Friday, April 19, 2013

Book predicts decreasing birth rate will lead to disaster

What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster by Jonathan V. Last, Encounter Books, 2013. 

After years of hearing that we have too many people on this planet and that we have to decrease our population, here comes Jonathan V. Last to tell us that if we don’t start having more children, we’re in trouble. We’ll have a population of old people with no young ones to support them. Other authors tell us the exact opposite. Whom should we believe? This book is a slow read, a scholarly compilation of statistics that show the birth rate going down below replacement level in most first-world countries. Last blames it on many factors of modern life, including the cost of raising children, women going to college and having careers instead of babies, the decline of marriage and religion and the general belief that having children will take all the fun out of life. He details the efforts, mostly unsuccessful, that have been made to encourage people to have more children and makes suggestions for how to encourage more births. Last has a strong conservative bias and occasionally laces this footnote-fest with sarcasm, but there’s a lot of interesting information here, and it certainly provides food for thought. 

There's no doubt the birth rate has been going down. In some countries, such as Germany and Japan, the population is shrinking at a rapid rate. The question is whether this is a problem. I had this book with me at the doctor's office a couple days ago. When I showed my doctor the cover, she exclaimed that a smaller population is a good thing, that this world has too many people in it. That's what most people thing. Just visit any large American city at rush hour. Wouldn't fewer people and more open space be good? Yes, we'd have to work out how to manage things like Social Security with fewer workers contributing to it, but wouldn't it even out in time? 

And how does this affect our individual decisions on whether or not to have children? Certainly overpopulation is often cited by the childfree crowd as a good reason not to have kids. If we're to believe Jonathan V. Last, anyone who has more than two children should be rewarded with tax breaks and other incentives. But Laura Carroll maintains in The Baby Matrix, reviewed here in February, that couples should be given tax breaks for NOT having children. 

So what's the answer? I think if you want to have children, you should have them, and if you don't want them, don't have them. The population will sort itself out. 

What do you think?  


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you picked up on this article from the UK. I too, think it is excellent.

Anonymous said...

" I think if you want to have children, you should have them, and if you don't want them, don't have them "

Way off in the distance far away from the world where people have complete sets of functioning reproductive parts and *had* choices, there are a few scattered people like myself who never *ever* had a choice. Not doing a " suffering Olympics" by any means....just a gentle mention that people like me are out there childless too.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Ooh, Anonymous, I goofed big-time. I feel so bad for leaving out those who physically don't have a choice. It must be incredibly heartbreaking in ways that make any discussion of whether or not people "want" children seem trivial. I don't think it's just a few scattered people either. Thank you for the knock upside the head.

Anonymous said...

I believe this author. There's already been evidence of the pensioner crisis in Europe and Japan. It's less of a crisis here yet in the U.S. b/c of immigration, but our economy will not be able to sustain the elderly population for too much longer either. I havenever understood why some people insist on the opposite - supposed overpopulation. Um, yeah, in Africa, maybe...

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anon, The numbers in Last's book are pretty alarming. At the rate we're going, this country and many others are in for big changes.