Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Children, No Growth

A lot has been written in recent years about what current demographic trends portend for the future of the West. Most of that commentary has focused on the cultural, political, and religious impacts of declining birthrates. When the economic consequences are discussed, it's usually on how declining demographics will affect Social Security, Medicare, and other unsupportable entitlement programs.

In the May issue of FIRST THINGS, David P. Goldman looked at how our demographics have contributed to the current U.S. economic crisis and how they will limit future economic growth. The stark piece is called Demographics and Depression (sub req):

Unless we restore the traditional family to a central position in American life, we cannot expect to return to the kind of wealth accumulation that characterized the 1980s and 1990s. Theoretically, we might recruit immigrants to replace the children we did not rear, or we might invest capital overseas with the children of other countries. From the standpoint of economic policy, neither of those possibilities can be dismissed. But the contributions of immigration or capital export will be marginal at best compared to the central issue of whether the demographics of America reverts to health.

Life is sacred for its own sake. It is not an instrument to provide us with fatter IRAs or better real-estate values. But it is fair to point out that wealth depends ultimately on the natural order of human life. Failing to rear a new generation in sufficient numbers to replace the present one violates that order, and it has consequences for wealth, among many other things. Americans who rejected the mild yoke of family responsibility in pursuit of atavistic enjoyment will find at last that this is not to be theirs, either.

UPDATE-- For the Evening Commute: David Goldman:

First Things associate editor David Goldman will be talking about his article "Demographics & Depression" with Tom Keene this evening on Bloomberg Radio from 6-7. For those in the New York area, Bloomberg radio is found at 1130 am.

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