Posts tagged with: Demography

malthus-glasses1The doom delusions of central planners and population “experts” are well documented and refuted, ranging from the early pessimism of the Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus to the more fanatical predictions of Paul Ehrlich.

Through these lenses, population growth is a driver of poverty, following from a framing of the human person as a strain and a drain on society and the environment. As Michael Mattheson Miller has written, such thinking suffers from a zero-sum mindset wherein the economy (or any web of human relationships) is a fixed pie “with only so much to go around.” “But the economy is not a pie,” he explains, “Economies can grow, and population growth can actually help development. A growing population means more labor, which along with land and capital are the main factors of production.”

Yet even still, despite the range of agricultural and technological innovations, and the worldwide evidence of booming prosperity in highly populated areas like Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, the Malthusians of yesteryear are connecting their cramped imaginations to present-day concerns.

In an article at National Review, Kevin Williamson identifies this wrinkle, noting that the “new new Malthusians” are worried less about human impacts on natural resources and instead worry about the human costs of our own unbounded ingenuity: (more…)

whs2016cover-copy1The U.N’s World Health Organization (WHO) recently released it’s latest version of World Health Statistics, a definitive source of information on the health of the world’s people.

Here are seven figures from the report about life expectancy that you should know:

1. Life expectancy increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, the fastest increase since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s, when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

2. The increase in life expectancy was greatest in the African Region of WHO where life expectancy increased by 9.4 years to 60 years, driven mainly by improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to antiretrovirals for treatment of HIV.

pope-francis-unPope Francis has made support for migrants and refugees a priority of his pontificate, and has encouraged nations to adopt an open-door immigration policy. But few countries, especially in Europe, appear interested in adopting his approach, underscoring just how limited an influence the pope has on foreign policy.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighting the pope’s inability to strongly affect geopolitical affairs quotes Kishore Jayabalan, director of Acton Institute’s Rome office and a former Vatican policy analyst:

crowd_2At the beginning of human history, God gave mankind a mandate to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Sometime later—around the 19th-century—people started wondering, “Is the earth close to being filled with humans?”

In 1798, Thomas Malthus predicted that if current birth rates persisted, many in Great Britain would starve to death. Instead, the birth rate was matched by increased agricultural yields, allowing more people to be fed with fewer land resources.

Despite Malthus’s failed predictions, others worried that population would eventually outgrow our resources. In 1838, the Belgian mathematician Pierre Verhulst calculated that his country could never support more than 9.4 million people. Verhulst was wrong; Belgian’s current population is more than 11 million.

In 1925, Raymond Pearl, head statistician for the U.S. Food Administration during World War I, calculated the maximum population limit of the U.S. to be 200 million. We reached that in 1968 and are currently at around 319 million. Pearl also predicted the world population limit would be 2 billion, a number that was surpassed in 1930.

Other similar calculations and predictions followed—and they turned out to be just as faulty. Why do smart people get population limit predictions so wrong? As Adam Kucharski explains,

The Rains Came - Beginning of the Flood Vittorio Bianchini (1797-1880/Italian)No, it’s not a regular flood. It’s a flood of immigrants – some legal, some not. Europe is getting swamped; what’s the damage going to be?

The American Interest reports that the Italian Coast Guard rescued almost 2,000 people over the weekend, bringing the number of immigrants to Italy this year alone to 90,000 (170,000 last year). The financial strain for Italy and other EU nations is becoming more and more apparent.

Many of the migrants keep making their own way to the more economically vibrant north. This in turn creates the kind of dysfunctional political dynamic on display between France and England in recent days, where the migrant crisis festering in Calais has seen as many as 5,000 migrants each day for the last six days try to force their way across the Eurotunnel by hiding in trucks and boarding trains. Eurotunnel authorities warned over the weekend that increased security at Calais, promised by both French and British ministers, would only displace the problem to other, less well-guarded ports.


Children-of-VietnamFor the past hundred years, a common worry about population was that we’d soon have more people than the Earth could sustain. Today, we have the opposite concern: In the near future, there may not be enough people to support an increasingly aging population.

To simply maintain its current population, a country needs the average number of children born to women in their country (over her lifetime) to be 2.1. Few industrialized countries come close to that replacement rate: Ireland (2.0), Australia (1.8), Canada (1.6), Japan (1.56), China (1.54), Spain (1.5), Germany (1.4), Poland (1.3), South Korea (1.2), etc.

To solve the problem of decreasing populations, says Eric Teetsel and Andrew T. Walker, our cultures must rediscover the importance of children.

overpopulation1In 1865, W. Stanley Jevons predicted that with coal reserves of 90 billion tons, England would run out within 100 years. Today, the country has between three trillion and 23 trillion ton, enough to last Britain for centuries.

In 1914, the Bureau of Mines fretted that with a total future production limit of 5.7 billion barrels, the U.S. only had about a ten-year supply of oil. Today, a hundred years later, we’re estimated to have 36 billion barrels left in the ground.

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich predicted that because of an inability to produce enough food, hundreds of millions of people would starve in the 1970s. Instead, the population has doubled—from 3.5 to 7 billion—and the number of famine victims from 1970-2015 combined is less than in the 1960s.

Each time experts predicted a decline in natural resources would be detrimental to population growth. And each time history proved the experts wrong.

Yet despite this history, modern scientists are still more pessimistic about population growth than the general public, according to a pair of 2014 Pew Research Center surveys.