Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN


February 19, 2013

Give birth for the country


That's good news to those who see each new child as a competitor for scarce resources.

But as Jonathan Last argues in his new book, What to Expect When No One's Expecting, a falling population could spell economic disaster and make the world a more violent place.

Fewer births mean fewer workers to take care of America's exploding elderly population, for example. Last points out that the number of U.S. citizens over 65 will rise 72 percent between 2005 and '25. This almost certainly means government will spend less money on core services, more on entitlements and hike taxes - things already happening.

Last also notes research showing slower human progress since 1972 - right after fertility in the West started to implode.

On the flip side, countries with lower birth rates tend to be more peaceful. (However, they may also be more likely not to fight for any reason, because losing a child could mean wiping out the family. That could give higher reproducing, more volatile countries the upper hand in conflict.) And it's undeniable that fewer children make life easier and less expensive.

But ominously, he writes about how China's one child policy has led to a huge sex imbalance, with 123 boys born for every 100 girls.

"The inevitable result of this is a large cohort of men who - as a matter of mathematics - cannot marry." He adds, "a skewed sex ratio has often preceded intense violence and instability. So in addition to everything else, the Chinese will have a large cohort of military-aged, unmarried men - tens of millions of them - floating around at precisely the moment when the country is facing the burden of its uncared for elderly."

One of the questions that we don't yet know the answer to is how a society of people with no brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles will behave. Will they support the elderly? Will they attend religious services or serve in the military like Americans today? Or will they consider self-fulfillment their highest goal?

On the face of it, family life will be diminished.

And if Last is right, the darker consequences will be the destruction of wealth, stability, and ultimately, happiness.

So for the sake of America, let's have more children.

- Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at marta@martamossburg.com.

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