CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research

Multimedia

En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Ross Douthat Thinks Sub-Saharan Africa Is the Richest Region on Earth

Ross Douthat Thinks Sub-Saharan Africa Is the Richest Region on Earth

Print
Saturday, 01 December 2012 23:03

That is the implication of his column decrying the falling birthrate in the United States and other wealthy countries . Douthat seems to believe that we face some terrible fate if the population of the United States stagnates or even declines.

People who follow the news probably would see things differently. Given the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow global warming, the prospect of a smaller population should be seen as a huge bonanza. The story is quite simple, if we have 20 percent fewer people, we should expect our emissions of greenhouse gases to be roughly 20 percent less. Since the U.S. ranks near the top in terms of emissions per person, slower U.S. population growth is especially important to the world.

While some have made a big deal out of the projected decline in the ratio of workers to retiree, those familair with arithmetic know that the impact of even low rates of productivity growth swamps the impact of a lower ratio of workers to retirees. 

living-standards-2012-2035

Source: Author's calculations.

It is unfortunate if financial insecurity discourages people who want children from having them, but from the standpoint of economy and the country, a smaller population should be seen as good news.

Comments (7)Add Comment
Douthat Shy About Solutions
written by Robert Salzberg, December 02, 2012 4:16
Conservatives are largely responsible for the fact that we don't allow STEM graduates from our advanced degree programs stay in the country, work, innovate and raise families.

Conservatives are largely responsible for some of the most anti-immigration policies in modern American history.

Conservatives are largely responsible for the fact that America is one of only 3 countries on the planet that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave.

While Douthat hints at policies that could be more family friendly, conservative policies are quite the opposite.
More is Less, Less is More
written by Last Mover, December 02, 2012 8:32
Douthat states in an article entitled "More Babies, Please":

"The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place."

Funny how that works. Any other time conservatives go out of their way to praise the well off as caring most for others - especially children - through compassion, charities, hard work, family values and all the rest of it as long as it's "private" with no help from government.

Yet Douthat draws the line when it applies to having fewer babies that share more wealth per baby, declaring it a state of moral decadence to avoid the devasting cost of raising more children at the margin rather than spending more per person on a lower population.

With 47 million Americans on food stamps of whom almost half are children and 6.5 million who have no source of income, Douthat wants more children. Even animals and plants know the difference between decadence and cost, reducing their propagation rates in response to less resources essential to survival.
...
written by Robert, December 02, 2012 9:16
Beat the Press: "It is unfortunate if financial insecurity discourages people who want children from having them, but from the standpoint of economy and the country, a smaller population should be seen as good news."

Not many people want the government to start telling families how they can have children like they do in China. That means that the only way to achieve this "good news" is by limiting immigration.

Robert Salzberg: "Conservatives are largely responsible for the fact that we don't allow STEM graduates from our advanced degree programs stay in the country, work, innovate and raise families."

I don't follow. The GOP led house just passed a bill allowing STEM graduates from our advanced degree programs to stay in the country. The Democrats in the Senate won't pass it and Obama won't sign it because it was offset to limit net population growth (Beat the Press's "bad news") by ending a lottery system for immigration to random foreigners.

This is ironic because for years Beat the Press has saying that the immigration system has been set up to put downward pressure on wages for less educated workers by allowing unskilled immigration while blocking competition from highly skilled foreigners. By this logic it should have thrown its support behind the GOP plan like it does whenever there's a financial speculation tax proposal. But click on CEPR's funder's like and you'll see SEIU and a bunch of foundations that have pushed for wage lowering unskilled immigration. (For the record I'd support more foreign competition for doctors making several hundred thousand a year but would rather favor our own STEM graduates and encourage more of them rather than intentionally depress their wages.)

Beat the Press: "The story is quite simple, if we have 20 percent fewer people, we should expect our emissions of greenhouse gases to be roughly 20 percent less. Since the U.S. ranks near the top in terms of emissions per person, slower U.S. population growth is especially important to the world."

The key point is that when someone immigrates from a third world country to the United States they and their family burn a lot more carbon. So if global warming is really a threat to the survival of humanity as the activists claim then large scale migration from the third world to the first world is an absolutely destructive policy for the species. It is especially harmful to the 99% of the third world that will never get to immigrate to the US but will feel the worst brunt of greenhouse-induced weather changes.

Also, the last amnesty for illegal immigrants in 1986 set off a baby boom among the newly naturalized Hispanics: http://www.ppic.org/content/pu...02LHR.pdf. The Beltway elite is now pushing for another one with no discussion whatsoever of such long term impacts on carbon emmisions or the fact that the enforcement promises made last time were completely ignored.
...
written by matthew carmody, December 02, 2012 11:49
This is the fortieth anniversary of the Club of Rome's Malthusian report on the dangers of continued growth. It's almost as if a group of people got together and decided that the growing numbers of people in the world had to be contained and the best way to do that was through a bunch of wars and increased famine throughout the under-developed world. Couple that with the plan put forward in Report from Iron Mountain (no, Virginia, it wasn't a fictitious book) and you've got the 21st century world.
Of course the 1% aren't worried. They're using our tax dollars to explore space for a new home after they've completely wrecked this one. How appropriate it would be after all the wars they continue to profit from if they decided to decamp to Mars.
...
written by Stuart Levine, December 02, 2012 11:51
Am I the only person who sees the resemblance between Douthat's comments and Mussolini's "Battle for Births." ("The battle for births took place during the inter-war years of 1925 to 1938. The demographic campaign promoted fecunditá, especially within the working class, by increasing welfare benefits, legislating tax breaks, making available better health care, and awarding highly public medals and recognition to those women who produced more than the state's target of five children per family. . . . In spite of all the mass propaganda, mobilization, and state incentives to increase the birthrate, the battle for births had failed by 1938. http://bit.ly/Szw6Qo)

...
written by Simon, December 02, 2012 6:45
I can't tell if Ross Douthat or Oswald Spengler are on the NYTimes page.
So ... Then?
written by Dan Kervick, December 02, 2012 7:04
Modern neoliberalism and it's radical individualist ethos, which Republicans took the lead in foisting upon us but which is a bipartisan monstrosity, is utterly inhospitable to family life, as it is to most other forms of enduring community and social solidarity. If Douthat wants to do something about it he should start with the ideology of greedy acquisition and cult of anti-social self-reliance that dominates his party.

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.

busy
 

CEPR.net
Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

Archives