L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 273, May 30, 2004
"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."
President George W. Bush, speaking at a Gridiron Club dinner, Washington, D.C., March 2001
Poor Rev. Malthus; Still Wrong After All These Years
Exclusive to TLE
In 1798, an English clergyman, Reverend Thomas R. Malthus issued his famous law of population. He warned that humanity's increasing fertility would soon outstrip the earth's capacity to provide sustenance. In an essay on the "Principle of Population," Malthus unveiled his projections on how populations would grow exponentially and asserted that "subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio." Thus, population would run itself out of room and resources unless action was taken.
In the late 1960's a bug doctor named Erlich wrote a book called The Population Bomb which postulated that in very short order, the population of Planet Earth would have grown so much that there would be no way for humanity to survive.
And that famous deep-thinker and semi-billionaire Ted Turner thinks the human race is breeding like "a plague of locusts" and wants couples all over the world to be content with one child.
I have to admit that at first glance, some of the figures for projected population growth were alarming and for a time the doomsayers were so loud and pervasive that I thought there might be some truth to the blather.
In fact, the increase in population was more a function of the incredible advances in medicine and sanitation that have come about in the last couple of centuries. The age at which the average person dies is going up and up while the infant mortality rate is dropping. Combine these facts with an increase in the use of safe, effective contraceptives, an increase in education throughout the world and the picture of calamitous overpopulation changes completely. The birth rate in the industrialized world is falling precipitously and even the so-called "third world" is experiencing a decline in their increase of population.
Which brings us to Sweden. The socialist paradise of the West, the paradigm of the way American Leftists think a country should be run. It appears Sweden is in trouble and may soon be unable to support the incredible social welfare structure it has created.
Why? Mostly because their birth rate has dropped well below the replacement level. There simply aren't enough Swedes being born to replace those that are dying. Since the welfare programs are based upon having a tax base large and wealthy enough to supply the necessary funds, the whole system is in jeopardy.
What are some of the things that the Swedish system does that are causing such problems? An article by Josiah R. Baker in the April 18th, 2004, Orlando Sentinel gives an idea: [link].
Think of it, a system that considers alcoholism a disability. Alcoholics over the age of 50 are given "early" retirement, those under 50 are given "disability" stipends. Family-leave policies allow parents to stay home with ill children, whether the children are ill or not.
Most Swedish small businesses consist of just the owner, because the government imposes a long list of expensive requirements for hiring workers that would make business unprofitable. The nation has an official unemployment rate of 6 percent but about 12 percent of the work force is on some form of disability. A further 4 percent is being paid by government for doing cookie-pushing jobs that require no actual work.
Sounds like a wonderfully caring system, but it requires a substantial, youthful population to be employed and generating tax revenue. It may work if there are enough working taxpayers to fund the programs but an aging population and decreasing birth-rate has left it lacking in the treasure needed to fulfill its promise.
The national government has tried to implement programs designed to encourage fertility. The city of Stockholm attempts to encourage women to have more children through monthly child support, yet the fertility rate is 1.5 and has been below the replacement level of 2.1 for 30 years.
Sweden is not alone in having such problems. Japan's number of new-borns dropped to 1.18 million in 2001, while increasing life span has made it the world's most rapidly aging society. Japan's fertility rate of just 1.3 is the lowest in the region, compared to 2.6 for the rest of Asia and the Middle East, says the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington-based think tank.
Population estimates for Russia confirm the accelerating population decline that has been underway since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The population stood at 144 million in 2002, down 4.3 million from 1992. The natural decrease and a slowdown in migration seem to have intensified since 1998. In 1998, 1999 and 2000, the population decrease was over 900,000. In 2001, an increase in immigration offset the natural decrease by 8 percent, which meant the population fell by only 820,000.
Fertility has fallen in most developing countries, In 2003, the fertility rate in Asia was about 2.6, less than one-half its 1950 level; the rate for Latin America and the Caribbean was to 2.7 down from 5.9 in 1950 Fertility in Africa is still well above the average for any other region. but is still declining. For example, China's rate is about 1.7, well below that of most other Asian countries. But the population in China could explode if the Communist regime should fall. Only Draconian government intervention has kept a lid on China's population, without it ... who knows
The socialist welfare state depends either on a vibrant economy and a wealthy work force to supply the necessary funds through taxation or some extra-national source like the World Bank whose money can support the excesses of socialism.
Ironically, capitalism also requires an increasing population of well-to-do consumers to keep up the demand pressure that drives the free market.
Apparently the Democrats in the U.S. are bent on overtaxing the most productive taxpayers in order to allow the global financiers to step in and cede control of all sovereign nations to some world government like the United Nations. They are doomed to fail, though, because at the same time they want more taxpayers to fill their redistribution coffers, they fume about overpopulation. Sounds self-defeating to me.
It's going to be an interesting battle. Both capitalism and socialism desperate for increasing population to support their philosophy, while human nature is looking to smaller families and less growth, perhaps even a decline. What will happen when the population can no longer support either doctrine? I haven't a clue.