The startling news that population may be falling by the end of the century* is a ray of brightness in the gloom of viral plagues, economic hardship and ecological catastrophe. For the first time, a species may break the iron law of Thomas Malthus without a devastating mortality. And it was women who achieved it. The emancipation of women from domestic tyranny was always a winner on moral grounds. But as they became better educated and demanded fulfilling work, the size of families has been falling steadily. Less population means less pressure on the environment. It means fewer workers, with higher wages and shorter hours. No virus can spread so easily if everyone is living spaced out in large detached houses.
In the years to come there will be voices bleating that falling populations are bad for the economy. We need lots of endlessly working ants, they will cry, to buy all the products and services they make by their endless work, in a cycle of neurotic hyperactivity. And the best countries are the biggest ones, that can go around the world with big armies and fleets, dominating and bullying in an endless cycle of narcissistic gratification. Watch out for certain free market think tanks and their megaphones in the press. Certain rich people hate times of labour scarcity (like after the Second World War).They are only really secure in the saddle when everyone is competing for scarce jobs and money.
To which we at LSS say rubbish. Firstly the world cannot sustain the model of endless overproduction and overwork. Rising global temperatures and Covid-19 are merely warning signs of massive trouble to come. Secondly a richer, leisured population will have far higher demands for goods and services than overworked peasants. So all those undergrads in the think tanks can still have their graphs pointing firmly upwards, and juggle their numbers in an ecstasy of bliss. Finally, smaller nations co-operating can stand up to bigger ones. Wars are more often won by technology and money than pure size. In the meantime, Ladies be warned! If the emancipation of women from tyranny is the cause of a falling population, it will be the first thing which they will try to reverse.
All of this is in the future. The road from the twenties to the seventies will be through rising populations, ecological stress and economic troubles All of which could spark catastrophe. In future blogs we will be seeing what history can teach us about all this, and where we go from here.
we thank Mr Peter Seymour of Hertfordshire for this link
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