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July 18, 2003

Grey Europe

Article (free) in The Economist about the doom & gloom over the greying of Europe. One thing that the article points out, at current rates of societal aging, immigration can't make up the balance and save the pension systems of many European countries. This doesn't even take into account the dangers of supporting white Christian Old Europeans with brownish Muslim nouveau Europeans. Of course the article does not touch on transhumanism. A 100 year timescale to me is long enough that I suspect that the human race will be in a very different place sociobiologically or our current socioeconomic structure will have collapsed under the burden of its incompatibility with our biological heritage.

The key for Europe seems to be the matter of women-"partial emancipation" in places like Italy means that though women have the right and expectation to work, they are also assumed to be primary care givers for children & adult men. This of course dimishes their inclination to be involved with adult men or children. Perhaps one thing that males have to reflect upon is that legal liberation of women has more subtle consequences than we might realize-the burdens & freedoms that women have taken up have an effect on the other side of the equation, as males must take up some of the burdens that women must let go to enter the public sphere. The only way the equation seems to be balancing right now is that children are being removed out of it.

Posted by razib at 10:02 AM




Any culture that chooses women's emancipation over motherhood (assuming that it's either one or the other) is headed for the trash can of history.

Posted by: duende at July 18, 2003 10:49 AM


g.c.,
You misunderstand me. I mean that a culture that cannot fuse motherhood and women's emancipation has two choices: eschew emancipation or die out. That has nothing to do with America or feminism in general.

Posted by: duende at July 18, 2003 12:39 PM


duende,

can you name cultures(countries) that have succesfully fused motherhood and emancipation and cultures that have not?

Posted by: sean at July 18, 2003 01:07 PM


Duende - what then is the point of making such stark comparisons if in reality they are not mutually exclusive and therefore have no policy relevance?

In fact the pensions problem is caused by a high dependency ratio (dependents to workers) so solving the pensions crisis without either cutting back pensions severely or increasing taxes severely will involve increasing the denominator. One of the means of increasing the denominator is by increasing labour force participation - which, guess what - means getting more women into the workforce. Of course the ultimate aim is to increase output - economically speaking this is the solution regardless of whether pensions are privatised or not. All a pension is is a claim on future consumption so private pensions do not intrinsically resolve the problem *unless* they systematically are more likely to increase output because letting private sector managers handle the pensions will in the long run increase capital stock better than letting government handle it. That may well be true, but nonetheless the dependence on increased output remains once you see all pensions as claims on future consumption.

Posted by: Jason Soon at July 18, 2003 01:09 PM


Incidentally if more people have less children and they invest more in the children they have, so much the better. And if it leads to lower population growth and a higher quality population then the pensions crisis needs only to be resolved for the current boomer generation.

Posted by: Jason Soon at July 18, 2003 01:14 PM


also, let's remember that demographic truisms change fast. until 10 years ago it was commonly asserted that lowering birthrates is driven by economic success, ergo female financial independence. but in the past 10 years a lot of countries that are still stark poor have dropped their birthrates, for instance, bangladesh went from 4.5 to 3.0 TFR without a comensurate rise in living standards (there was some economic growth, but not enough to warrant such a TFR drop).

also, in the 18th century poland had the problem of dealing with a minority that reproduced like rabbits and there was some worry that in the long term this group would outnumber the majority population. the group? jews.

Posted by: razib at July 18, 2003 01:16 PM


"Omitting of course the fact that allowing women into thw workforce essentially doubles production, and allows 50% of the population to choose whether to lead rewarding lives.

Why are you in college, duende? Why don't you just stay at home and raise kids? Why did you bother to learn how to read? Aha - I thought so - let other women stay at home...;)"


"duende,
can you name cultures(countries) that have succesfully fused motherhood and emancipation and cultures that have not?"

"Duende - what then is the point of making such stark comparisons if in reality they are not mutually exclusive and therefore have no policy relevance?"


I was just tired from working too hard on the statistics-project-from-hell, and I made a random comment. It wasn't the thesis statement of a grand manifesto. Sorry to trouble you all, but I was just mouthing off.

Posted by: duende at July 18, 2003 01:17 PM


And if it leads to lower population growth and a higher quality population then the pensions crisis needs only to be resolved for the current boomer generation.

yes, but we're not talking about zero pop growth, we're thinkin' negative. not necessarily bad, but our economic system doesn't seem to be up to it at this point....

Posted by: razib at July 18, 2003 01:35 PM


Jason,

That may well be true, but nonetheless the dependence on increased output remains once you see all pensions as claims on future consumption.

You make an excellent point above. Clearly it is better for this claim to be a return on capital (as in private pension claims) than it be a claim on wages of workers through taxes(as in public pension claims). This would ensure less political friction between retirees and workers.

Incidentally if more people have less children and they invest more in the children they have, so much the better. And if it leads to lower population growth and a higher quality population then the pensions crisis needs only to be resolved for the current boomer generation.

I agree. I am not completely clear on what will happen to countries (like Japan) which are expected to see a declining pouplation. In theory, better investments in fewer children will lead to better per capita output along with a possible decline in overall GNP.

Posted by: Sean at July 18, 2003 02:00 PM


"Incidentally if more people have less children and they invest more in the children they have, so much the better."

Not necesarily. If you have two children and send them both to private schools, and give them music lessons, foreign language classes, and enough tuition for any type of higher education they want, you'll be flushing 50% of your funds down the toilet if one of your kids has an IQ of 85. If you had more children and the same amount of money you might have only wasted 30% or 20% of your money on the dumb kid, and hopefully the rest of it went to smarter offspring.

Ideally, we want low birthrates among low IQ people and high birthrates among people in the upper quartile of intelligence. Unfortunately, that rarely works out in real life.

Posted by: duende at July 18, 2003 02:10 PM


I don't think Duende has anything to be sorry about. What she said in her first post is essentially correct - if by 'emancipation' she means the anti-male and anti-family dogsbreakfast of competing and contradictory feminist theories that have passed for intellectual thought in our universities over the last few decades, and I think she does.

"Any culture that chooses women's emancipation over motherhood (assuming that it's either one or the other) is headed for the trash can of history."

Posted by: Inventor at July 18, 2003 03:36 PM


Significant female participation in the urban workforce is a 100-year-old (or so) experiment. This differs from previous forms of female work, in that it is not performed in the context of the household. The time is too short to tell whether the effects of this social trend will be positive or negative for the countries that have adopted it.

Posted by: Dienekes at July 18, 2003 04:28 PM


Women clearly get equal pay for equal work and commitment today. Counting pregnancy and time off for taking care of the kids is NOT heartless, it is merely arithmetical truth. Add in the fact that a man who takes off because junior is sick will be fired, and my conclusion is that women already get a bigger slice of the pie than men. If I had the right to take off without notice, I would expect a large reduction in pay, yet my wife does that all the time with no penalty.

By the way, as a social experiment, government pensions are a merely 70 year old social experiment, and also one which is not yet proven to be more effective than the alternative. For instance, at age 50 I got a statement from the Social Security Administration, and I would (and could afford to) gladly give up my rights to my government pension if I could have my contributions back... and if they had been invested each year along the way I would have well over a million bucks in that account right now.

Posted by: Michael Gersh at July 18, 2003 07:47 PM


Significant female participation in the urban workforce is a 100-year-old (or so) experiment. This differs from previous forms of female work, in that it is not performed in the context of the household.

well, depends on the region, according to james q. wilson (and others i've read) women have done a lot of farming work in places like west africa where bodily lack of strength vis a vi males is not an issue....

Posted by: razib at July 18, 2003 11:20 PM


What do you have against the take back the night movement, Godless? You think it's appropriate that women should be fearful of going out at night lest they be raped?

Posted by: Jacqueline at July 19, 2003 02:56 PM


Razib,
True, but I don't think that the family plot horticulture you are talking about is comparable to the multi-degreed professions of modern women.

Godless,
An employer calling pregnancy "inefficient" is not heartless, just a shortsighted fool. If he thinks that it is ineffiecient to allow an intelligent woman employee leave and compensations to have her children, he should look at all the money wasted trying to smarten up school kids who reach the fifth grade with double digit IQs. Ultimately, I see policies in high level business and the learned professions that discourage child bearing in the same light as I do massive unskilled immigration: profitable and cheap now, but a net loss a few generations down the road.

Granted, the career/motherhood question is a major social problem, and I'm not saying that there is an easy, win-win solution. But even if pregnancy is economically inefficient in the short term, a society is more than merely an economy. People are more than just workers. Most people need something to do besides go to work, and if there is greater productivity but more unhappiness due to childlessness I think the productivity isn't worth it. Again, I am not calling for purdahs, just greater maternal leeway for the women who want it. A productive economy is supposed to increase people's health and happiness, not to become a secular god to which we must sacrifice our firstborns.

Posted by: duende at July 19, 2003 06:29 PM


Duende was almost on the right track.

In socialist countries, where children play no role (they are nothing but liabilities, as the State takes care of you from cradle to grave), birthrates have tanked.

Japan is an outlier.

In the USA, with lower taxes, and lower safety nets, children are less of a liability, in my opinion.

David

Posted by: David at July 21, 2003 02:23 PM