It’s Steven Chu’s turn to fall down the rabbithole of Malthusian pessimism, with a public statement claiming the world’s population is a Ponzi or Pyramid scheme, where the people at the top (old people) are only supported because an increasing number of new entrants (children) enter at the bottom. Apparently, “economists don’t like to talk about this”, which is a funny thing to say given that climate change and a thousand adjacent and dependent pseudo-scientific research fields has become a global industry worth an estimated $1.5 trillion annual to the participants.
That’s a lot of dosh to splash on the problem that dare not speak its name…..
But, let’s go with it for a while and see whether Chu’s claim stands up to an objective test.
In his public statement, Chu suggests that the world economy relies on new entrants to maintain and improve the standards of living for those people in God’s waiting room.
Ok, but when has that not been the case in human history? Surely one of the main incentives for adults to have children was an health care insurance policy for their old age?
We’ve been running this model for tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of years. Yet, now we are on the brink of collapse? Does the evidence support that? Chu suggests it does.
Yet, our old friend HumanProgress.org begs to differ. This is just one of their research articles explaining how a larger global population produces wonderful results. In fact, by any reasonable measure, things are getting better, nearly everywhere for nearly everyone. Even North Korea seems to be warming up to the idea of playing nice with the world, for heaven’s sake.
In fact, the only places where life expectancy, education levels, wealth, the environment, aren’t improving are where there governing class are still labouring under the illusion that, if only they could have more control, they’d manage things for the betterment of everyone (or at least their mates). Hello Venezuela.
If you really worry about the overpopulation of the planet, you’re faced with very few choices:
- Forcibly impose contraception, sterilisation and limits on family size.
- Kill the excess people.
- Do everything possible to encourage and enable trade with the poorest parts of the world.
#3 works because the well-documented result of increased wealth in a human population is a dramatic lowering of the birth rate.
Whenever you hear someone complain about the dangers of over-population and they don’t enthusiastically-proselytise free trade, you have to assume that they’ve already come to terms with and accepted options #1 and #2.
Thomas Robert Malthus – Still utterly wrong after 221 years.
5 Replies to “All aboard the Malthusian Chu Chu train”
The problem is longevity. If you wiki “List of countries by life expectancy” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy you will see that apart from Japan and Singapore in first and third place, down to #28 it’s almost all European countries, with massive welfare systems. For as much as the last 25 years of their lives, seniors are a nett burden on the state. It seems that the only way to fix this is to keep the wrinklies in harness longer. However, very few states have sovereign funds into which workers pay for investment and later withdrawal. It’s mostly financed by the current budget. To that extent I agree with Mr. Chu.
Over the last 50 years though, nearly all countries have seen unprecedented rises in life expectancy. How we put those extra years to use is another conversation.
If fewer people or at least a plateau to the current population numbers is your preference, make the poor people richer and, as every study proves, they have fewer babies. No need for government control or violence, just trade.
I am fairly Mencken had a few words to say about the tendency of some to dress their desire for control of others choices, with the clothes of good intentions.
Yes, it’s a great quote.
Scott Adams is dealing with climate change quite effectively over on his Periscope channel these days. In summary; fast track Generation 4 nuclear.
Insert the word ‘sure’ where it is obviously missing. FFS.