribes and religions -- such as Islam -- will find it much easier to bounce back from a falling fertility, than nations that have lost touch with their earlier patriarchal traditions.

Many have argued that European nations would never allow themselves to experience demographic collapse or to surrender to an invasion of more fertile Muslims.  The argument of which is the greater threat to Europe: an Islamic invasion or demographic collapse?, is a moot point.  The two calamities are not mutually exclusive, but are synergistic.  Each disaster will accelerate the other.

Some are calling for a Tea Party for Europe.   It is far too late for that.  Europe has none of the traditions of individual freedom that most generations of Americans were weaned on (at least until the current Obama zombie generation).   Some countries of Europe -- the ones that have not thrown over their early traditions for the recent suicidal ideologies of the radical environmental left -- will survive both the demographic implosion and the Muslim invasion.  Survive.  In the same way that Israel currently survives.

It is claimed that Islamic invaders to Europe will soon -- within a few generations -- adopt the same low birthrates that native Europeans exhibit.  That may or may not be true, but either way it is irrelevant.  The deed will have been done within a few generations.   It will require generations more for the aftermath to be swept up, and the smoke of war to clear over a devastated landscape.

Links on European Demographics

Earlier Al Fin article with some links to demographic projections

Fabius Maximus archives of future demographics

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Blogger Unknown said...

Fascinating article. I had always been puzzled that we didn't trace family lines in the most accurate way, through the mother.

Patriarchy seems like a rather crude tool to use, but he's right that no other philosophy has produced the same results in complex societies. We'll likely see a few spontaneous social experiments pop up as Patriarchy gets a demographic boost.

Saturday, 13 February, 2010  
Blogger Bruce Hall said...

I'd suggest that the depopulation phenomenon has more to do with generalized wealth than a particular gender orientation.

As the nuclear family becomes less important to the survival and success of its members, the economic value of reproduction gives way to the self-absorbed individualism of many affluent societies.

Certainly, other factors can reduce population replacement rates, but when raising children becomes more of an economic liability than not doing so, the choice becomes apparent in the replacement rates.

Societies that have little incremental cost for additional children, but significant benefit from "units of production" will tend to have higher birth rates. This results in a common phenomenon of poorly educated child workers.

Government policies can quickly skew the choices. Tax codes and education support policies are key. Religion tends to lose its impact in more economically "advanced" societies; e.g., the Catholic church prohibition on birth control.

Saturday, 13 February, 2010  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

We had as many children as we could afford to care for. Daughter has come to the conclusion that she cannot have the daughter that she wished for because she just can't afford a third child after two sons. Son cannot afford another child.

If motherhood were an occupation with an actual salary that could pay for orthodontist bills, groceries, and school activities, I suppose that the nation would be awash in babies. Otherwise, more children lower the entire family's standard of living.

Saturday, 13 February, 2010  
Blogger neil craig said...

"But history offers no examples of a society that has demonstrated sustained material advance in the face of long-term population decline"

But then history has been about eras wheneconomic growth was under or little over 1% & mechanical technology could not be automated. If Japan decided to go that way I see no reason why it could not build a largely automated society & indeed afford to conquer the universe, though possibly not the Earth. I am not saying they, or any other advanced country will or even that they should but they could, This post human capacity is what the Singularity is about.

Sunday, 14 February, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Confucius say: First, you must reach the singularity. Then you can soar.

Do not count your fowl before they have exited their calcareus protective incubating spheroids.

Sunday, 14 February, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

It is certainly true that one can't have a singularity if nobody's doing the work to develop the technology. We need to make sure that the people who are doing real work continue to stay young and healthy so that they continue to do real work.

The amount of work, time, and capital investment necessary to realize radical life extension appears to be quite modest. Have a look:


Around 20 years with a total cost less than that of a single 300mm semiconductor fab.

Trying to browbeat people who don't like kids into having kids isn't going to get very far. I think its better to promote the development of SENS and to support the Manhattan Beach project. I think these will prove to be far more fruitful.

Sunday, 14 February, 2010  
Blogger read it said...

No reason to browbeat folks into having kids they don't want. Just stop browbeating women into the careers they don't want. Non stop brainwashing in school never even acknowledges that for all of human history women of even the highest intelligence used their abilities to bring the next generation and the men quite capably took care of the rest of the tasks of civilization. Also don't discount the fertility of the religious zealots. One woman in this day and age can quite easily produce ten living children, if she has a mind to.

Sunday, 14 February, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Kurt: I am relieved to hear that you have decided to stop browbeating reluctant women into having kids. That approach has never seemed wise to me, personally. ;-)

Conceptually, SENS is a bare first start for what must be done. Aubrey is a bit of an optimist when on the fund-raising trail, so we can forgive him a few exaggerations.

If you give long life to a moron, you end up with a long-lived moron. That is why life extension cannot be pursued on its own. Humans must become healthier and longer-lived, more intelligent, wiser, more competent, more creative, and much better trained in the underpinnings of human to human synergy.

Such a project cannot be done on a large scale with the societies that currently exist.

Hence the necessity of creating multiple simultaneous levels of dynamic progress. Think in terms of fractal -- scale invariant -- change.

Conventional ways of thinking only put us back into conventional ruts.

Sunday, 14 February, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Survive. In the same way that Israel currently survives."

Yes Israel survives, just barely. I was in Tel Aviv today, and it resembles some sci fi dystopia with empty high rise luxury buildings amidst criminal elements with their graffiti marking their territory. The poor look even poorer and frazled than usual. If you mean traditional patriachal society, then Israel could turn into Iran with unproductive religious zealots running wild. But, that will naver happen. Jews aren't that stupid, and there will be a reassessment and crisis of faith before that happens. Modern Orthodoxy went out of fashion in the 90's, and it was Israel's or/and Judaism's only hope for a vibrant future.

And as far as the Islamic invasion, if you can cordone off Holland and France, than Europe should be fine.

Sunday, 14 February, 2010  
Blogger painlord2k@gmail.com said...

No need to cordone all Holland or France, only a some small areas in them. Muslims are concentrated in some areas. It violence go unchecked, these areas will be easy to cordone and depopulate.

The main problem with low fertility in Europe and Italy is the high burden of taxation that raise the costs of living and having children. Women want more children, but they are unable to have them and properly raise them.

If a few government countries like Spain, Portugal even Italy fail financially this would be a bless in disguise. They would be forced to close down many social services and let them be managed by entrepreneurs, lowering the costs imposed to the people.

Wednesday, 17 February, 2010  

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