Mating Season

I've always enjoyed Foreign Affairs for its calm unpartisan realism in opinion. Each issue costs nine bucks, so I only buy one once or twice a year, but they've usually some fantastic stuff. In the May/June issue is an essay by Phillip Longman on The Coming Baby Bust, which he speaks of on a global scale. Longman contends (and apparently has a forthcoming book in which he does so more in-depth) that over the next fifty years population growth world-wide will reverse into "shrinkage," as George from Seinfeld might call it. I'll just say right now that it was a really well-written, thoughtful article that I enjoyed very much. And that's the truth. OK. Now I can say bad stuff about it.

Longman cites studies by this or that group or pool, and one of them was a prediction by Applied Systems Analysis that the world's population will peak at 9 billion by 2070, and then begin to contract. Of course, if this is true, then well before that many nations' populations will have begun to shrink, and the global average age will go up.

These are comforting thoughts in many ways, and if "shrinkage" is real, in many ways I'm glad. Longman predicts the deradicalization of many Muslim countries as their overwhelming majority of youths becomes a majority of middle-aged folk. And that certainly is believable, there have been unradical Muslim dynasties before.

Longman writes at length of the economic problems likely to come from having an aging work-force and ballooning pension/social security costs. One of the most interesting numbers he threw out was a 2003 Morgan Stanley estimate that GM has to add $1,800 to the cost of every car in order to honor its legacy costs to retirees. Longman's funniest line comes when he says it's too bad places like India and China won't have a chance to get rich before they get old, as France and Japan have managed to do.

Another of the essay's contentions is that the increased cost of simple self-maintenance for each nation will result in an inability by nations to project themselves politically and especially militarily. A sort of pax paucorum, I guess.

The thing that seemed to bug this guy the most? What he titled "A Fundamental Problem." Oh, yeah, you see what's coming. "Some biologists now speculate that modern humans have created an environment in which the 'fittest,' or most successful, individuals are those who have few, if any, children...people who are well adapted to this new [modern urban] environment will tend not to reproduce themselves. And many others who are not so successful will imitate them." So guess who has kids? That's right, Wendell Berry would be proud: "...people who are at odds with the modern environment -- either those who don't understand the new rules of the game, which make large families an economic and social liability, or those who, out of religious or chauvinistic conviction, reject the game altogether." That's right. Longman then reveals to us that there's a strong correlation between religious conviction and high fertility. He compares Utah to competition. This is one of the reason's I'm a little skeptical of his reasoning re Islam and Muslim nations' forthcoming aging/shrinkage. The section that follows "A Fundamental Problem" is "Secular Solutions".

Longman cites surveys in which 40-year-old women in the U.S. and every European country said they'd produced fewer children than they'd produced. He say, "the problem, then, is not one of desire." No, the problem is of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. I'll bet that most of those women would not have been willing to give up what they gained by not having children. After all, aren't children "costly impediments to material success"? Of course they are, if you can't count on them to carry on your legacy after you shell out all that dough to raise them. Longman does recognize that as the world's (the West's?) population ages, the tensions and divisions forced between family and work need to be changed or removed; he considers that the thing called "society" needs to make these changes. He doesn't say it, but how can that nebulosity make such a radical change in twenty, thirty, fifty years? Through the government, of course. Right, I get it..."Secular Solutions."

Meanwhile, back at home, all the religious freaks will fight it out, as secularists and their mimes die off. As the gospel triumphs hither and thither, it can move on to face Islam, and modernity will have been a bizarre, horrifying, Molochian, but passing, blip on the Christian screen.

The sexual more of the unbeliever is to rut. The Christian enjoys being in rut. All right, everybody, it's mating season! Grab a mate and go!

Speaking a wedding invitation from Brendan O'Donnell and Rose yesterday. Hope we can make it up to Virginny in July.