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The Depopulation Bomb

The Depopulation Bomb

On the syllabus of my Econ 101 class was Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb.  This being a year or two after the book’s publication, our class discussions weren’t debates about the veracity of the book’s thesis:

In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.

Instead, our sophomoric freshman discussions, instigated by the professor, revolved around how best to cope with the coming apocalypse whose inevitability was never questioned.

Faster than you could say hokum, Ehrlich’s unscientific, alarmist predictions had gone from typeset to conventional wisdom to The Truth that no amount of fact, or, subsequently, reality, could dislodge or debunk.

To wit: I recently overheard a man in a store lament the “catastrophic destruction” that human beings were doing to the earth, and opine that it would be “the best thing possible” if people went the way of the dinosaurs.  Unable to resist, I asked, “What does it matter how pristine Earth is if no one’s here to enjoy it?  Then it’s just another uninhabited planet.”  “Well, that’s a homocentric point of view,” he tsked.

In truth, every country has a lower fertility rate than it used to; and in most of the developed world we’ve stopped procreating well enough to maintain replacement rates of population.

The cultural, financial, and political consequences of this unprecedented phenomenon are more profound than you might imagine—think: sclerotic, dying civilizations—and they’re laid out with precision in Jonathan V. Last’s terrific new book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster.

Maybe because Last was such a tenacious and meticulous researcher, and cites study after study (all indexed in the endnotes) to explain how and why we went from baby boom to baby bust, What to Expect doesn’t seem like a doom-and-gloom tome.

Nor is it preachy/moralistic.  It’s actually breezy, full of cool facts and anecdotes that you can drop at your next cocktail party.  (Did you know that Genghis Khan has 16 million living descendants—more, by far, than the Hebrew patriarch Abraham? Or that the Russians today have a lower life expectancy than they did in the 1950s?)

Quite apart from the reading pleasure and useful, even critical, information imparted, Last’s book offers an ancillary benefit in the way that it makes liberal heads explode exposes one of the major fissures between the left and the right.

What Last has described are, in essence, the consequences of liberal ideas cum mores cum policies enacted over the last 50 years.  And it’s just not fair, you see, that they might have done damage rather than lead to unqualified enlightenment (unfairness being the sine qua non of modern liberalism).

So rather than engage the substance and conclusion of Last’s text, liberal critics construct straw man arguments of the kind that President Obama excels at (well described by Professor Jacobson: “exaggerated and misleading characterization of Republican proposals in order to make Obama’s own policy seem like the only reasonable choice”).

For instance, Amanda Marcotte in Slate: “The reader is left with the feeling that the only solution to save capitalism is to clip the wings of half of the population so they can spend more time laying eggs.” This contains as much truth (none) as Ruy Teixeira’s accusations in The New Republic that Last is anti-immigration and anti-daycare; or his reliance on projections from that stalwart of demographic science, the United Nations, to counter Last’s claim that the world’s population will contract.

During the presidential campaign, I was struck by how casually some elites expressed a measure of revulsion for the number of children the Romneys (and, in general, Mormons) have—as though big families are a relic of some pre-rational age.  And I remember wondering whether a couple who’d chosen five abortions instead of five kids would have come in for the same criticism.  Is that fair?


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The left needs a crisis with which to manipulate. The topic is irrelevant. There only need be one.

But the true crisis: the left is in power.

Paul Ehrlich…along with Rachel Carson…is one of my generation’s most despicable charlatans.

Like others of his ilk (see Rather, Dan) he will never pay for his “work”. Indeed, he is still held in some regard by others of his witch-doctor guild.

I cannot think of one prediction he made that was not pure bunk, and has been proven to be.

And, still, he has warped an entire generation or two of people. Raising children is hard, expensive…sometimes heartbreaking…work, along with an enormous opportunity and blessing. Ehrlich made the selfish urge to forgo child rearing a self-righteous moral good.


    It is even worse than that. Ehrlich developed something called Newmindedness that despises the rational, logical mind and seeks to make emotional habits of mind the focus of school. And this social cognitive theory developed by a colleague so close he gets mention number 1 on the acknowledgments page of Humanity on a Tight Rope now dominates what the equatable and success for all kids classroom implementation of the Common Core will look like. is based on an Ehrlich speech quoting what his Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior group is doing. The speech was last August in Portland, Oregon.

    His influence is actually growing as the International Human Dimensions Programme says it is using MAHB to change the nature of what constitutes knowledge worldwide in order to gain societal change. Like it or not.

      Ragspierre in reply to Robin. | February 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Excellent points, Robin, in exposition.

      I sometimes throw off very abbreviated comments, such as “witch-doctor guild” that are too abbreviated to convey all the matter I intend.

      Ehrlich is the antithesis of a scientist, which is typical of Collectivist thinking. A real scientist (who is not a technician, btw) is a benefactor of humanity; someone who bring us closer to understanding what is real, which provides the basis for dealing with reality in a creative and beneficial way.

      Ehrlich’s life work has done the opposite.

This article goes well with the Prof’s article on celebrating abortion. Western society has been celebrating sterility for 50 years and going. While the eugenicists and Ehrlich-types want to keep down the count of grubby 3rd-worlders, we westerners have gleefully done it to ourselves. The “pill” is a monstrous curse that has “liberated” us from the inconvenience of kids but now delivers a desolate future.

The irony of all this is invisible to modern man but would be clearly seen in ages past. And it is this: the libs decry the damage man does to “nature” by growing, but the fact is our natural course is to grow. The saviors of nature are actually fighting it.

That mankind is evil and is responsible for crimes against nature is the “original sin” of the religion of liberalism. It is only by following the truly enlightened caste of priests that salvation is possible.

Guilt, self loathing, and rejecting plastic bags at the grocery store are the tools the enlightened use to convince the sinners to give up their autonomy in search of purity.

Obama is their god and their salvation.

TrooperJohnSmith | February 10, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Ehrlich was just another water-carrier for the eugenics movement. In order for narcissism to flourish for the Greater Glory of The State, the person must be unencumbered.

As a baby-boomer, we’re going to find out exactly how that Ponzi Scheme comes apart. Of course, the Left says, open the borders. Yeah, that’s the solution: uneducated, non-assimilating, largely unskilled laborers.

This is nothing new. The Classic Romans had a problem with Good Romans not breeding, and passed a number of laws to encourage childbearing. The Classic Greeks had the same problem. Sparta damnear bred itself out of existence. I bet the ancient Egyptians had that problem as well.

As prosperity increases, family size decreases.

The fact is that, outside primitive agrarian economies, where a supply of cheap labor is necessary, raising a child is a net economic loss to a family. Couple that with the unpleasantness and risk (even today) of giving birth, the ready and cheap availability of contraception, and half arsed enviro-whacko theory, and it’s a wonder anyone breeds. Europe is breeding itself out of existence, and we’re not far behind. Maybe The Pope was right.

The Mexicans may be out demographic saviors.

If every person on the globe was given 4 square feet, that wouldn’t even fill half of Weld County, Colorado. The problem isn’t of over population, but of distribution. Where people are distributed, and how wealth and assets are distributed. My liberal green friend asks me “Did people really think we could go on having children forever without any consequences?” Yes. Can we go on without having children? No.

Russia is now having 13 abortions for every 10 live births. They are in a pile of trouble.

The probability of a woman who doesn’t go to church having 4 or more children is about 0.

In 2nd Samuel, Chapter 6, King David was dancing before the Lord, and his wife, the daughter of Saul, didn’t approve. Her punishment was that she would be barren. What have we come to that so many women choose to be barren?

A fertility rate of 2.1 is replacement rate and most of the developed world is far below this number.

Japan’s graying population is leading the way in the inverted population pyramid sweepstakes. When I wrote a paper on this phenomenon a few years ago, the fertility rate there at that time was about 1.23 for the country, with metropolitan Tokyo’s rate being below 1, at about 0.9 !!

Japan’s first year of real population decline of about 10,000 took place about five years ago. I believe I read that it’s population declined by about 200,000 in 2012.

Developed Asia and Europe are in the same boat to varying degrees. To use a word those on the left can easily comprehend, the modern welfare state is completely “unsustainable” given this phenomenon.

My wife’s mother, born shortly after the war, was one of 13 children. A family that size was not uncommon in her generation. She had three children herself, only one of whom, my wife, has had children.

Of my many acquaintances in Japan, I knew of only one couple with four children … only because their third birth turned out to be twins. One or two children is about all you see. It’s pretty rare to see three children in a family these days. Along with fewer children per family is the phenomenon of many women electing not to marry nor have children.

Many rural small towns and villages are so depopulated and in danger of dying out that they will provide free land to newcomers and pay them for each baby they produce.

I’d love to settle in such an area … but my wife is a big city girl who’d rather die than live in “inaka.”

Rivaling Paul Ehrlich was Stephen Schneider who, in 1976, came out with “The Genesis Strategy.” Even as a teenager reading this book, I thought he was nuts. This was a decade or so before he got all hot for global warming. But in his 1976 book, he was frantic about global cooling. He recommended we not wait for politicians and governments to dilly dally and insisted the arctic ice be covered with black soot to increase solar absorption. He also advocated using nuclear bombs to break up the ice in an effort to stave off global cooling. Read it for a laugh.

The nuclear family bombs are what’s hurting the developed world now … not all this doomsday fantasy stuff the left keeps coming up with … I remember in elementary school that the hot topic then was acid rain … it was going to be the end of the world … as kids we saw a number of scary short films about acid rain … nobody ever mentions it these days.

We need a baby boom explosion in the developed world.

This all makes me think of listening to Andrew Breitbart one day speaking to Dennis Miller on Dennis’s radio show.

Andrew talked about driving around here on the Westside of L.A. with his four children … four children! … he said he felt like childless couples were looking at him like he was some kind of religious freak.

Soon, if progressives have their way, we’ll live in a world with no brothers and sisters … no aunts and uncles.

As Sam Cooke and Peter Noone would sing, “What a wonderful world it will be.”

Liberalism believes ends justify means, so if the Ehrlichs’ book (his wife wrote more of it than he did) had to use crass emotionalism to promote ecologically sensitive outcomes not supported in any way by the science, then so be it.

Consider the import had The Populatiuon Bomb been at all accurate. One of the best ways to tell that a purported scientific work is schlock is when it avoids careful peer review prior to and after publication and instead goes straight to TV/radio, as did Ehrlich, pimping The Population Bomb with all the usual media suspects on late night and daytime TV. The book wasn’t even the Ehrlichs’ idea – the Sierra Club essentially hired them to write it.

We ‘studied’ the book when I was in college the first go-round, about 1974, but it was presented to us as an example of how modern media and culture could bastardize science. I don’t know of anyone who took the book at all seriously then, excepting those bedrock libs who’ll believe anything that supports their general belief system.

I think what you’re all saying is that Liberalism is a self-solving problem (what’s the word for self-genocide, or would it be cultural suicide?). The problem is that they’re like the madman at the controls of the airplane – they’re gonna make darn sure they’re gonna take everyone else with them.

I have read that Moslem countries are starting to see their birthrates fall as standards-of-living improve. Anyone have substantive data on that?

    Milwaukee in reply to radiofreeca. | February 10, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I saw a quote that Muslim countries either can’t feed their children, like Egypt, or aren’t having them, like Tunisia, where the rate is something like 1.4. I ran is demographically upside down. People cut back on the number of children they were having after the 1979 revolution.

if genghis khan had more descendants than the patriarch abraham, then God’s promise to abraham that he would have children as numerous as the sands on the seashore or the innumerable stars in the skies would be false. but of course the bible is true. the error comes from mistaking modern jews as the sole descendants of Abraham. but true history tells us that the descendants of abraham split into two kingdoms – the kingdom of israel in the north and the kingdom of Judah in the south. the kingdom of judah took on the name “jews”, a variant of their eponymous ancestor name. whereas the kingdom of israel from the north was taken captive and banished by the assyrians and never returned. many biblical scholars refer to them as the “lost ten tribes of israel”. some who painstakingly studied the bible claim the lost ten tribes have been identified. do you know who they are today? plausible evidence shows they are the British empire (ephraim, one of the sons of joseph) and america (manasseh, the other son of joseph). the rest of the 10 tribes like issachar, dan, zebulun, etc are the modern northwestern european democracies. If their theory is correct then most of the biblical prophecies about israel in the end-times in the bible pertain specifically to the british commonwealth and america not just the modern country of israel. therefore we have in our hands advanced news of what will befall america, israel and the brits in the foreseeable future -a vital understanding to make sense of the events unfolding before our eyes.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to dneuwen. | February 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    And God said unto Abraham, “let there be capital letters,” and it was done, and it was good, so God said further unto Abraham, “let there be paragraphs, too!”

    Book Of Henry 7:13

      you are being highly obsessed with the rules of grammar but haven’t raised any serious refutation of the points i mooted above. i know the rules of capitalization and the like but because i am such a poor typer i decide to forgo such stringent rules so as to save even an infinitesimal time as it takes me more than double the time just to correct many typos. so how about instead of caviling over trivialities you rebut the points I raised if you disagree with the theory.