A Baby Shortage? Here we go again with that fertility argument – Part II

In our prior column we began our response to Jonathan Last’s essay, “America’s Baby Bust,” in the Wall Street Journal Review section. He laments the current and soon-to-be-“worsening” baby shortage that will leave our economy in bad shape. After all, without a growing population, who will pay the bills for the ever-increasing number of senior citizens?

     Briefly, here is our response:

     Those seniors without kids, or with fewer of them, will be better able to afford to support themselves (see last week’s column);

  • If increasing the population of little ones is a good thing, why are we so stressed about being able to care for the current spate of baby boomers?
  • Increasing the size of our consumerist society means more pollution, trash, demand for energy, climate change and its ramifications, demand for renewable resources, water shortages, etc.
  • Increased population means expanding roads, public transportation, water supply and disposal systems, and myriad other public works needs. As things stand right now we cannot even afford to maintain America’s crumbling infrastructure.

Fertile land can become desert

As a result of climate change, loss of rainfall leads to desertification in some areas

      Thanks to immigration, US population has been growing at a fairly healthy clip. But immigration can be a double-edged sword. It provides a resource to pay for the needs of aging Americans by bringing a new generation of taxpayers into the country, but it also means that shrinking fertility is merely being replaced by another form of population growth. The United States could simply become an overflow receptacle for developing countries’ excessive populations, which would perpetuate the same drawbacks as having our numbers increase from within.

     Jonathan Last’s take on this is, “it’s unlikely to last. Historically, countries with fertility rates below replacement level start to face their own labor shortages, and they send fewer people abroad. In Latin America, the rates of fertility decline are even more extreme than in the U.S.” What does that tell us? In his essay, he lays out various plans, including tax incentives, to get folks to keep contraception out of the bedroom. This, he contends, will help motivate Americans to have the children they already desire.

     For their first 18 years and beyond, children tend to be burdens on society. In the current economic crisis large numbers of recent college grads can’t find work and must remain living with their parents. Folks with advanced degrees are working as unskilled labor in an effort to pay their bills. Many jobs are being shipped overseas or transferred to robots. And we don’t know what the odds are that many of those lost jobs will be replaced by employment openings that require domestic labor.

     It seems that society pays little attention to the burdens young people can place on their predecessors. These burdens are especially true for adults of any age who do not have their own children but must nevertheless share the expense involved in bringing up a new gneration..

     There are no simple answers to the issues raised by increased populations, or smaller ones, both domestically and worldwide. But thinking only in current economic terms without consideration of environmental and sustainability concerns is not a healthy approach. And prognosticating is a tricky business. But sooner or later we will have to decide that there are more than Enough of Us. And if we wait until much later, the generations that Jonathan Last wants so desperately to increase may have hell to pay for their parents’ profligacy.




  1. > Self preservation in this world is isbmsoiple – everybody dies.That is not what I meant. By “self” I meant not the individual, but the tribe. Preservation of one’s tribe is attainable. This thought is no longer fashionable in Western Europe, but it’s very much alive in Russia, for example (even though Russia has enormous ethnic diversity). > In fact most modern people would regard pleasure/ elimination of suffering as the highest priority. Which shows how deluded modern people are. Suffering is inherent to life. Seeking pleasure leads to boredom, boredom eventually leads to suffering. But if there is a higher goal directing a society, then the suffering might be worth it. Sacrifice for the collective used to be honorable in places like Prussia and Imperial Japan. If one designed a society in which status were not based on money alone, but on something else (like self-sacrifice for the benefit of the collective), things would change.> But surely that is what people have been arguing for more than half a century and which led us to where we are?I would argue that the West threw away tradition and common sense long ago. The past half a century has been an anomaly, partially because Europe was infected with American values which are foreign to Europe. What works in country X may not work in country Y. Societies have long memories.> We now *know* that we do need Christianity in its entirety, or we will have nothing at all of it.I disagree. Christianity requires a God. We live in an era where the notion of God is dead and there is nothing one can do about it. Our new God is Science, our new Pope is Dawkins. What one could do is argue that social norms exist for a reason, and that the old is not necessarily bad, and that the new is not necessarily good. Why would one be able to sell such ideas? Because the folly of the past few decades has led to broken marriages, broken families, social instability, etc. The newer generation will demand something to believe in, and a properly designed non-theistic Christianity could be it. It could be the operating system of a newer, better society.

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