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The Prudent Bear: Malthus was just 220 years early (Martin Hutchinson)
The average earnings of U.S. men between 25 and 34 with only a high school diploma have fallen 25% since 1979, according to Census Bureau data. Women in the same category have done better, but their earnings also have fallen. Given that GDP per capita has risen 73% in real terms since 1979 on World Bank data, those are shocking statistics. Their implication is that the value of the labor of people with ordinary skills has gone into a deep decline even as the country and the world has gotten richer. In other words, Thomas Malthus' gloomy prophecies, written in 1798, were not wrong. They were merely early.

[...] If a Malthusian problem were to occur, we would expect it to occur first in the rewards of modestly skilled people in the world's highest-cost labor markets, because their work is most easily substitutable and can be undercut by emerging market labor. That appears to be what is happening. In the U.S. at least there is a supply surplus of modestly-skilled workers, driving down wages. Since the labor-participation rate in the workforce has dropped sharply since 2008, and these statistics include only workers who are employed, there is clearly a major supply-demand imbalance.

A provoking clutter talk on globalization, financialization, resources, technology follows.
There is another solution: drastic reduction of population (over whatever period is necessary to accomplish this through incentives and without coercion). If the world's population were one billion instead of eight billion, the amount of land and resources available per unit of labor would be octupled and the environmental damage caused by production would be reduced by seven-eighths. Similarly, the amount of capital available per worker would be greatly increased (albeit probably not by a factor of eight), while the knowledge base per worker would octuplet (although the rate of adding to it wouldn't). With labor suddenly scarce, even at the modestly skilled level, the returns to labor would be greatly increased.
That must be the arithmetic.
by das monde on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 09:50:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, yes, we all know you're a fan of population reduction new-world-order type conspiracy idiocy.

Now why don't you state an actual case and attempt to support it with some actual evidence, instead of making these half-baked connect-the-dots insinuations that rely on the reader's imagination to fill in the yawning chasms in what I shall charitably call your reasoning?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 12:29:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just showing what is optically visible. Why should I care for more?

Your zero ratings are hilarious.

by das monde on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 06:24:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is "optically visible"?

There is still growth of the world population. It has slowed down,but it is still growing. Even the brutal one child policy of the chinese has just slowed their population growth.

There is no "population reduction".

by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 04:11:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That talk is visible. Should be interesting how that develops. Population would be already falling in the West if not for the immigration. And it is falling in some regions. The population is growing in a limited number of urbanized environments. It would not take much to squeeze that... especially with ongoing economic pressures.

Surely, the null hypothesis (no attention to Malthus, just dumb political, social-economic dynamics) cannot be rejected at the 5% level. But so were the assumptions of a Thanksgiving turkey.

by das monde on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 04:43:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Population would be already falling in the West if not for the immigration.

That isn't a bad thing, though.

by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 05:04:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Population sans immigration is falling because birth rates has been on a steady decline in the west since around 1880 (France even earlier). Again, hard to fit with resource constraints or Malthusian planning.

Oh, btw you asked earlier about typical children per women before industrialisation. Looking at Gapminder you have most nations between five and seven and all but two between four and eight.

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 05:17:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Matt Ridley argues in "The Rational Optimist" that population waves follow economic cycles, not resource limits. The cycles sensitively protect the limits, I guess.

The influence of industrialization on birth rates is definitely not artificial - but it could be analyzed (not necessarily publicly), artificially enhanced if some interest exists.

by das monde on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 08:04:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Short term, yes there are fewer kids during crisis and more during booms. But that has little effect on longterm population size.

Or does Ridley back it up with more then the catchphrases he uses at his blog?

Because his blog was not reassuring.

The Rational Optimist

Yet, bizarrely, however much things improve from the way they were before, people still cling to the belief that the future will be nothing but disastrous. In this original, optimistic book, Matt Ridley puts forward his surprisingly simple answer to how humans progress, arguing that we progress when we trade and we only really trade productively when we trust each other. The Rational Optimist will do for economics what Genome did for genomics and will show that the answer to our problems, imagined or real, is to keep on doing what we've been doing for 10,000 years -- to keep on changing.

Progress through trade. So what is his view on progress?

Greens take the moral low ground

The OECD's economic models behind the two scenarios project that the average person alive in 2100 will be earning an astonishing four to seven times as much money - corrected for inflation - as she does today. That's a 300-600% increase in real pay. This should enable posterity to buy quite a bit of protection for itself and the planet against any climate change that does show up. So we are being asked to make sacrifices today to prevent the possibility of what may turn out to be pretty small harms to very wealthy people in the future.

By contrast, the cost of climate policies is already falling most heavily on today's poor. Subsidies for renewable energy have raised costs of heating and transport disproportionately for the poor. Subsidies for biofuels have raised food prices by diverting food into fuel, tipping millions into malnutrition and killing about 190,000 people a year. The refusal of many rich countries to fund aid for coal-fired electricity in Africa and Asia rather than renewable projects (and in passing I declare a financial interest in coal mining) leaves more than a billion people without access to electricity and contributes to 3.5 million deaths a year from indoor air pollution caused by cooking over open fires of wood and dung.

Let the rich people of the future worry about ecology! They can buy it, they will have so much money! And poor people in Africa needs more coal!

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by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 08:55:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The impact of economic cycles is not controversial thus. If a longer (or lower) phase of static population is desirable, why not make a longer and deeper economic crisis as we can?

I thought of writing a diary on Ridley's "The Rational Optimist" some 2 years ago. Now I do not have it by hand. Some of the green moral bashing was there already. His article at WIRED is a summary enough. There is a lot of commentary out there, from Bill Gates to George Monbiot.

Yeah, the population was growing furnished as never, things were improving dramatically (until a few years ago) - thanks to...

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition [...]

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year's predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

If we are really concerned about humanity and ecology, there is a necessity to face the planetary challenges freshly, without reliance on upsetting political mechanisms, white swan optimisms, "good for all" wishes. What difference would you really want to make?
by das monde on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 09:36:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Should have qualified, crisis in low birth countries results in lower birth rates during the crisis and often a bump afterwards. In all likelihood this is postponing births within a generation. This pattern can as far as I know not be seen in high birth countries. I tested Gapminder for known disasters in high birth countries and could not find a pattern there, though of course disasters can also affect the record keeping.

To check the theory of continous economic crisis in low birth countries decreasing population, I checked Japan. (Other good candidates for the hypothesis is welcomed.) Birth rates were declining through the 70s and 80s reaching 1.6 before the 90s crisis hit. They then decline even steeper to 1.3 but are now increasing.

I also checked where Italy is going with its famous low birth rates (around 1.2 at the turn of the millenium). Since crisis struck and GDP/capita started going down, birth rates has gone up and are now at 1.5.

Crisis also postpones the generational shift in high birth countries if it increases child mortatlity, as the shift depends heavily on the decrease of child mortality, in particular first child survival.

So as a conspiracy theory, global economic crisis to decrease global population seems rather hamfisted. In particular since the curves were pointing in the right direction before the crisis and there is a significant risk that birth rates in high birth countries will go down slower as a result, giving a higher world population then if there had been no crisis.

Also a real conspiracy has better tools with a proven track record to decrease world population: in high birth countries, decrease child mortality through affordable and good medicine and promote economic opportunities outside the home. In low birth countries give women a lot of economic opportunities if they don't have kids and stick them with most (or all) of the responsibility if they do have kids. This way leads to slower growth in hgih birth countries and decreasing population in low birth countries. And it actually works.

So if there is a conspiracy at work, it is incompetent.

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by A swedish kind of death on Sun Nov 9th, 2014 at 09:16:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy and other ~1.5 rate countries would not be the focus of global population control. They would be role models even with 0.2 recoveries.

Competency in population control must be a tricky business. A lot depends on how much experience the conspirators would have. If the task group was just formed in the 20th century, more direct and clumsy attempts are expected. If wars, famines are the natural methods of whatever elites, some PR maneuvers are needed to distance the public from the normal civilized peace and prosperity of the post-WWII years.

So I have to assume that the conspirators have a taste for empirical data gathering, trying out various modes of economic crises (and perhaps confusing youngsters about relationship building, etc). All that could be just a starter for some directly competent action. A period of social-political chaos would be much more effective with a majority of population in economic straits already. The next two years should add more clarity.

by das monde on Sun Nov 9th, 2014 at 07:23:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy and other ~1.5 rate countries would not be the focus of global population control. They would be role models even with 0.2 recoveries.

But it is the 1.2-2.1 countries where you get lower birth rates from economic crisis. Or at least I thought so, Italy is a counterexample. In high birth countries wars, famines and economic crisis delays the shift to low birth, thus stretching out the period of increase.

With policies that are effectively working towards a larger population by undermining the decrease in the remaining high birth countries, I don't see any evidence of a conspiracy for lower population. And when it comes to the different calls for lower population you seem prone to read, similar calls when it comes to colored or otherwise underclass populations has been going on for at least a hundred years, ever since birth rats started to go down in Europe. So no evidence there either.

Do you have anything that actually points towards the existence of such a conspiracy?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 10th, 2014 at 08:34:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The apparent ignorance of the subject in politics, public media looks manufactured for me. As with other (numerous) elephants in political rooms, the ignorance probably means something else than the smart deciders have no notice whatsoever. The strange general silence is already some evidence. As for the Icke-y signaling, I follow only the commotion around the Georgia guidestones.

The overpopulation problem must have been predating Malthus on various local levels. Some elite lines could have developed natural or sophisticated competences hell knows when - though not particularly the Western, I may guess. On the other hand, wild booms and busts could be a viable less dirty way to reset populations for some time. If this economic mess has that deep meaning, something should follow still under Obama.

Let's take it easy:

by das monde on Mon Nov 10th, 2014 at 10:54:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Prudent Bear: The Bear's Lair: Malthus was just 220 years early
Pointless environmental restrictions, such as New York State's ban on fracking, can be scrapped, maximizing blue-collar job opportunities and reducing energy costs for domestic manufacturing.

Fail...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Nov 6th, 2014 at 09:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And there is so much more.

The Prudent Bear: The Bear's Lair: Malthus was just 220 years early

With labor suddenly scarce, even at the modestly skilled level, the returns to labor would be greatly increased.

Yeah, when we had a world population of one billion labor was scarce and and returns to labor great.

The Prudent Bear: The Bear's Lair: Malthus was just 220 years early

The modestly skilled, both in the U.S. and in emerging markets, would be able, through mass robotization, to enjoy lifestyles of which their ancestors of today can only dream.

And then ecological footprint per capita could go on growing forever and ever.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 03:27:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He also says
Malthus' basic prediction of human starvation and misery was based on the maximum possible agricultural output increasing at an arithmetical progression while population increased at a geometric progression.
Malthus actually predicted that this will lead to either starvation or "vice", a category that included contraception. So, rather than being wrong, he has long been proved right.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 04:17:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Malthus: Most unfairly remembered economist
by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 05:35:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"The modestly skilled, both in the U.S. and in emerging markets, would be able, through mass robotization, to enjoy lifestyles of which their ancestors of today can only dream."

Are we discussing a Asimov novel now?

by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 04:18:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They can also die of hunger.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 04:31:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Robots never die of hunger. I have read all the novels! Third law!
by IM on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 05:02:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean the modestly skilled.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 7th, 2014 at 08:48:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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