Walking in a Demographic Winter Wonderland

Why are people averting their eyes from the coming collapse of population growth?

Demographic Winter is an independently produced film describing the consequences of the population collapse of industrialized countries. I have been amazed at the response, or I should say, lack of response to this film. Many of the reviewers either dismissed the thesis of the film, or changed the subject. The lack of serious American attention is surprising, considering that Demographic Winter has been translated in several languages, most recently, Romanian. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed as one of the experts for Part II, as yet to be released.) Commentators Left and Right are wandering through a Demographic Winter Wonderland with their eyes glazed over.

The film argues that falling population will mean a diminished quality of life for the aging generation and for future generations. For instance, pensions, both private and public, have to be paid for. When the retired population is too high relative to the working population, paying the promised pensions becomes an enormous burden. Either the young pay crushing taxes, or the elderly will not get what they expected, or both.

Consumer spending keeps the economy humming and the stock market climbing. When population shrinks, the demand for goods and services of all kinds shrinks. Harry Dent, one of the experts interviewed on the film, is an investment advisor. He discovered the significance of population growth by accident. He had a chart showing birth rates over a hundred year period on his desk next to a chart showing the stock market over the same period. He laid them over each other and realized that the stock market tracks birth rates with about a 40 year lag. That is because people spend the most money in their 40s. They buy the biggest house they’ll ever have; they feed, clothe and educate their children; they buy cars and vacations.

I have been thinking about Harry Dent and his charts while I drive through my San Diego neighborhood. Out of 42 homes, we have 4 foreclosures. Yes, the housing prices ballooned up and people took on mortgages they couldn’t pay. But there is more to the story than the credit crunch: there simply are not enough people at the right age, with enough income, to afford these houses. Because the Baby Boomers didn’t replace themselves, there are not enough people to buy their homes. Falling demand translates into falling home prices.

The Chattering Classes can not bring themselves to take the Demographic Winter thesis seriously. The Left dismisses it as a hysterical racist rant. Kathryn Joyce, writing in the Nation magazine, reports on her conversation with Stephen Mosher. “Mosher, president of the Catholic anti-contraception lobbyist group (cue scary music) Population Research Institute (PRI), describes his grim vision of Europe’s future: fields will lie fallow and economies will wither. A great depression will sink over the continent as it undergoes ‘a decline that Europe hasn’t experienced since the Black Death.’”

Joyce never refutes Mosher’s argument that population decline precedes economic decline. Instead, she changes the subject to something she wants to talk about: the alleged racism of pro-natalists. “The white Christian West, in this telling, is in danger of forfeiting itself through sheer lack of numbers to an onslaught of Muslim immigrants and their purportedly numerous offspring.”

Oddly enough, the Demographic Winter film makes no mention of race or nationality. In fact, the film emphasizes that the problem of population decline is a worldwide problem. Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker notes that 70 countries now have fertility rates below replacement. The left-wing commentariat would like the film to be about race, so they can dismiss it as unworthy of attention.

Representing the Libertarian Right, we have Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine. He likewise makes no pretense of engaging the actual argument of the film: “I doubt that the “demographic winter” portends economic collapse or social deterioration, but let us set that aside for this column, and instead ask why people are choosing to have fewer children?” He wants to talk about how the modern world has given men and women more choices, which is a good thing.

His libertarian instincts blind him to the fact that the Invisible Hand does not always promote the social good. Having children may be optional for individuals, but it is not optional for society as a whole. The principles of individual liberty and personal choice that he holds dear are not self-sustaining. Those ideals will collapse, if the people who hold them do not transmit them to the next generation. In this case, we are not even creating a next generation.

As I mentioned, the producers of Demographic Winter interviewed me to appear in Part II. The producers happen to be Mormons. They told me that they had anticipated more interest in the film from church groups of all kinds. But in fact, only Catholics and their fellow Mormons seem receptive.

This is not entirely surprising, in that these two groups have theological reasons for supporting larger families. But still, churches and all of civil society, ought to take the argument of Demographic Winter seriously.

(This article was previously published at Mercatornet.com and is used by permission of the author.)

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  • Cooky642

    Unfortunately, the “middle-agers” (my youngest daughter will be 40 later this year) have “bought” the lies of the liberal Left hook, line, and sinker. I find it absolutely impossible to get her (or, her 20-yr-old son) to consider that all the problems in the world are NOT caused by over-population! It’s all I can do not to laugh (and if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry) when they insist that the world’s best scenario is a good (?) nuclear war or a world-wide pandemic! Of course, the “population” they expect to be killed does NOT include them! What I want to know is who put psychedelic drugs in the water supply???!

  • elkabrikir

    Several years ago PD James wrote a fictional novel about the effect of zero population growth in the book Children of Men (the movie stinks).

    The premise of the book is that all men become sterile for some reason. Several days ago CE ran a story about male infertility caused by synthetic hormones in the drinking water. This is a legitimate concern: just ask any amphibian you meet. (they’re bell-weather animals since they’re hatched in water. The male population shows significant defects in sperm and in the male genitalia).

    Returning to the novel, the aging population must be euthanized through government instituted rituals. Infrastructure collapses. People turn to dolls of all sizes and ages to fulfill their longing to love a child. Chaos ensues.

    As a Christian, I boldly unite myself to Jesus, as he “weeps over Jerusalem”, for he knows its impending destruction.

    Cookie, as you know, our faith is a beautiful gift. I feel thankful for seeing the splendor of truth, even as it causes my soul pain.

    A friend of mine, another mother of many children, recently remarked that she feels “we have a secret that nobody else understands”. Indeed, the Pearl of Great Price.

    Often when I wear my pearls, I finger them and recall that scripture. At the end of the day, I have my 11 children. We’ve stuffed ourselves on homemade pasta (concocted in what looked like an I Love Lucy show….remember the chocolates?) We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve prayed through tough times as we await the Heavenly Banquet….homemade pasta….I hope!

    I feel a deep sadness for those who simply look at the pearls I finger and think they came from Kohls. Few are willing to pay the price for the authentic Pearl. I pray many come to see children as glimmering pearls, threaded on the strand of love, draped around the Blessed Mother’s neck.

  • asquared

    why is it that those who trumpet “individual choice is a good thing” only refer to choice in matters of sexual activity and family size, not in choice of what to eat (factory farming is damaging, step away from the meat and eggs), what to wear (rip that fur coat off the old lady she hates fuzzy small animals), what to drive (anybody with an SUV is a terrorist) and what to ingest (this is a no smoking area), and how to recreate (gun-toting meanies kill Bambi, lock ‘m up).

  • Pingback: Walking in a Demographic Winter Wonderland | Baby Boomers and Aging()

  • Suzanne

    The sad thing is that those of us with larger families are made to feel like we are crazy by those who choose to have no kids or only one or two. They don’t realize that it is our kids who are going to be taking care of their generation since there aren’t going to be enough people to pay taxes and take care of the elderly baby boomer generation. In my extended family of 18 adults, there are only 13 grandchildren – hardly close to replacement level. I don’t want to think of the mess my generation (tail-end of the baby boom) is leaving for the next one.

  • DWC

    I’m not clear what the author is asking of people? Aaide from the fact that we rightfully oppose population control from an abortion, artificial contraceptive, government regulated (i.e. China Syndrome!) standpoint … what is the point? Societies will constantly go through ebbs and flows. Societies adjust. Does the auther wish to caculate that families should be at 2.9 children per household to maintain enough opportunities? I suppose, over the long spell, national populations find a sort of equilibrium, which may involve new births, deaths and migrations. Pain in the process .. yes .. will occur. Now, what is the makeup of the value set of those nations …. that is something else.

  • kirbys

    I know so many devoted, beautiful families who suffer in silence with some kind of infertility who would have loved to have more children. If the purity of intention is there, if the Church teachings are being followed, then the springtime of evangelization will plant many seeds and there will be an abundant harvest. For the past few years, our parish has been blessed with great priests who happen to be only children. God bless their parents to sacrifice so much for their sons!!!

  • Warren Jewell

    Face-to-face with God over a dish of steaming pasta is one delicious look into forever!

    We look for heaven on earth by quitting children and family and end up with hell-on-earth. But, isn’t that obvious watching an infant simply – sleep? They look like angels. They emit a scent that could be called ‘ultimate softness’ put into a scented candle. And, if nothing else so calls out love for another, just watch a baby at rest. Doesn’t one just want to press that lovely being to his or her breast and feel love in the warmth?

    If I meet a young family, and always with a big smile, I always tell Dad and Mom:”Have more! You’ll be creating life-long allies to that little one that cannot be replaced in any other way.” Then, I bow down to the child, alive with glee for getting attention: “Now, you love and take care of your Mom and Dad – remember, you only get one of each.” And, I know a loving Spirit (may He be praised forever) speaks through me.

  • Grace Harman

    Due to abortion, contraception, and “population control”, Europe, Russia, Japan (and us)etc.- do not have enough population to do the work that is necessary -or to keep our S.S. going. They import workers (resulting is “Islamization” of Europe and our larger percentage of Hispanic people.)Japan begs kids to have more kids. It should be obvious we are all headed for trouble and we needed to “be fruitful and multiply” as God told us.

  • goral

    I’m at a loss to explain the “defect” as pointed out by elkabrikir since I don’t swim laps or play water polo and I have my own well for drinking water.
    To quote the great Fr. Neuhaus (RIP), like mortality rates, infertility rates in all men sooner or later are “holding steady at about a 100 percent”. Yeah!

  • kc

    I’m surprised that Catholics and Mormons are surprised at the lack of interest in “Demographic Winter.”

    The secularists and their captive population (via education and the media)have largely rejected Christianity with its moral and theological implications.

    The results:
    No objective standard of Truth: no God except, maybe, apersonally-tailored one, Thus, no connection to the fact that when you break the rules that He, not you, decided, there are always bad consequences. Nope. The new doctrine is that humanity is good for the environment and no Biblical ignorance about be fruitful and multiply will be considere (except for endangered species, of course).

    No belief that humans are made in the image of God. Thus: when humans are too plentiful or in the way, they’ve got to go. Thus: abortion on demand. Thus, when the population gets old, they won’t simply be granted less retirement. This article vastly underestimates the culture of death: they will be KILLED via “voluntary” euthanasia. (I’m writing from the latest state to embrace death-with-dignity.)

    No hope. When you design your own God, it’s actually pretty bleak. Who cares if we humans die off, as long as the environment and myself survives? The new theology is sure that’s the only choice.

    As for the death of Europe and America, these aren’t people that have much appreciation for their own Western Culture. They either hate it, or deep suspicion of it has been inculcated over the years. You know, in our institutions of “higher education.”

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