Cyreenik Says

July 2018 issues

The Population Bust is coming soon

Following World War Two (which ended in 1945) there was lots of worry about the Population Bomb -- this was Baby Boom time and the world population was growing rapidly. This worry is still felt by many people in the 2010's, but the world's circumstances have changed dramatically: in fifty years undercrowding rather than overcrowding is going to become the worldwide trend.

What has changed?

The biggest change is the dramatic rise in urbanization. This matters because city people have much lower fertility rates than country people. This has been true ever since cities were invented four thousand years ago. The change in city dwelling in our time has been dramatic. In 2009 half the world became urbanized.

So the population question for the 4th quarter of the 21st century is going to be how to encourage more kids, not how to discourage them. And it is going to be interesting to see how technology is used to address this issue. (here is some more speculation)

Yes, indeed, the world keeps changing in surprising ways.

This 30 Jun 18 Economist article, South Korea’s fertility rate is the lowest in the world The population is ageing even faster than in Japan, talks about how South Korea's fertility has rapidly dropped over the last five decades and is now even lower than Japan's.

From the article, "The fertility rate, which suggests how many children the average woman will have over her lifetime, stood at just 1.05 last year, the lowest in the world and far below the “replacement rate” of about 2.1 needed to sustain a population. In Seoul, the capital, the rate is just 0.84. Though South Koreans are not as old as their Japanese neighbours, they are ageing faster."

The chronic threat to prosperity: Populism
"Where is our free lunch?"

Ever since working to create material prosperity was invented it has been accompanied by an evil twin. The twin's name keeps changing but the sentiment it embraces is, "OK, you made it big... Now where is our free lunch?"

One social name for this thinking style is charity. Some current political names for this free lunch thinking are social democracy and populism.

The problem comes when contributing to free lunches gets in the way of bringing more material prosperity to the community, as in, it gets in the way of growing the pie.

When this "free lunch is a right" thinking is mostly cheap talk the damage to pie building is small -- it is there but it is manageable. (An example of this is the government supported health plans in many nations -- their problem is they are so inefficient.)

But in some circumstances this thinking gets some serious bite and when it does the damage gets enormous. A current high-profile example of this thinking getting serious bite is the situation in Venezuela. For the last twenty years the Bolivarian movement governing the country (started by Hugo Chavez) has been driving the economy into the ground. For the last five years the economy has actually been shrinking. A high-profile previous example is Juan and Evita Peron and their Peronism ideals governing Argentina following World War Two. Over twenty years they transformed Argentina from one of the world's developed nations back into an impoverished Third World status.

Given the damage it can do, why is this "free lunch is a right"-thinking so ubiquitous, so potent, and why has it been around so long?

A likely answer is that way back in Neolithic Village (Stone Age) times its ancestral form was a benefit to the community. If this ancestral thinking helped the people in a Neolithic Village environment survive, then that explains why it is around today. It is like Us versus Them thinking and seeing beauty. (I explain the benefits of these two in my books.)

But what that the benefit was I haven't yet figured out. And, like Us versus Them thinking, the current form in modern circumstance more often produces damage instead of benefit.

It may not show benefit these days, but the instinct to think this way is a powerful one, so we must live with the distortions it brings to our social and political environments, even when these are causing lots of inefficiencies and social damage.

It is often a tough, tough social choice between devoting more effort to growing the pie or more effort to growing the free lunches. There may not be a free lunch, but there are a lot of people who dearly wish and hope there was, and they try hard to invent ways to make it happen.

This 21 Jul 18 Economist article, As inequality grows, so does the political influence of the rich Concentrated wealth leads to concentrated power, discusses this issue with a supporting free lunch perspective.

From the article, "SQUEEZING the top 1% ought to be the most natural thing in the world for politicians seeking to please the masses. Yet, with few exceptions, today’s populist insurgents are more concerned with immigration and sovereignty than with the top rate of income tax. This disconnect may be more than an oddity. It may be a sign of the corrupting influence of inequality on democracy."



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