Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Think Again: Global Aging, by Phillip Longman. Lots of good stuff here.

A few excerpts:

In Brazil, television was introduced sequentially province by province, and in each new region the boob tube reached, birth rates plummeted soon after.
According to a recent Rand Corp. study published in Health Affairs, more than 40 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 already have difficulties performing ordinary activities of daily life, such as walking a quarter mile or climbing 10 steps without resting -- a substantial rise from just 10 years ago.
But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road... countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood.
So is there a third way? Yes, though we aren't quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden...
Presumably, at some level of subsidy, i.e., further down the Swedish road, babies become a financial asset. But how many tax increases will voters support? (And perhaps young singles will have to be given tax breaks, so that they'll feel sufficiently economically secure to couple up and make babies.)

It's hard for me to expect a demographic "soft landing" for the world, especially after reading this book which surveyed the hard landings of Greece and then Rome.

(Nevertheless, I can at least imagine an equilibrium where groups with traditional values make most of the babies, but a fraction of their people are constantly being "corrupted" so as to keep both the traditional and non-traditional populations from ever getting too small (whatever "too small" means). However, I don't see why this equilibrium would be stable. Such a conjecture is very speculative in any case. Indeed, I haven't even considered the effect of potential new technologies (better genetic testing, genetic engineering, better anti-aging medicine, etc)!)


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