When I was a kid, the trendy worry was “the population bomb.” Now we are supposed to worry about a population . . . fizzle?
“The U.S. birth rate has hit a new record low,” writes Peter Dockrill in Science Alert, “with women in nearly every age group giving birth to fewer babies than a year ago.” Titled “U.S. Fertility Rates Have Plummeted Into Uncharted Territory, And Nobody Knows Why,” Dockrill’s article fails to mention that diminishing population by reduced reproduction is an old worry.
It fanned the flames of eugenics and racism in Europe and America in the first half of the 20th century. Progressivism was full of this concern, in its heyday.*
As societies get wealthier, reproduction rates decrease. Economist Theodore W. Schultz called it the swapping of “quantity of children” for “quality of children.” This appears to be a natural, voluntary sort of eugenics — which scares actual eugenicists.
The study that Science Alert focused on fingered a different cause: lead in the environment. Over at Reason, Ronald Bailey sees some plausibility in this Lead Poison Theory. But mostly, Bailey writes, population rates in America (and elsewhere) are declining “largely because Americans are choosing to have fewer children.”
Is this really a problem?
Well, for Big Government it is.** German’s demographic collapse appears to have been one factor prodding Angela Merkel to open the doors to millions of refugees — whom Europe seems to have more trouble assimilating than does America.
I like kids — both making and rearing them. But to each his or her own, of course. Still, maybe if people freaked out less about population explosions, the implosion would prove less serious.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
* Before progressivism changed its name to “liberalism.” And now back. Oh, and note that the Nazis’ more famous eugenic programs were not identical to progressives.
** Ponzi-based safety-net pension systems worldwide were designed for growing populations. Oops!
(Illustration from Margaret Sanger’s “Birth Control Review” from 1918.)