Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Demography and Destiny

Slate reports some facts that I knew were coming for some time.  They have not not received widespread attention.  In addition to passing through the 7 billion mark for world population last year,
It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.) In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.
For those challenged by calculus, this means that we already have evidence of a slowing rate of growth, which eventually becomes no growth at all.

This means that all the doomsayers from Malthus to Paul Ehrlich will be proved wrong in the lifetime of my children.  I am sorry that my Uncle Paul, who first argued this issue with me when I was a youngster, isn't alive for me to say I told you so.

More importantly, it points to the need for the United States to solve its illegal immigration problem, so that we can get on with the business of encouraging legal immigration of skilled workers that we need.  From the same Slate article:
Instead of skyrocketing toward uncountable Malthusian multitudes, researchers at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis foresee the global population maxing out at 9 billion some time around 2070. On the bright side, the long-dreaded resource shortage may turn out not to be a problem at all. On the not-so-bright side, the demographic shift toward more retirees and fewer workers could throw the rest of the world into the kind of interminable economic stagnation that Japan is experiencing right now.
The United States has clear advantages in attracting new migrants that would overcome these difficulties.  We have freedom of expression, rule of law and relatively reasonable levels of taxation and regulation.  But all of these advantages are under assault by this administration.  Given future world trends, freedom turns out to be a competitive advantage for attracting human capital.

Meanwhile, the Republicans should cut a deal on immigration with Obama that ties liberalization of rules on current illegals to proof that the border is secure.  This would put the Democrats in a bind, because they don't really want the border secured.  The sort of unskilled migrants that are of low value to our economy are seen as future Democrats, in my opinion.  So the Democrats want more of them to reside in the country.  Sane immigration policy would be encouraging highly skilled immigrants to come here, say from India and China perhaps, and would keep out those likely to be unemployed and consuming social safety net benefits.


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