Population Bomb a Dud

Vladimir Putin gave a State of Russia speech a couple days ago. He said lots of things. He even quotes FDR, but what interested me was what he said about the reverse the population bomb. Russia’s population is dropping like a stone. This is not a new problem and not a problem only for Russia. All major industrial countries have flat or declining populations (the U.S. is a notable exception).

If the experience of other developed countries is any indicator, Russia will not succeed in stemming population decline. Demographics still matter. People that do not reproduce disappear. What would be some of the consequences? Siberia is already fairly empty. Does the greater vacuum draw in population from China? Is this the flashpoint of 2020?

Most Europeans have also forgotten how to reproduce. Europe will inevitably draw in immigrants from the Middle East? I cannot envision many scenarios where making Europe more like the Middle East can be a good thing.

The demographics for the Japanese and Koreans are even worse. And China may be facing labor shortages within a generation. Who would have believed this?

Places like China and India have the added complication of too many males. Selective abortion and infanticide have created gender ratios way out of line. Maybe women's status will improve if there is a shortage, but clearly a significant number of men will be unable to find female partners.

The lesson from the population bust is that we are not very good at making predictions, especially about the future. Think of all the fretting we did about population explosions. Then we get smacked from the other side.

Posted by Jack at May 11, 2006 11:43 PM
Comment #147459

Err… Jack. China has a deliberate policy of reducing its population.

For the Europeans, it is a known psychological fact that the more well-off a couple is, the less children they have. This is true in every country including the US.

Russia is an exception because its people have been fleeing that country for a long time now. Those that remain make a concious decision to hold off having a family until after they emigrate or at least have enough money. It does not help the nearly EVERY Russian is a chain smoker and an alcoholic. Hence, a population drop.

The real reason America has a growing population is the growing size of those illegal immigrants you so despise. Their children are what keeps America growing. Fully 50% of children born are minorities now. The White Man’s days are passing.

Just accept that.

Posted by: Aldous at May 12, 2006 12:09 AM
Comment #147464


In all my posts, I support immigration. You are once again confusing me with your stereotypes, or maybe projecting.

BTW American women produce at over the replacement level. The places where this is most pronounced are states like Utah and Idaho.

Not everything is about race, hatred or xenophobia, at least not for me. Just accept that.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 12:24 AM
Comment #147467

All I can say is, HUH? What the hell are you talking about? You think world population is decreasing?

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 12:29 AM
Comment #147470


There is inertia and populations continue to rise in developing countries, but in all significant rich countries populations are flat or declining. Russia has one of the worst problems. The Russian population drops by 700,000 each year and there are about 5 million fewer Russians this year than in 2000. Estimates of total growth have been revised downward. The shift has taken place. It is like after the summer solstice. It is still warm for a long time and it even gets warmer for a while, but the trend is down.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 12:38 AM
Comment #147475


“It is like after the summer solstice. It is still warm for a long time and it even gets warmer for a while, but the trend is down.”

Interesting metaphor.

Sorry, Jack, in Phoenix the solstice is really only the begining of most miserable part of summer.
It means that it will only be over 100 degrees for about 4 1/2 more months.

Posted by: Rocky at May 12, 2006 12:57 AM
Comment #147482

Sorry, Bubala, but this is why think tanks are as filled with opinion as drunk tanks are.

Yes, pestilence and disater can effect human population. I don’t really recall anyone ever saying they can’t or don’t. Population growth has SLOWED. not stopped. You were thinking people behave only in linear and geometrically confined ways? Well, Duh!

This is about as significant as the lint in my belly button. I hadn’t read the AEI link until now. I used to have at least an iota of respect for AEI, now I have none.

Thank God, world population will only triple in the next 45 years, unless we blow it up. BTW if you forgot how to f***, buy some viagra and avail yourself of some porn on the internet.

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 1:23 AM
Comment #147489

I’d be curious to know what percentage of Russia population decrease is related to people leaving. I know that in the last decade, many Russians have moved to countries with better economies.

I was also interested to see that the US media made little mention of Putin’s remarks that America had restarted the arms race and references to America as a “voracious wolf” putting itself above international law and the global community in pursuit of it’s own interests,

“Where does the whole pathos about the need to struggle for democracy and human rights disappear to, when the talk is about ensuring one’s own interests?” [Putin] demanded. “Then it seems everything is possible. There are no limits at all.”

Posted by: American Pundit at May 12, 2006 1:37 AM
Comment #147502


“I’d be curious to know what percentage of Russia population decrease is related to people leaving. I know that in the last decade, many Russians have moved to countries with better economies.”

I’m wondering how many Russians moved to countries with a better climate.

Vodka will only keep you warm for so long. ;)

Posted by: Rocky at May 12, 2006 2:12 AM
Comment #147505

I was glad to read mr putin was going to take steps, ha ha, to crack down on the Russian Mafia!

Posted by: Rodney Brown at May 12, 2006 2:21 AM
Comment #147550

Glad everyone read Putin. I thought his comments about the U.S. were fairly general knowlege as are Cheney’s recent comments about Russia. The FDR touch was nice.


Population grows and falls in different places. I don’t know why this seems to upset you so. Population decline will be a problem in places like Russia, Europe, Japan & Korea. Even in China, the projections are for a stabilization and then a falling population, which means that India will overtake China. The U.S. population will grow so that by 2050 the U.S. is projected to have a greater population that the EU.

People are both a burden and an opportunity. Each new mouth to feed comes with hands and a brain to create wealth. The key balance.

Population trends worldwide are down. Even in Places such as Iran and Mexico you see this. And it can happen very fast. Until the 1960s, the French Canadian population was growing very fast. They used to call it “revenge of the cradle” and the idea was they would have demographic power. This just stopped and now French Canadians are among the least reproducing group.

Currently, no European country is reproducing at replacement levels. The Irish almost make it.

You will still get growth, but the turning point has been reached. Think solstice. As Rocky says, it can still get pretty hot, but the turn is made.

Population distribution is a challenge. People are not fungible. A large population spike in Sudan will not provide properly trained technical workers in Germany 20 years later. Immigration can work, but it comes with costs and problems. Many of the place with population declines, such as Europe, Korea or Japan, are not as welcoming to immigrants as traditional immigration destinations like the U.S. or Australia.

Re Russia

Russian population actually was increased by immigration as ethnic Russians moved from the Stans to Russia itself after the fall of the Soviet Union. The decline is just because deaths exceed births. Putin is right about that.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 8:02 AM
Comment #147551

“I was also interested to see that the US media made little mention of Putin’s remarks that America had restarted the arms race and references to America as a “voracious wolf” putting itself above international law and the global community in pursuit of it’s own interests,”
Posted by: American Pundit at May 12, 2006 01:37 AM

Nice little diversion by Putin.

Posted by: bug at May 12, 2006 8:03 AM
Comment #147652

Putin’s remarks this week raise the big question: why did Cheney open his mouth about democracy and oil in Russia? Like the USA has any control on its oil companies or oil lobby? And we do not even have a popular election of our president!

EVen more bizarre is that at this moment we are trying to get Russia and China united with the USA on Iran. How could Cheney’s remarks on Russia help that political dance? It reinforces what most sceptics of neo-cons say: the neo-con strategy is to create extremists and situations to justify war and defense spending.

Since Bush has taken office look at the results: Hamas in Palestine, Reactionary in Iran, etc. And these guys were elected in the a democractic election. If Egypt held one today, you can be sure it would be Islamist as well.

As to a population problem, go visit India and China and then make a judgement.

Posted by: Acetracy at May 12, 2006 1:37 PM
Comment #147657


We have overcrowded conditions some places. Others not. Going to one place does not tell us much. In fact we might not even know what we are looking at. If you want to see a really dense population, go to the Netherlands. What does that tell you? If you want to see vast emptiness try Sudan.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 1:47 PM
Comment #147661

Jack, you do realize don’t you, that the whole concept and relationship between population and GDP growth being inherently positive is calamity in the building, don’t you?

In reality, a stable population with a stable zero gain, zero loss GDP is what we should be exhalting as the ideal. We no longer live in the days when protection lied in out populating your enemies and outspending, out producing everyone else. That is NOT a sustainable path once a nation shifts from agricultural to indu-tech. To pursue ever more population and GDP growth results in diminishing returns countered by ever larger social/political costs. The U.S. is a prime example that this is true.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2006 1:56 PM
Comment #147664

Read the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn for refreshing look at the population problem. The question as I see it is how do we reconcile the economic need for more “hands and brains” with the ecological need for fewer mouths?


Posted by: JayTea at May 12, 2006 2:09 PM
Comment #147703


You and everybody else here don’t seem to understand. Putin offered up a policy of government (basically) welfare to young couples to economically stimulate (pun intended) the desire to have more than one child per family.


Let’s all immigrate to Russia, let the Mexicans have America, and collect a paycheck from the Russian Government for F******G all day long!!!

I’m going to call my local Russian Consulate TODAY!!!

And I’m going to have business cards made up.

“Have penis…will travel”

Posted by: Jim T at May 12, 2006 4:08 PM
Comment #147708

Jack, I’m not bothered by shifts in population growth and declines. The problem is you are extrapolating into non reality. Nothing in these data says that world population is declining or stabilizing, that’s just your rather odd conclusion.

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 4:36 PM
Comment #147734


I don’t think we need population growth. I even believe that it might be a little better to have a slight decline. But imbalances in world population WILL cause trouble and are already doing it.


The data I provided were only about the specific cases. You don’t have to look far, however to find that fertility rates are dropping in most parts of the world (not all). Population will continue to rise during our lifetimes, but at much slower rates than predicted and it will level off. The Population Bomb is gone. If you recall the predictions in the 1960s (and the population bomb book) you know that by now we should be starving. Unfortunately, the problem for most of the world is getting to be obesity.

You can find your own google references. Here is a recent and comprehensive one I found in the first hits.


It is unfortunate that most growth with be in the poorest countries. Environments in the wealthier places have improved over the last 30 years despite population growth. As I told David, I would favor a smaller population, and we are making great progress in slowing growth. It seems, however, that the best form of birth control is development.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 6:01 PM
Comment #147746


You say that the US is an exception. I disagree and so does Journal of the American Medical Association.

” Higher rates of obesity in young and old will lead to higher rates of chronic illnesses linked to excess weight; indeed, these current trends have led to projections that this will be the first generation of children not to outlive their parents.”


“Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in the United States, 1999-2004.” Published in the April 5, 2006, Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 295, No. 13:1549-1555). First author: Cynthia L. Ogden, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Worldwide Trends in Childhood Overweight and Obesity.” Published in the January 2006, International Journal of Pediatric Obesity (Vol. 1, No. 1: 11-25). First author: Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, Johns Hopkins University.

Posted by: Vincent Vega at May 12, 2006 6:58 PM
Comment #147747


That is just off topic. The U.S. population is continuing to grow today and we are reproducing at above replacement level. Whether or not people are fat (and I hate fat more than most) doesn’t make a difference. Maybe if people were healthier the rate would be even greater.

Re fat - just say no to the twinkie and don’t buy them for your kids. Get more exercise and everything is fine. Fat people should just cut it out.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 7:04 PM
Comment #147749

I think it is on topic, but at least you are honest about it.

Posted by: Vincent Vega at May 12, 2006 7:08 PM
Comment #147753

Jack, thanks for the link. Very informative.

Again with the 60’s? Ummm, Jack that was 40 years ago. You can stop burning incense now.

Your premise as stated in your own link is highly suspect.

Has world population growth slowed? Is the population declining? Some stories suggest that world population growth has stopped-but world population is still increasing at 1.2 percent per year, resulting in an additional 80 million people annually. Less developed countries account for 99 percent of that growth wih wide variation by region. Declines in birth rates have slowed the population growth over the past 50 years, and population is declining in a few countries. These declines caused some to speculate that population growth is no longer a concern

(sheet 16 of 17)

I agree birth rates have declined in educated and non-agricultural societies.

Unfortunately that does not include the mass of the population. Scientific American did an article several years ago about sustainability of feeding the world’s population, based on productivity increases.

None of this sways me to believe we no longer have to worry about population growth.

China did a great thing, and had to, or face mass starvation a few years back.

A world population three times as large as now will strain resources and increase world conflict. If this isn’t bad enough for you, what is? I guess we can possibly at least not panic over mass starvation in the near term.

Your premise that population is declining is just is a logical leap I can’t make with you.

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 7:16 PM
Comment #147801


The rate of increase is declining and the trend is down. Our experience since the time of Malthus is that people scream about the dire future, usually about 15-20 years out. That is long enough that people will tend to forget the wrong prediction, but short enough that it makes people uneasy. Then it doesn’t happen.

We have access to more food and resources today than we did a generation ago. Resources exist only in the context of culture and technology that can use them and we have effectively expanded the resouce base.

You may remember the Julian Simon bet with Paul Ehrlich. Read the link and you might find a difference between our outlooks. Simon won the straight up bet. Then Ehrich wanted to use indirect non practical criteria.

Anyway, we currently have problems of declining populations some places. This will cause dislocation in our lifetimes, actually it is ALREADY doing it in Europe.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 10:34 PM
Comment #147842

I read the article on Paul Ehrlich, who I’ve always thought was alarmist, and am led to believe that now you simply want to change the debate, like Ehrlich, to the price of metals to avoid acknowledging that your alarmist stance on declining population is a bust.

99% of the world’s population continues to increase.

Posted by: gergle at May 13, 2006 4:39 AM
Comment #147881

I am not alarmed about much of anything. Population declines in Europe, Japan Korea, Russia and soon - believe it or not - China will cause disruptions. They have already in some places. The population growth is often were it is least needed and supportable. The population decline is the opposite. We will deal with both.

The point is that the population bomb is not going to go off and/or for many places it will be the reverse.

The thing about Erhrich is despite his being completely discredited by the fact over the course of 40 years, he is still respected in some quarters. I would like to figure that out. Him and that stupid killed Che Guevara. How do they stay popular with anybody.

Posted by: Jack at May 13, 2006 12:01 PM
Comment #147936

We should be worried about China’s shifting male/female ratio. Especially as there is a perfect solution for their government to fix this ratio: start a war! Otherwise, they may have to deal with rising levels of violent crime and prostitution (as suggested by Jack’s referenced articles).

Posted by: Gandhi at May 13, 2006 2:17 PM
Comment #147981

Perhaps I misread your assertions. But to say that population decline is a big concern is folly, in my opinion, and to cite a book in the 60’s as a current issue, well, just anachronistic.

note: I mistated that 99% of the population is still growing, that is not accurate.

I still am much more worried about population growth than decline. There are still about 3 people per second being added to the earth.

Population Clock

Posted by: gergle at May 13, 2006 7:05 PM
Comment #148006


We are not disagreeing. It is just that in some places population is declining and it will be a problem. People are not fungible. An uneducated African peasant is not the same as German PhD in math.

The other point that you may not agree is that the population TREND will be down. The example of gave of the solstice is the key to understanding what I mean. The hottest months are July and August, but the TREND has turned.

Posted by: Jack at May 13, 2006 9:01 PM
Comment #148040


I do agree that some areas are declining in population. I never disagreed with that. As to this being a PROBLEM, well life is full of those.

The main issue I have with your thrust is that world population is trending down. You have no facts on your side of that argument, but to each their own. I agree a limited enviroment such as ours will eventually stabilize and control a population, but that is something we don’t really want to experience.

We will likely have 18 Billion people, as opposed to the 6 billion now, in fifty years. I doubt I’ll be alive then, but I’d be willing to bet an ice cream cone on it.

Posted by: gergle at May 14, 2006 4:46 AM
Comment #148236

Gentlemen, you are all Wrong - the human species faces imminent extinction from a calamitous and most likely unrecoverable Population Implosion!

Think about it:

Each and every one of you reading this (with the possible exception of Duano) had exactly One Mother and One Father - biologically speaking, of course.

And each of them had Two Parents as well - and so forth, going back to the dawn of the Human Species. Just consider all of those Dead Ancestors that each and every one of us has!

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, if every Human Being had Two Parents, the human species is decreasing geometrically! We are reducing our population at the rate of 2/1 for each new generation born!

Soon, I fear there may not be enough people left in the world to keep Starbucks and McDonalds afloat as profitable businesses: and then we will start to sea the scattered remnants of Mankind, literally drowning in a sea of Undrunk Coffee and suffocating in mountains of Uneaten Big Macs…

Oh, the humanity, the Humanity…

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 15, 2006 4:52 AM
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