Thursday, January 08, 2009

Walking in a demographic winter wonderland

by Jennifer Roback Morse

Why are people averting their eyes from the coming collapse of population growth?

Demographic Winter is an independently produced film describing the consequences of the population collapse of industrialized countries. I have been amazed at the response, or I should say, lack of response to this film. Many of the reviewers either dismissed the thesis of the film, or changed the subject. The lack of serious American attention is surprising, considering that Demographic Winter has been translated in several languages, most recently, Romanian. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed as one of the experts for Part II, as yet to be released.) Commentators Left and Right are wandering through a Demographic Winter Wonderland with their eyes glazed over.

The film argues that falling population will mean a diminished quality of life for the aging generation and for future generations. For instance, pensions, both private and public, have to be paid for. When the retired population is too high relative to the working population, paying the promised pensions becomes an enormous burden. Either the young pay crushing taxes, or the elderly will not get what they expected, or both.

Consumer spending keeps the economy humming and the stock market climbing. When population shrinks, the demand for goods and services of all kinds shrinks. Harry Dent, one of the experts interviewed on the film, is an investment advisor. He discovered the significance of population growth by accident. He had a chart showing birth rates over a hundred year period on his desk next to a chart showing the stock market over the same period. He laid them over each other and realized that the stock market tracks birth rates with about a 40 year lag. That is because people spend the most money in their 40s. They buy the biggest house they’ll ever have; they feed, clothe and educate their children; they buy cars and vacations.

Read the rest of this article here.

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