martes, 12 de enero de 2016

MercatorNet: The coming great shrinkage || MercatorNet

Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive human will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions.  - See more at:

The coming great shrinkage
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Traffic jam in Lagos  
At some point I hope to come across a game-changer in terms of the impact of changing demographics on economic growth. But the recent publication from the International Monetary Fund, The Fiscal Consequences of Shrinking Populations, is not it.
The consequences of current demographic trends, namely higher pension and health care spending as a proportion of national income and potentially lower economic growth, and the possible solutions, namely higher birth rates, higher labour force participation, more migration, entitlement reform and more effective public spending, are the same as have been discussed ad nauseam in many papers both academic and popular.
The IMF report does add one interesting feature to the mix. While it uses current UN projections which imply that the global population will peak around 2100, they caution that, on past performance, the UN may be optimistic and the peak, and all that this would start to bring with it, could come sooner.
Our fiscal projections rely on the UN’s medium demographic scenario [they write] and should be interpreted with caution, as in the past fertility and mortality have declined at a much faster pace than projected. The fiscal risks associated with this uncertainty are mammoth in the long term.
What the IMF doesn’t do, perhaps because it is too scary, I consider what happens over the longer term when the global population hasn’t just peaked but has started falling rapidly.
Julian Simon was a game-changer in the 1970s and 1980s when he debunked much of the population control ideology then in vogue in many circles and which, unfortunately, still persists. But in the absence of a new vision we are told that we are caught on the horns of a dilemma. High fertility rates will risk increased fossil fuel use and pollution, leading to social and economic collapse, while low fertility rates, leading to shrinking populations, would also risk social and economic collapse. Neither road to collapse seems a particularly attractive option.
But that is because the IMF assumes that everything else stays the same. And maybe that is the game-changer we need, a change in “everything else”, or at least the part of it that relates to levels of consumption.
Recently I read an interview with the head of one of the main UK polling organisations. He said that “Even I couldn’t see the benefit of iPads when they were first launched. I now have three.” Does anyone really need 3 iPads?
Would it be possible to put a halt to economic growth for the wealthier parts of global society and allow the rest of the world to catch up? Finding a way of doing this would require more than the development of a new economic theory. It would require social and political change in many countries and a change in the material expectations of many people. Are we ready to embrace what this would entail and could modern Western capitalist economies, built as they are on the perpetual cycle of production and consumption, cope with the transition?
If we moved to a less consumerist society, fertility rates would be less of an issue and family sizes could increase without having such an impact of energy use and pollution. Families might then become more robust which, in turn, would reduce many of the social and fiscal costs currently associated with family breakdown and also provide greater support to the elderly, thus potentially reducing pension and health-related expenditure.
But there is the all important requirement to move to a less consumerist society which unfortunately does not seem likely to happen any time soon, at least not by choice and not by enough people.
Dermot Grenham is an actuary in Glasgow.
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MercatorNet being a publication which deals with controversy, every once in a while we publish an article which raises my hackles. Such is the case with Joanna Roughton’s review of a book called Spark Joy. How does a book about tidying up become a New York Times best-seller?
I think I know how: by bullying its readers. Here is a paragraph from its manifesto:
“The responsibility for mess and clutter lies 100 per-cent with the individual. Things do not multiply of their own accord, but only if you buy them or receive them from someone else. Clutter accumulates when you fail to return objects to their designated place. If a room becomes cluttered ‘before you know it’, it is entirely your own doing. In other words, tidying up means confronting yourself.”
That is what I call unfair. Life is difficult enough without being forced to confront deep inner fears every time you open your wardrobe. And besides, as far as I can see, mess and clutter are definitely not my fault, just Bad Karma. Why should I feel guilty about it? So I have made a New Year’s resolution not to read Spark Joy. You may feel differently, though: check out the review.

Michael Cook 

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Most of us despair of keeping them.
The coming great shrinkage
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A report from the IMF suggests that population decline could come sooner than we think.
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A book about tidying up has sold 4.8 million copies.
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Suicide is a difficult and dark subject.
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