Audio Recording by George Hahn
Our species dates back 300,000 years. For most of that time, most humans lived to their early 30s, as a bad cut or broken bone was a death sentence. Around 1800, things changed: wealth, life expectancy, and the population all exploded. In the past two hundred years, per capita GDP has grown 15x; we now live twice as long as our great-grandparents, and our population is up eightfold — from 1 billion to 8 billion.
In 1798, Thomas Malthus predicted a global overpopulation apocalypse. It didn’t happen. When I was growing up, after a quadrupling of the population since Malthus, Paul and Anne Ehrlich penned a bestseller, The Population Bomb. The population has doubled again, but still … no apocalypse. It’s time to recognize that overpopulation isn’t a thing. It’s counterintuitive, but population density has no correlation with food insecurity. Poverty is the result of multiple factors: natural disasters, wars, poor agricultural infrastructure, and bad actors accumulating too much power. Climate change is a function of our energy and lifestyle choices, not our numbers.
We aren’t going to shrink our way out of climate change, income inequality, or any crisis. The solution is more. Specifically, more people who generate ideas that make the world more productive — ideas that let us do more with less. Stanford economist Charles Jones has shown that what generates prosperity is, ultimately, ideas — and ideas are the product of brains. More brains, more ideas.
However, we’re in danger of running out of ideas because, well … we’re running out of people.
America’s population grew 0.4% last year — a slight uptick from 2021, which recorded the lowest growth rate in our history. China’s population fell by 850,000, its first decline in more than 60 years. One Chinese official said the nation is now in an “era of negative population growth.” It’s not alone: The populations of Japan, Germany, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and many Eastern European nations are shrinking.
Throughout human history, birth outperformed death; that’s about to change. Africa’s population continues to grow, but not enough to compensate for declines elsewhere. Researchers project the global population will peak in 2064 and then begin its retreat. More than 20 nations will see their populations shrink by 50%. The greatest threat to humanity isn’t climate change or thermonuclear war, but nothingness. Specifically, that our species will decide it should slowly and steadily fade to black.
The Math Ain’t Mathin’
Fewer people means fewer brains and less labor — which means less innovation in solar panels and less carbon removed from the atmosphere. Also: fewer art shows, football matches, sleepaway camps, patents, proms, and bat-mitzvahs. Less of everything that makes us human. This presents a blunt and simple math problem. Globally, the number of people older than 80 is expected to increase sixfold by 2100. Meanwhile, the population of children 5 and younger will get halved. We’re facing not only a population decline, but also degradation — too many old people and not enough young people. To register the tectonic nature of this shift in our culture, imagine a world with six times as many (potential) grandparents and half as many grandkids. Thanksgiving becomes a dystopian scene from the 14th season of The Handmaid’s Tale — 12 seniors vying for the attention of the one 4-year-old.
As the population ages, it also becomes less productive. Why? Our economic productivity peaks in our 40s and declines from there.
While being less productive, seniors also consume substantially more public resources. Though seniors as a cohort control huge amounts of wealth, most of them are dependent on Social Security and Medicare — the bottom 50% of boomer households own just 2% of boomer wealth. The U.S. median household income, including Social Security, for people 65 and older is just $47,620, the lowest of any age group. As a result, we spend 40% of our total tax dollars on people 65 and up, and that will increase to 50% by 2029. Nineteen percent of our GDP is allocated to a product young people hardly consume: health care.
In the U.S., one proposal is to change the balance between workers and retirees by extending our “working age” — raising Social Security eligibility to 70, and Medicare to 67. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2035, these changes would reduce annual outlays in these programs by just 4% and 5% respectively.
Another band-aid proposal is to means-test Social Security payments. That is, cut payments for rich people. Two problems: First, we effectively do this already through taxation. (Social Security benefits are subject to tax, which takes a much bigger bite from those with other sources of income.) Second, while we could go further and strike wealthy recipients from the rolls, there aren’t enough wealthy old people to make the change worthwhile. Three-quarters of Social Security payments go to seniors who make less than $20,000 per year, and 90% go to those making less than $50,000. So net-net, we’d save … between zero and 4% of benefit payments, depending on the cut-off.
Again, we aren’t going to shrink our way out of the problem. We have to grow out of it. At a national level, there’s a real solution: immigration. Immigrants are the lifeblood of business formation in America, and they’ve been responsible for half of our unicorns. Attracting, welcoming, and retaining ambitious people from abroad is the easiest way to get rich. Like many countries, we’ve politicized the issue, as humans are wired to distrust strangers. But let’s be clear: Welcoming immigrants has always been America’s superpower, full stop.
But that still won’t be enough. We also need home-grown solutions that encourage Americans to have more kids.
Net population growth requires a fertility rate slightly greater than two births per woman. Almost every developed nation is falling short of that. America’s fertility rate is 1.8; the average for high income countries, 1.7. We need more babies — born into stable homes, with supportive families, quality health care, and good schools. What some might call a nation.
The profound, even existential question is: How do we encourage Gen Z to have kids? For starters, they’re going to have to meet one another, fall in love, and ruin their weekends (i.e., have kids). The issue is that we’re delaying marriage and starting families. Since the early 1970s, the median age for a first marriage has gone from the early 20s to nearly 30.
Eighty-four percent of women want a partner taller than them. The problem is, in several dimensions, women are getting taller and men shorter. As we’ve written before, the economic and educational gains of women over the last several decades have had an unintended consequence: Women feel there are fewer worthy men. Women value the financial capacity of a potential partner more than men do: 71% of American women say it’s “very important” for a man to support his family financially. Only 25% of men feel the same about a woman. Over the next five years, we will graduate two women from college for every man.
It’s a vicious cycle. As more women find fewer men to date, the men left behind drift from the dating scene, lose motivation, never gain social skills, and become less attractive. There are solutions: Vocational training programs, an expansion of freshman seats at colleges, and national service would all help “level up” men. We also need more “third places” where people can meet, not just to find romance, but also to build the social networks that lead to strong, durable relationships. Finally, older men need to find the time to engage in young men’s lives, as the absence of a male role model is the strongest predictor of incarceration. Put another way, if we want more men, we need older men to step up.
Creating an environment that encourages the pairing of young people is only half the problem. Our young can increasingly do math, and the math for young people and kids is increasingly ugly. Homebuyers are counseled to keep their house purchase at no more than 2.5 times their annual income, but in many major U.S. cities, spiraling prices have pushed that ratio close to 10 times. Early child care can eat up a third of a working family’s budget. Public schools are struggling in many areas, but the average private high school costs almost $16,000 per year.
If we want more kids, we’re going to have to pay for them. The expansion of the child tax credit, to a maximum $3,600 per child for the poorest families, lifted 3 million children out of poverty in 2021. But we’ve let it lapse. It should not only be renewed, but further expanded. More broadly, we need to reverse the transfer of wealth from the young to the old. Over the past three decades people under the age of 40 have seen their share of wealth cut in half — from 13% to 6%. Taxing current income at higher rates than capital gains is theft from younger people, who make money from sweat, not investments. We have immense wealth in the U.S. — what we lack is progress.
I had my first kid at 42. My boys are, by far, my biggest source of stress and sleepless nights. They’ve also given me purpose, and I believe they will steadily become less awful … and maybe help find solutions that help others someday. We need to make a staggering investment in younger generations to provide the means and motivation to have kids. For America, the West, and the species to prosper, we need to get serious about ruining millions of weekends.
Life is so rich,
P.S. I’m teaching a shorter version of my Brand Strategy Sprint in February: two weeks to learn how to build a sustainable, differentiated, relevant brand. Become a member to sign up. If you want a taste, you can watch the first lesson for free.
I would agree, that overpopulation is not the most pressing problem and Scott you’re right, when you say “Climate change is a function of our energy and lifestyle choices, not our numbers.” A report by Oxfam found that the world’s richest 1% cause double the emissions of the poorest 50%! https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/worlds-richest-1-cause-double-co2-emissions-of-poorest-50-says-oxfam
But we don’t need more innovation (“brains”) to solve climate change. We have everything we need, we just need to implement the solutions right the f*ck now. What currently stands in the way? Old capitalism. What could solve it? New capitalism. With transparency around the real costs of our business models. We can’t treat the atmosphere like an open sewer. We pay for all our other garbage, why not for emissions? Because burning sh*it and not paying for the aftermath is a genius business model of the rich and powerful players of the “old capitalism” (see the “Joe Manchin drama”).
Scott, you ask “How do we encourage Gen Z to have kids?” By giving them hope through our actions, not just our words. We have to act fast. Al Gore almost lost his sh*it in Davos about this. “We are still failing badly.” https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:7023540470714617856
Emissions have to go down quickly, but they are still going up, besides all the talk. In the latest episode of Pivot you said “Look at the data”. I urge you to exactly do that around climate change. If you’d really understand the urgency, you wouldn’t treat it as one of many problems we’d figure out at some point in the future.
Yes, a lot of data shows how much our lives have improved over the last centuries and decades, but we’re throwing all that away due to our inability to imagine the worst. And the data tells us that we are on a highway to climate hell. How can you say “look at the data it will be all ok”, if every climate scientists says we’re f*cked, if we’re not decreasing emissions NOW (slowing down the increase rate isn’t enough). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFgBFYkBZ6E
Building economic security for ones family is a big talking point for you. But what about the physical and mental security now and in the future? You can’t buy your way out of a dying planet and you can’t strike a deal with physics.
Circling back to “Climate change is a function of our energy and lifestyle choices, not our numbers.” What are your choices in this regard? What future for your children do you choose? How do you use your massive influence in the realm of business and politics to help setting us on the right track and accelerate the speed?
It’s just so expensive to have children, I have 3 and even with a nice salary, it’s really hard. I spent about 20K on just the hospital bills to have regular births, and I had full coverage from my employer. Daycare is another huge expense. Children are becoming a luxury item.
My mind is blown by the fact that you didn’t even mention the problem of for-profit healthcare?
I love how you repeat the myth that Social Security is a government expense. SS is self funded, the funds were “borrowed” by the government and the payments represent repayment of that debt (presumably with interest). It is no more an “entitlement” than interest on a savings account.
But it’s a government OBLIGATION, which we need to keep paying even if the “borrowed” money isn’t enough (which it likely won’t be if the working population declines)
The world is better off with less people. We are humans not products, not consumers nor business people only.
I do not agree with assertions about negative impacts on global climate and on wildlife. Those cannot be just asserted away in one or two sentences. More humans is directly related to increased pollution and global climate change.
We do not need new ideas to solve climate change. We already know what needs to be done. And if a nation as small as Israel or Japan or UK can be prosperous then your arguments fly in the face of these facts.
Yes, there will be detrimental effects to falling fertility rates. No question about that. But lets not wash away the ills of increased global population.
Im commenting in regards to your most recent linkedin post sharing a graph of the inflation of college prices in the US. I’m wondering how you can recognize that problem yet you work for a private school with a tuition over 50 grand annually and a reputation of being prestigiously priced. As a student paying her own tuition at a state school, it is frustrating to see someone so educated sit on their pedestal and preach about how expensive college has gotten. I’m wondering if you would ever take steps to either support cheaper public schools or even bring up the issue with NYU (even though it could cause a paycheck cut). I have read you books, I know how the UC system has supported your education. Why don’t you continue the cycle?
Your articles generally are right on target but this one is off on many levels. The biggest bandaid of all is to have more babies, in my opinion. For starters, the idea that more thinking minds will lead to more needed innovation is completely flawed. Quantity does not ensure quality. The fact is that the number of patents and articles published in the last twenty years has increased enormously but the benefits derived from those are only marginal and incremental. All appears to indicate that we have reached a point of diminishing returns as far as innovation. We can’t survive our way out by continuing to exploit nature. Healthcare for seniors is indeed expensive in this country but our entire healthcare system is wrong and badly conceived. Social security is also broken and badly conceived, so reform is needed, not more babies to support a bad system. It’s not a matter of whether Malthus was right or not or whether that ridiculous book you mentioned is indeed ridiculous or not. It’s a matter of getting to the bottom of things and having more babies is not certainly the way out.
He does not accept a paycheck.
Mr. Galloway, you usually have great insight, but this article is just completely wrong. We have so many people, we don’t need more for more ideas, labor, etc. We can function extremely effectively with way fewer people than we have. And the population explosion is what is causing many of our problems. It’s not just life style choices that create pollution that is a problem, it is the huge number of people making those choices. While the planet is huge, it is of fixed size. You can’t just keep growing the population forever, and we are hitting the limits of how many it will support with a quality life style. More babies is a bad idea.
– do you think the stricter immigration policies of the past decade specifically Trump era have the potential to do what China did to its own population growth with the one child policy – it only takes a few wrong policy years to undermine decades of rights. Secondly , do you think the incredible cost of educating and raising children is at least partially responsible for this problem and if there is still Time to incentivise the population to expand – there have been failures across Europe and Asia in this regard…
Of all the points raised, more babies = more ideas is the one I hear a lot and don’t understand.
We already know how to stop climate change, homelessness and gun violence. We know how to make democracy more representative and transportation more efficient. We know how to extend most human lifespans to almost a century, and to make that century pretty comfortable.
With 8 billion of us living in a world of invented but not implemented solutions, does anyone really find themself thinking, “if only we had more ideas?”
This essay raises some solid points but at the same time misses some valid points.
For instance, the argument about more babies potentially spurring innovation. Babies globally or babies in Western countries? People in the US specifically can’t afford babies because many young people lack the necessary financial resources to launch this baby-bearing project due to low salaries, unstable jobs, high rent, unimaginable property prices, and so forth.
That being said, before even considering the “more babies” project, it’s crucial to note that the dating and marriage arena for an “average man” is getting tougher in the West. Sometimes one is excluded if they don’t have the latest iPhone (blue vs green text lol). Good article though.
I work in Human Resources and we have this concept of avoiding ‘more’ hires but rather ‘better’ hires, when we can. We need systems to have ‘better’ babies for this analogy. If we have MORE babies with the SAME trauma, lack of resources, etc. to be successful, idea-creating, world problem solving humans just aren’t going to come to fruition.
Scott, you have already acknowledged this in the past but would love to see it as a follow up to this because we all know that is why we are having fewer babies.
Plus, as a woman, I can acknowledge that I do need a man to be educated and more financially secure than I am because I will take the brunt financially, physically, and emotionally once I ever become pregnant and raise kids.
I wonder if we can live in a society where money it the solution for a good chunk of these problems, but it’s a frustrating realization I very easily come to.
Scott says “Taxing current income at higher rates than capital gains is theft from younger people, who make money from sweat, not investments”.
Scott, really? Before I can have a capital gain I first have to make some money. Which in my case was from current Income. From sweat, not from investments, Scott. As you point out.
Which gets taxed. Immediately.
Then I invest it it and – if I’m lucky – it turns into a capital gain. Which then gets taxed. Again.
So what’s your solution Scott? Lower taxes on the current generation so that those of us who’ve been paying through the nose for decades can pay even more?
No. Please put the peyote aside and think clearly.
As a huge fan, I feel ok calling Bullshit on this essay. You’re falling for what I call the “Environment” equivocation. OUR environment is not THE Environment (let’s just call it Earth for clarity). It also seems you’re sucked into the trap that since Malthus and the Ehrlichs were wrong, the opposite must be true.
Every environment from Earth to our own subset environment operates at full Carrying Capacity all the time. Every species exists at 100% of its environments Carrying Capacity all the time. Variations in a species environment may increase or decrease the populations, but the species is ALWAYS at full Carrying Capacity within its environment. For example, EARTH can handle far more Passenger Pigeons than it currently maintains. The Passenger Pigeons specific environment contained a certain variable (people with guns and bad judgement) which made the Passenger Pigeon’s environment have a Carrying Capacity of Zero.
So the statement that Overpopulation is a myth is true (I personally consider it opinion rather than myth), as we are now and always have been at full capacity. That doesn’t mean that the Carrying Capacity of OUR environment isn’t shrinking. It is in fact shrinking. We know that’s a fact because variables in our environment are causing us to have fewer children.
So saying we need to have more babies is like me saying I need several million dollars in my bank account. It ain’t happening.
Hi Harrison, I didn’t intend to make my post a “reply” to your comment. Sorry.
As a recently married 31 year old, I can say my wife and I have zero desire to have children. Besides the fact the that our dog runs circles around us (couldn’t imagine if she had thumbs), having kids to us means giving up on our travel and entrepreneurial ambitions. There is one policy that could change our minds is Medicare for All.
Wow! You must have hit a nerve somewhere (I read thru the Comments section). I like your post and as always you gave me a lot to think about.
What I found to be the most flawed part of Mr. Galloway’s argument is the assumption that more humans will automatically lead to more brilliant and innovative ideas. Throughout history, I’d venture to guess that less than 1% of all human beings who’ve ever lived on the planet have made the kinds of intellectual or artistic achievements that have pushed our species forward. I’m willing to admit that I am not in that 1%. Now, that doesn’t mean that many people don’t add value to their tiny sphere, but from an economic standpoint, intelligent and/or hard-working people are not going to stop having children anytime soon. But the last thing we want to do is encourage people who do not have the financial or emotional resources to give a child a strong chance at a great life, to have more children, and then force those children (who did not ask to be born) to try to compete in a world where they have very little chance of flourishing. Studies also show us that despite how much people cherish their children, overall happiness decreases when people have children. This is likely even more true for low- and middle-income people who wind up under constant stress. When does the happiness curve swing back up? When their children leave home. That doesn’t mean people should not have children. But many people are realizing that having more than one or two children is not only a bad deal for them, but it’s also not great for their children, society, or the earth.
Its not just about the quantity of new ideas but the rate at which the new ideas replace old ideas. As we get older we are reluctant to change our behaviours. Therefore as the population lives longer, idea turnover slows and with it, progress.
First, I really appreciate your newletter. You have some really perspectives and some of you stuff is spot. Having said that, I’m quite surprised by this post.
It seems obvious that 8 Billion is too many humans for the earth, and that continued population growth is not a sound strategy going forward. Right now, there are epsodic shortages of numerous commodities, finished goods and services. Some of those shortages are directly attributable to the quest for great efficency. In other words, more people wouldn’t solve the problem. My question and concern: Is it possible to build a stable, strong economy without population growth? I mean, the implication is that not enough young people working with too many retirees equals economic death spiral.
50-60 million babies aborted since 1973. How about changing the pro abortion policies and encouraging adoption? We have lost huge amounts of intellectual capital (I.e. “brains”) and labor during this holocaust.
Forced birth without universal healthcare has always sounded more like pro poverty rather than pro life
1) Scott, you state you had your first baby at 42. Let’s be clear – no man every “had” a baby. Most of us are there for the fun part at procreation, and then we’re an observer for the next nine months or so.
2) Why aren’t more women stating we need to have more babies? I suspect it has to do something with point 1), as well as the stretch marks, sore boobs, expectation of doing most of the work bringing up the baby, and other considerations.
3) The 1st key to better ideas is better knowledge (not state sponsored education). The creators responsible for the industrial age could tinker with their machines until they got them right. Now, it seems if you can’t “code” you cannot create, or even work on the engine of my 2014 Ford F-150.
4) The second key to ideas is the encouragement and acceptance of failure. It seems we no longer view failure as a means to figuring out what doesn’t work. Would Edison have received continued funding for his light bulb in today’s climate? Would the brothers Wright?
That is my 40% of a Lincoln. Thanks for allowing me to share my POV.
You make some great points dude
Hi Scott. We’re all due a few mistakes but this one was a whopper. The idea that we can breed our way to success on so many fronts was built upon several false premises and assumptions in your essay (eg, ingenuity is correlated with birth rate). Take your pick of environmental metrics, pessimism is clearly linked first to population and then, in some cases, to other factors as it is with the standard of living in US. The greatest impact that an individual can have on, for instance, their carbon footprint is not having children. There are much more sophisticated solutions already in motion in several countries in answer to perceived issues with birth rates (eg, means testing, tax policy, immigration, downscaling, technology, automation, on and on). The other thing that seems out of character for you was in prescribing such a huge life decision to others; normally you’re much more subtle in getting us to do good things and be better individuals. Anyway, I love your work, how you challenge my thinking, and I’ll continue as a podcast listener. With few exceptions you hit it out of the park ever time.
Spot on. This is his worst newsletter by quite some distance. I could not even finish reading it beyond “more brains = more ideas”.
Me too. It hurts. 🙂
Tell us without telling is that Elon Musk had a good point about humanity.
“We need more babies — born into stable homes, with supportive families, quality health care, and good schools. What some might call a nation.”
There are more elephants in the room that need calling out here: making divorce again a socially undesirable option and not over-validating just picking up and leaving when you “fall out of love”, acknowledging that organized religion has some really great social cohesion going for it even though it’s been co-opted by politicians and has some flavors stuck on antiquated Bronze Age fixations, and admitting that most all good schools either have staff enpowered to mete out strong much needed discipline, or implicitly draw from homes where this exists.
Wow Scott usually love your thoughts but this post has so many bad ideas. Overpopulation is THE existential problem facing humanity. Our beautiful planet Earth is being destroyed right in front of our eyes everyday. Earth simply cannot even sustain 8 billion people with an acceptable quality of life. In fact a more realistic number is thought to be 2 billion. How can you make a case for more people? It’s irrational based on resources required and all the waste and pollution created. Oh and the reason people are having fewer children now is that they are realizing this world is not going to be a great place to live going forward, so Why have a child? My sons have this viewpoint! The current economic system will change once societal crisis and collapse starts to occur. Social security and Medicare will be the least of our worries. There will be no choice. We cannot grow our way out of this inescapable dilemma my friend. And Mother Nature will force brutal depopulation whether we do it or not. Glad we won’t be here to see it.
Is overpopulation the problem or is capitalism?
Seriously, ProfG? We have plenty of young brains, thank you. We need to supply them with nutrition and education and opportunities. Equally. What a disappointingly ageist and selfish rant.
Scott, take your beautiful boys to the zoo to see the Tasmanian Tiger and the Dodo! No wait…they’re extinct…anyway, keep breeding Scott and hope your offspring have lots of “ideas”.
Load of shit in my view. Humans have reached plague proportions. We’re just coming up with clever ideas to accommodate more and more humans and more and more consumption driving unrealistic expectation of never ending growth. The end doesn’t have to be an apocalyptic burst bubble, it can be a slow atrophy.
Immigration is NOT the answer unless your Country is nothing but an economic zone. Swap the entire populations of Japan with California and California becomes Japan and Japan becomes California.
Additionally, whilst Stalin is sort of correct in that quantity has a quality all of its own. Quality DOES count. A population of 1 Billion with an average IQ of 80 isn’t going to solve any problems whereas a population of 20 million with an average IQ of 100 has a much better chance.
This isn’t a money issue, it’s a woman issue. Women don’t want kids and so they’re not having them. It’s not because of money, it’s because they think it’s a choice between having a career or having a kid.
The economy punishes child bearing. Women think it is a choice because it is.
Easy peasy just do what the T@lib@n do.
Keeping tiny humans alive is an expensive endeavor that limits the career options for all involved
The sytem need new consumers…. maybe10.000.000.000 is not enough. No resources for everybody… doesn t matter
Sorry, Scott. This young millennial (old Gen Z maybe? Not sure, I’m 29) is not going to have kids to try to help you solve some macro-demographic problem. You alluded to this in your article, but the reality is kids are simply too expensive, and the labor market too unstable even for highly educated workers to want to have kids anymore when there is no safety net. Large, seemingly stable corporations drop workers at the drop of a hat as soon as the economic outlook looks poor, or they have a bad quarter. These same companies have been gutting benefits and transferring costs to the employee for decades. Having kids for their own sake doesn’t interest me, and I would rather invest the money I would be spending on kids to help get out of the rat race sooner so I can do what I want.
Also, good luck dating in 2023. I’d rather give myself a lobotomy.
“I had my first kid at 42.” Really? Was it hard on your body? Don’t usurp our verb. Your wife/partner had your first kids. You really have no right to be writing about how women should give YOU kids. I’m a fan of yours Scott, but I am burning up as I read this. I have three daughters in their 20’s and I have always always told them the truth: they must pick between a having a prosperous fulfilling career and be an active, real time, real life mother ( who does not have nannies). These two things cannot exist as the same time unless their husband/partner stays home. So just please for the love of God stay in your own lane. Quite literally, women do not even need men to procreate (lots of frozen sperm out there). If my husband said any of these words that you wrote out loud… well he just would never do that. Perhaps “YOU” need to have a daughter so you’ll stop feeling so sorry for yourself.
Seems very black and white. My wife and I both have great careers and both raise kids. They go to daycare. It’s not that difficult. You sound like a bitter person and have an unhealthy view towards men. Have you tried therapy?
Sorry Professor, but your apocalyptic scenario isn’t and won’t be borne out by reality, certainly not in the U.S. There are plenty of younger people – 110 million Millennials and Gen Z. Plenty for example to fund Social Security for retiring boomers. And more employed currently than every before – 150 million. And as for ideas, ask around. There is no shortage of ideas anywhere. Too many old people? Don’t worry it’s like too many people without a COVID vaccine – it’s a self limiting problem. Deaths have never exceeded births before? You want double check that – look at war years for the exceptions. Birth rates, death rates, population counts – all vary from time to time. And somehow, mysteriously, confoundingly, the world manages to do just fine regardless.
a question rather than a comment: how do I get my kids to read this?
this time a comment. can you go to Congress and teach them these things?
HI Kathe, it sounds like your own kids don’t want kids. I want to make a sincere suggestion. If you want your kids to give you grandchildren, move close to them and tell them you will spend your waking hours helping them raise the kids by helping with shopping, laundry, dishes, sitting while your kids are at work. We evolved to have grandparents and aunts and uncles help raise kids.
Knowing there would be no familial assistance in raising kids was a huge part of why my wife and I chose to not have any.
Read through everyone’s comments and goes to show you how poorly the principles of demographics are understood. You argue for some vast, comprehensive solutions because that’s what it takes to turn demographic decline around. Those who argue against some of your solutions are still mincing about their pet view of existence instead of stepping back to look at the whole tamale. Interesting commentary based on fact–not the bogus numbers claimed here in most posts–one only need read The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell and John Gray or listen to Peter Zeihan’s analysis of demographics (eg, why Russia moved now to invade Ukraine or the Chinese likely overestimation of its actual population, etc) If you’re going to carp about why more babies don’t matter you’re obviously holding the wrong end of the elephant and are not a careful reader of this article. I teach careful reading, btw, to high schoolers and they complain endlessly about it being “too hard.”
2 women will graduate for every man. That’s both bizarre and alarming. Bizarre because it’s a non-existent discussion and alarming because women still don’t like math and science (relatively speaking) even though academia has been desperately trying to get more women into STEM for 40 years
Always interesting and enlightning. Always continue please !!
Why would you want to bring more people into the world to be wage slaves for musk and bezos?
Boomers: “why don’t young people want to have kids?”
Young people: “have you tried making the world suck less?”
I love you Scott. Came across your material in December when dealing with Covid. Since then I’ve purchased/read your books Adrift and Algebra of Happiness. Although I disagree with select political views (perhaps most on climate change), your are spot-on concerning the challenges younger men face (I’m an old dude but have witnessed the drug-related deaths/suicides of several seemingly promising young guys). Likewise, the changes to higher education you advocate for are absolutely necessary (especially the accreditation cartels). Thanks again for your insights!
More brains, more ideas? Ok, here’s something equally simplistic: the world population in 1600 was 500 million. Now it is close to 8 billion. Where are our 16 Shakespeares?
I don’t know how you measure this but if you don’t think society has had at least 16 prolific ingenious writers in the last hundred years you’re an idiot sorry
None of those 16 prolific writers would consider themselves a Shakespeare, Goof. And no, you’re not an idiot. I think you’ll agree only lazy thinkers call others idiots. But to the larger point — quantity does not mean you’ll have quality. With all the billions in the world, how soon do you think we’ll have another Beatles?
And yes. I agree. You do not know the “measure of this”.
Perhaps if we didn’t abort 1,000,000 children a year they could contribute to the solution
You’re gonna ORDER women to have children? That’s your solution? Ain’t gonna happen.
America is a Potterville. If you want to make it a Bedford Falls you got to work at it. I read about some one promoting responsibilities for citizens. I love that they forgot to mention our present super-citizens – aka corporations.
Doug, the fact is that this is a country of, by and for super-citizens, not little icky citizens like you content watching Maury and who is the daddy.
If you want it different you got to work not to make it a Potterville, which means ignore religion – especially the catholics which have a millenium of bringing misery to the planet.
You are so obsessed with making unwanted kids miserable that you don’t see the truth. Or maybe you are a pervert and can’t wait to have ooddles and oodles of kids in an orphanage to molest away.
hahaha… we’re actually blaming women here? try reversing your arguments… men don’t want to date women who earn more than them… men are also typically taller than women and i don’t think the population crisis is becauseof female preference… absolutely absurd to be propogating incel narratives here… trybetter and more affordable childcare for one. try lower cost of living, try more need for dual income household…. hahaha this is shameful
>men don’t want to date women who earn more than them…
Other way around. It’s well known that women don’t really marry below their social status. So the higher educated the woman and the more she earns, the smaller is her pool of potential mates, not because of men “fearing her”, it’s because she wants at least her economic equal and women now are doing better carrier wise than men.
This is not against women, just stating the facts.
Being of the same vintage and an environmental activist for decades, “The Population Bomb” book has has a significant influence on my thinking about the future of Earth’s other species.
This post was an interesting read.
Decent childcare is also hard to get. That needs to improve to give women more incentive as well.
I have been telling people about this problem for a long time. No one seems to understand how demographics and birth rate affects a nation’s present and future. In my mind, it is one of the most salient reasons for allowing more opportunities for legal immigration. What more family oriented people can you envision than our Spanish speaking neighbors to the south? I visited Cuba a few years ago and learned that most couples there have only one child, with many choosing not to have children at all. With a decent health care system Cuba’s older people are living much longer. It is a crisis that will only get worse and we face the same situation.
You are comparing apples to oranges. Cuba’s problem is that is a prison island that is operated by a cult. Think scientology here with Tom Cruise being the face and all and be all.
Cuba has the same problem that any dictatorship has. Talent flees away asap. What remains is the weak, dull, unmotivated masses. But they can easily figure out that why in heaven and hell would you want to have a child in a prison island within cult?
Scott, beautifully written as always, but It is obvious to anyone with children in their twenties – young people aren’t refusing childbearing because of asymetries in the dating market, they’re not having kids because they’re lives suck! Most notably because of the low supply and high cost of land and housing.
If you truly envision a comfortable and prosperous life for your sons you should be excited about the impending population decline which at the end of the day will hurt hurt asset holders (boomers) most and benefit the working class as labour markets become more competitive (like in Europe where they don’t wage-enslave immigrants to perform undesirable work, and dishwashers earn the same as servers). Who cares about a shrinking economic pie, a below replacement fertility economy could finally realize the utopia of abundance and leisure that Maynard Keynes predicted in 1931.
Infinite growth is unsustainable.
Prof normally has such good essays with supporting facts. How did he get this one so wrong…maybe someone else wrote this essay for him…
Prof Galloway probably looked at the readily available statistics on birth rates in the world and he knows how all government supports to retirees depend on younger people in the workforce. So sorry, you can keep your head in the sand but he got it right.
Maybe he asked Chat GPT to “write and article in the style of Elon Musk”.
lol. Then it would only be 140 characters long…
Thank you feminists and Hollywood! You have marginalized and demonized men, now you are getting what you wanted.
Men were usually the comedy foils, on sitcoms. Primary school are run by women, for women. Boys are expected to act like girls. No fighting, just act nice and trash the other person on social media, like girls do.
I have worked with ‘hopeful’ first-gen college bound HS boys. Too often, the girls get the attention, the slots, and the scholarships, Boys end up discouraged and many just give up. Worse are boys raised by single moms, who cannot let go, rather than help them to be independent. With no male role model, they stagger through young adulthood. Crime stats for black youth bear that out.
Women want better men? Get your boys around positive male role models. Dump the left media, they created you and your kind.
Also, stop demeaning men in trades who actually work for a living. They likely contribute more to society than your ‘educated’ friends.
Oh boo, hoo, C Cook.
“Fewer people means fewer brains and less labor — which means less innovation in solar panels and less carbon removed from the atmosphere.” What an utterly ridiculous proposition! Normally Scott has something sensible to say. Just think about it for a minute – this is just rubbish.
For someone so right, how is Prof so wrong on the basics of human evolution. What an idiot.
Instead of an appeal to intuition, please consider laying out your arguments in a clear and constructive manner.
For the first time, I disagree with everything — except the marriage prospects of men and women — that Scott wrote. I never thought …. Sad.
Thanks for the great article Scott. Few comments:
1. As a female in early 40s and decent career, bearing a child with no good support affordable system like day care, decent public schools, after hours care giving seems like a strain. The stress and effort > joy at this stage
2. We need real solutions to tackle the problem from both ends -> support elderly and better infrastructure for them and second -> child care and support services to help the busy and already tired from life stressors potential parents
Note: would have been good to have some stats on correlation of innovation and population in the article
For a partial answer, look at Scandinavian countries. Typically 6 weeks + family leave after a child. Free/low cost care, free preschools, etc. Yet that birthrate continues to fall. The high tax load more than offsets the benefits of having children. Every child means a bigger apt, bigger car, and usually one less cherished vacation to a warm place. If you want all the ‘free’ services, you pay a high tax load. Canada is tackling the elderly problem by nudging people to euthanasia. State advertising, loosing of requirements, all are leaking out.
Why don’t we kill off a few more animal species and burn down some forests. Prof wants more people…where did this guy get his degree??
Scott: your readership is depressed and neurotic. If the world population is gonna shrink, maybe your message should be that we’re gonna need to deal with it.
Frederick, completely agree
As the third world gets a better life, they will consume more. And likely have fewer offspring. As happened to the west. We are dealing with it now, AI, automation, power distribution, efficient farming. On the downside, shortages of materials and energy to support the technological changes.
While Globalists and academia are wring their hands, at lavish off-sites, companies and countries are adapting. Best solution for policy wonks, bored Billionaires, and Inherited Wealth pundits, get out of the way.
You had your first kid at 42. Could your wife have had her first kid at 42 and still have 2 kids? If a woman drops out of her career in her thirties to have kids, can she be as successful as you today? If she can’t, do you blame her that she needs to find a partner who can minimally provide the standard of living that she could have had if she didn’t have kids?
The fundamental inequality between men and women leads to the low birth rate. The only real solution to this is the “nation” sponsoring childcare, in every aspect.
No, the solution isn’t for stranger’s to raise your kids, that’s the problem to begin with. How much is a career really worth when you’re collecting social security checks, alone, in an extended care facility patiently waiting for death?
It’s all becoming absurd. Is working for a corporation really better than raising kids for a few years?
Women don’t like men who earn less than them, so men can’t do it. The cognitive dissonance is surreal
As a young woman (and at the ripe old age of 12), I informed my mother that I was not planning to have kids. That decision was one that I have never regretted. But society had another POV on my choice; my decision (like that of many other early feminists) was met with societal derision, endless questions about my choice, and being relegated to a “lesser than” role since I was not a breeder. You want to fix an aging demographic by creating more babies? How about empowering women? How about giving women the control and choice to procreate IF AND WHEN society provides decent childcare support so that increasing pool of talented, educated women can SUPPORT their families? And better access to healthcare, and education, and, and, and. All the rest of the advice is crap. This economy is based on consumption. More, more always more, and usually at the expense of either the children or the women who continue to support both their own families and aging parents without the same infrastructure as other developed nations. Scott, get real.
I encourage such women as this not to reproduce.
We do not need anymore women who want someone else to raise their offspring. Or, women who have children and no means to support them. Jails and detox centers filled with those kids now.
@mmandich Exactly. Well said.
This is so colossally wrong I don’t know where to start beyond agreeing with other posts. You’re so blinded by economic trees that you can’t see the environmental forest. Whether the loss of rainforests to beef ranches or watersheds for almond farms, we’re destroying finite resources to feed/water the current population. At forecasted rates of population growth (including a plateauing at 10-11 billion) and temperature rise the impacts just from population migration away from the coasts will be apocalyptic. The fewer people caught up in inevitable resource wars the better. You’re out of your mind to suggest that more of them, because of some wide-eyed belief in potential great ideas, is a good thing. I thought this was satire for the first few paragraphs, but you’re serious, and I’m disappointed.
I absolutely agree Jeff. I am a big fan of Scott’s writing but I cannot comprehend he got this so wrong. You cannot have exponential expansion of population on a finite earth, talking about simple math!
Agree, Jeff and William. While Scott’s proposals re population might make sense in an isolated USA, the 10 megathreats are global phenomena. Population demographics is a global issue with huge impacts on the USA (and everywhere) regardless of what policies might be adopted by a nation with just 4.25% of the world’s humans.
It seems the more babies more ideas trope has already been pretty well skewered by the pack here. Ideas are not the product of numbers, they are the result of knowledge, talent, and the opportunity and surplus resources for experimentation and development. Aristotle, Epictetus, Newton, Lagrange, and Einstein (I’ll stop, it’s a long list) were all products of a much populous world. It’s quality, not quantity. A less populated world might cause problems for leveraged businesses that have to grow out of the holes of their own making, but will be better for our progeny. Desperate people do desperate things, we don’t need more of them.
^^^^ * READ THIS INTELLIGENT COMMENT * ^^^^
The poverty line is regularly referred to in NMNM. Giving praise to legislation that moves kids out of poverty is misleading and generous beyond reason. The poverty line is so low as to make this type of measure/goal near meaningless. Please explore this and educate your readers on what our country considers poverty.
For anyone thinking we need fewer people on earth: unless you’re going to follow’s Canada’s example (MAID program) the only way there is fewer babies – leading to an older pop and the exact problems Scott (and others) described. And once a country’s birth rate starts declining, what’s going to reverse it? Idk of any country that has reversed a pop decline. For ex, see the Jan 24 articles quoting Japan’s PM: (Japan) is “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions” due to its low birth rate, and that solving the issue is “now or never,” and “In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation’s economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy.” [Japan’s birth rate is 1.3; US rate is 1.6] China is another ex: reversed its one-child policy and is now paying women to have babies. See the Jun 23 NYT article “Why China’s Shrinking Population Is Cause for Alarm.”
Hans Rosling predicted we’d peak at 10 billion. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E
You didn’t mention abortion as contributing to the US and World declining birth rate. Strip out politics, religion, women’s rights: the US has averaged aborting ~1M fetuses/yr for the past 40ish yrs [Guttmacher data]. The current US pop is ~332m, so that’s not nothing. China has no doubt aborted / killed millions more (mostly females, resulting in a gender ratio of ~1.5 males to 1 female). Some of the sols you mentioned could reduce the number of abortions due to econ reasons. For anyone thinking we need fewer people on earth: unless you’re going to encourage older people to kill themselves (ie, Canada’s MAID program) the only way there is fewer babies – leading to an older pop and the problems Scott described. And once a country’s birth rate starts declining, what’s going to reverse it? Idk of any country that has reversed a decline. For ex, see the Jan 24 articles quoting Japan’s PM: (Japan) is “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions” due to its low birth rate, and that solving the issue is “now or never,” and “In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation’s economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy.” [Japan’s birth rate is 1.3; US rate is 1.6] China is another ex: reversed its one-child policy and is now paying women to have babies. See the Jun 23 NYT article “Why China’s Shrinking Population Is Cause for Alarm.”
Usually, when we have more people without critical infrastructure, education, and economic opportunities – bad things happen. Really bad things, like unwanted children growing up to do unwanted children things. Your closet Republicanness is showing.
We don’t need more babies, we need to learn how to lead people – how to invest in qualitative growth, not quantitative. Your roll the dice and hope for the best strategy is indicative of your age and privilege.
I’m usually nodding most of the way through these posts, with a few smiles to honor the wit. In sharp contrast, I struggled to finish this one. So much #smh.
At noted by other commentators: why placate and worsen an unsustainable, inefficient business/production model? At some point, the private markets cannot bail out a startup (the American experiment) with another round, and the public markets have no tolerance for financials that show declining return on investment and increasing CAC (cost of acquiring innovation). If the “idea per baby” metric is declining, the answer is not more babies. The answer is to support the life that’s already here: to have the breathing room, the creative space to innovate. Flight or flight mode under survival poverty for the 55-70% of Americans (working class) blocks ideation. The post-WWII mindset of fertility and endless growth is no longer supported by the economics and the lived reality of new generations. Telling them to have kids earlier, when they can barely afford to take care of themselves under the current system, is a human rights violation.
I agree with the 85% of comments that agree Scott’s missed the mark here. It’s as if he’s read nothing about depletion of the natural environment vis a vis overfishing of the oceans or desertification of Africa due to massive (and growing) populations needing firewood in the poorest nations on earth. But if you’re focused on business, then yes, grow away…
Yeh, I couldn’t get all the way through this post. Many women my age made babies, made homes, and their husbands left. Now they are trying to live on ±$600 social security out of the back of a van. Rather than make more babies, let’s give the babies already here the benefits you’re touting so they can come up with the next big thing. We’re already past critical mass for great ideas
I think the “more” argument is really naive and out of touch with decades of research. The only way to improve living standards, in a sustainable manner, is to reduce population. It is very difficult to improve standards of living in the developing countries in the context of high population…especially when economies are stagnant.
Please allow me to bring some counter argument to your last newsletter.
The population decline is actually very good news for the world. This means less people eating, less people polluting, less people fighting wars, etc.
The world does not support unlimited growth and it will become an unsustainable nightmare if we force it to.
What about having clean ocean full of beautiful coral reefs for our few children to explore and wonder about? How about having access to pristine rivers and forests?
I think it is awful to burden younger generations with finding solutions to old problems. That is tantamount to enjoying dividends from Exxon and Aramco while pushing for more children to just use more oil and pollute more…!
I agree with you that we will have a generation of very old people not dying soon enough, but they (we) will probably remain at their (our) retirement homes while listening to Friends Reunion Reloaded season 47 (i.e. out of the way of young people).
We are simply too many in the world and more people is not the solution. I will jump for joy the day India and countries in Africa announce their respective population declines. I hope you will join me in celebration.
Julian (from Montreal)
Great article with some interesting data.
Main problem seems to be that decision/policy makers who are in a position to influence things are, you guessed it, 50-60+ year olds whose main concern is to preserve a status quo that last existed last century, when demographic dynamics were significantly different. I’m afraid they are ok with taking the world with them (what will be left anyway) in coming decades.
Also, another problem of america and other developing countries is the tendency to quick fix it by sucking the energy from developing countries (through migration) as if we live in distant planets. Global problems need global solutions..
Once again a U.S.-centric argument that doesn’t really take into account the population dynamics of anywhere but the US, which, from the recent politic (MAGA) upheavals appear aggressively immigrant-averse, despite the diverse history of Ellis Island. The World’s population is responsible for over-fishing the oceans, shark fining, declining soil fertility, shrinking forests, degraded water quality and of course massive Carbon consumption. Yet, we celebrate new discoveries in keeping geriatrics healthier so they can live even longer as consumers. Too many mouths consuming dwindling resources, while too many bums defecating into our waters result in lower standards of living & environmental quality across any nation.
Furthermore, I suspect you will find that immigrants bring with them an abundance of children, and procreate like there’s no tomorrow once they reach the ‘good life’ of a first World country like the US, Canada or Europe. We don’t need to encourage them to have kids, they will anyways because having kids obliged to take care of their parents is the social support system that they know from their native country. They know better than to rely on government social benefits for their retirement!
It’s rare that I vehemently disagree with your writings, but wow, this one’s a doozy.
I understand the math, given our current system, and how you could argue for growth. What I don’t understand is why you don’t argue for a system where growth isn’t necessary? Do I know what that system is? No. But I agree with Edward Abbey:
“Growth for growth’s sake is the philosophy of a cancer cell.”
Continued population growth is mankind’s greatest ponzi scheme. Every generation wants to pass the buck on to the next generation. For what, so the current generation can buy more stuff, consume more resources and not give a shit about the world we live in.
It’s an inaccurate picture to say that 19% of the government budget goes toward Social Security. Why? Because the recipients gave money to the government for years in this fund. That fund should not be in the “government spending bucket.”
I thought you emigrated “from” the United States to London so the new US immigrants won’t even be in your country. Another point is your Social Security reference that 90% of the payments are $50000 or less. I clicked your hyperlink and the data are from 2009-2011. Using data 14 years old is not very persuasive to me. Sorry.
Thanks for another great summary of a critically important topic that doesn’t get much attention in the mainstream press. Peter Zeihan has been clamoring about this issue for a while. On the other hand, fewer humans could be a boon to all the other species who share this planet with humans.
Wow. This is the weakest, most poorly defended position article I’ve ever read from you Scott. Sorry.
The population boom is, in fact, the massive lever behind most of our *real* problems. I can appreciate the anxiety the boomer-generation may have that with less people their ponzi-scheme house prices could collapse (and make home ownership, or hell, even rent, affordable for everyone else again). Or that they might not be able find people as willing to work terrible jobs for less than a living wage so they can enjoy plentiful service at $3 hamburger prices very often in the future.
The thought that 14 billion minds will come up with something that 10 billion minds didn’t is laughable. Great thinkers need clean air and water, and a real education to flourish. Not a dying planet with 3 billion climate-refugees crawling over each other for their next meal.
Simple innovation isn’t going to save us, and more people are not going to help. We need a new economic model that works for the masses, not just the “haves”. And having far less people fighting for the dwindling resources, and jobs, etc. can only be a good thing.
Did you write this on the toilet on your phone? Cause I’m reading it on mine, and only wish I could print it to use as sanitary paper.
thank you for this
I have to agree with Keith here. I usually enjoy your articles very much but this one really missed the mark.
I totally agree, this is a very poorly reasoned article. And the proposition that more people is better is just awful.
Agree. Pretty poor arguments. Don’t think I will bother reading scott’s stuff next week
I completely agree
This is the weakest blog post I have read in a long time, and I’m quite surprised that it was authored by an insightful guy like Scott. It is full of unsubstantiated conjectures (e.g., “climate change is decoupled from population growth” or “birth rates are down because boys are getting shorter”). Really? I’ll tell you why my daughter doesn’t want kids. She can’t see a future where they will have a reasonable path beyond service-industry wage slaves. Sure, anything is possible, but what is likely? Of course, the view of an American living just South of Kensington, with fully-funded trust funds, looks different. The bulk of the analysis here in NO MERCY… is excellent, and I’m thankful for it. This one was jarring.
1000% agree! I’m honestly considering unsubscribing because of this horrible horrible take.
Couldn’t have put it better. Every paragraph I became more incredulous—does he actually think that “overpopulation isn’t a thing?” Maybe he should fit a visit to Bangladesh in between his jetsetting from New York to London. Strange take. Treats the population count like just another corporate metric that’s meant to grow forever…
We should start thinking about overpopulation on mars too, it looks like that could be a potential problem one day….. :p
Picture the average American. You want them to have MORE kids??
At last, a logical comment.
I dunno, Prof Galloway…we can’t keep growing indefinitely, can we? The planet is already groaning under the weight of 8 billion humans, many of whom do not share the luxuries and comforts we are used to. I would argue that increasing average QOL (quality of life) should be the goal, and that this goal is perfectly compatible with a slowly declining population. A future with fewer people, but higher average quality of life, sounds exactly like the kind of future we should be aiming for.
Very interesting article Scott. There is an additional problem which is women not taking into account the limits that age has in being able to get pregnant; in vitro techniques not always work after 40. The other aspect is that the main burden of raising a son is on the mother, despite how much fathers are willing to help, and this goes against women pursuing their professional development; perhaps WFH can help on this respect. Finally having kids is the best thing that can happen to an individual; And even better grand kids! Abrazo
Infinite growth is unsustainable. We are pushing every other species to extinction as we degrade the environment. The earth does not need more humans.
This should be enough to end the discussion!
But I’ll continue. Others commenters have correctly suggested we can come up with more innovation with fewer brains if we make quality education accessible to more of the brains available in a declining population. However, we need not depend entirely upon human inputs for quality of life improvements.Given the impressive gains in robotics and AI over the past two decades, I suspect that “relatively soon” our problem will not be a lack of working-age bodies to support aging populations, but abundant productivity that doesn’t require so many workers. (It’s an open question to what extent, and how quickly AI will have any role in proposing innovative solutions to hard problems. However, conversational AI algorithms, such as ChatGPT, will only become more capable as these agents and data stores are further interconnected and benefit from associated synergies. “Emergent intelligence” … )
Then the challenge would be altering the social contract to permit people who are not “economic producers” to benefit from abundant prosperity. (That much might require the avalanche at Davos suggested by another commenter.)
Paraphrasing one of your sentences, we need to stop the transfer of wealth from poor people to rich people. Poor people can’t afford children, and women looking for taller, well of, men to marry are a side product of a society that venerates money above any human value. Killing and incarcerating immigrants doesn’t help. So, the system is killing itself. The problem is not population, but the wealth-concentrating system.
It’s all well and good to encourage more births, but there is a simpler, quicker answer for US — more immigrants. It doesn’t matter their educational attainment or anything else except that they’re of child-bearing years. Immigrants all have “the gene,” eg, the “risk gene” that causes them (as it has for generations of Americans) to seek out a better life. And, they by and large have more children than the average American. Our problem, of course, if Politicians, always Politicians, of both the Left and the Right.
The first sentence in your last paragraph pretty much summarizes the issue. The hardest part of having children is having them when we’re financially and emotionally unstable. I had mine at 31 and now at 53, I see 31 year-olds as kids that still need to experience a lot in life. My youngest child is 15 and she will leave to college in a year and a half. Unlike the most common practice, my idea is to work even harder in my later years (yes, aches are common), having left in the World two offspring that are smarter and better looking. 🙂
As a neurodiverse female, I see this ‘Operation Fertility’ a little different than many of your followers. Current grandparents living the good life for so much longer may need to pay for their own lifetime of needs or cut their expenses.
The reason young men and women are opting out of your plans is to enjoy a good life too. Maybe a bunch of old men could return wealth to the next generations instead.
You should question your unbreakable worship of shareholder profit and economic growth. These are the natural consequences.
what does neurodiverse mean?
Prof. Galloway, you have good ideas, I am wondering whether there is an organization whose mission is to implement these ideas. I am an older man for example, and like the idea of being a mentor. I try with my niece’s husband, and other 20 and 30 year olds.
Gender Ideology is wildly espoused and very successful in its goals.. very politically sensitive, but I will add it is also contributing to a dearth of births. I think to, you have to add in the importance of caring and committed parents who stay together to raise healthy adults. More unhealthy adults (and those from single family homes do struggle more, I know, I am one) is probably better than few adults, as people can always improve, but emphasis needs to be put here as well in the more babies vision.
Why don’t you try having some empathy for others and wildlife…then people might like you and you be old and alone
I’m going out on a limb and will suggest that we can do more with less and get quality idea by investing in better education. It probably benefits all of us and should be subsidized by all of us instead of asking our youngest most vulnerable segment of the population to sign up for debt that can’t even be discharged in bankruptcy.
Just a crazy thought. Just because it worked before for America doesn’t mean it is feasible ever again.
Thank you for this well reasoned argument. I’m usually on board with at least half these newsletters but this one was a horrendous piece of capitalistic propaganda trash. Perpetual growth is absolutely unsustainable, either with our population or financially or environmentally. We absolutely need to start shifting our paradigm to include degrowth options.
I so appreciate you voicing this perspective, Scott. Quite literally, my decision to have 3 children was in part based on the idea that I wanted to leave more life – and thus more ideas, more chances for breakthroughs and joy for others – on this world than when I came. That takes raising the kids a certain way, but that is my plan.
The attitude I see sometimes that life boils down to carbon consumption and should be reduced as a sort of math exercise really troubles me.
It is bonkers that as nations get richer, birth rates decline due to “the cost of raising kids these days.” It’s 100% true and I sympathize – yeesh does housing, daycare and food alone crush my budget – but it also just feels counter-intuitive. How is this (having kids) one thing we can afford less of the richer we get?
Why don’t you have 10 kids and start an empire. You could kill some endangered animals also!
Scott – I would disagree with your underlying assumption that more people = more ideas. When there are already billions of people, diminishing returns have already come into play. I would agree with a variation of that assumption, how about better educating more people equates to more and better ideas? And regarding immigration as a long-term strength of the USA, I completely agree. It might be our greatest asset.
Scott, I traveled thru Pakistan & India 50 years aho, and the overpopulation and stripping of resources was already really hopeless and discouraging – it is so much worse now, with population in the billions. It is unsustainable and unmanageable.
I grew up on an island, with 35000 people (Maui). Now it is severely overcrowded, highways are a line of stagnant cars… housing is unaffordable, big economic swings and vulnerability.
My solution to ZPG was to have 2 kids, and adopt 2 more. So much need in the World – without becom8ng human xerox machines. But you’re right about the concentration of wealth. One thing this last year has made really clear – why do we need billionaires? An avalanche at Davos would be a plus…
You missed the point, we need more people to carry on
the comment was for Clayton
Mike – appreciate the response, I did not miss the point. I disagree with the point, specifically the assumption.
I think the Keynesian abundance and plenty is going to come from automation and robotics replacing the lack of people in lower ages. Yes we have to sort out making housing and life affordable for younger people but in 10 -20 years we should have almost limitless renewable energy, much more livable cities because of reduced car use (due to autonomous shared rides), and we will still have lots of smart young people building companies, going to college, and starting companies. So don’t despair
The obvious thing Scott you have missed is that we spend DOUBLE on health care, almost all on old people, than any other country. that is a structural and political problem that can free up a ton of resources to solve our other problems when we sort it out.
PS I had 2 kids in my late 40s and my god does it ruin your life, even though I have resources to handle them. I suspect in the future the richer we get the fewer kids people will have. Don’t think anything can stop that, so trying to kick against it is doomed to fail.
Sorry but this… “Fewer people means fewer brains and less labor — which means less innovation in solar panels and less carbon removed from the atmosphere.” is nonsense
“Leveling Up” LOL you’ve been in the UK too long!
100% agree on young men need role models. That’s one reason I got into coaching through NICA (national interscholastic cycling association) a few years ago. Not only has it been great for inner-city youth to learn a new (and traditionally very white/privileged) sport, but it gets me some much-needed exercise in my 50s. Nothing quite like having your ass kicked an a ride by a bunch of 15 year olds! So yeah, great advice – ask what you can do to raise up the potential of the young men in your immediate vicinity – it might end up helping you as well!
That’s a good column ProfG mainly because you managed to explain the population issues with an apolitical voice. Interesting that one continent where population is increasing is among non- monogamous populations. Has the western societal and Christian ethic of monogamy squelched our human development and growth?
Scott, you get a lot of things right, but you are very far off course here. Your solution that assume that somehow humans are going to change and govern themselves better, manage themselves better and allocate resources better is contrary to any evidence otherwise either historically or in the biology and behavior of species. 1 small example – there is a land war in Europe for fuck sake, without even mentioning the immediate and concurrent climate and biological disasters WE do not have the collective ability to understand or address . The weight of 8 billion egocentric naked apes is actively and rapidly making this planet uninhabitable. If you want a world for your great grand children to be able to live on, the answer most definitely is not more people. We might “know how” to do it (I doubt that) but that is not the same as doing it and betting the future of this planet on the chance that more people will make it better is a bad bet.
thanks. good feedback for you Scott. Hey, I got a lot biases and now I know yours.
What nonsense. Population is directly linked to energy usage, and hence to climate change. Climate change is non linear; in time we will have droughts, famines and associated ills (war, disease) that will kill billions. We can survive and prosper with 1/10 the population that we currently have. Those times gave us Pythagoras, Galileo, and Newton. We don’t need 10 Newtons at once.
Scott, April Fool’s Day is not until April 1. This is a joke, right?
On college graduation rates of men vs. women. This won’t be solved by lowering graduation standards for men. Males in grade school and high school are stigmatized by “Toxic Masculinity.” Boys are different than girls in school, more likely to be rambunctious and to competitive. Schools don’t simply channel these natural tendencies, they demonize them: “quiet is better than assertive,” “cooperation is good, competition is bad.” Why would young men want to persist in educational environments where their innate tendencies are defined as wrong?
I think your point about why Capital Gains Tax shouldnt be lower than income tax is a good one. Why not tax wealth growth more. Additionally in the UK boomers have benefitted from an ability to have a tax free allocation of savings each year (an ISA) meaning those with a reasonable amount of savings can take most of their wealth outside the tax regime. 25 years of this for a couple is roughly £1million. It’s time the wealtheir over 50’s ( which include me ) pay more tax.
Scott, beautifully written as always but we may have to agree to disagree. It is obvious to anyone with children in their twenties – young people aren’t refusing childbearing because of asymetries in the dating mating market, they’re not having kids because they’re lives suck! Most notably because of the low supply and high cost of housing.
If you truly envision a comfortable and prosperous life for your sons you should be excited about the impending population decline which at the end of the day will hurt hurt asset holders (boomers) the most and benefit workers as labour markets become more competitive (like in Europe where they don’t bring in immigrants to perform undesirable work, and dishwashers earn the same as servers). Who cares about a shrinking economic pie, a below replacement fertility economy could finally realize the utopia of abundance and leisure that Maynard Keynes predicted in 1931.
Infinite growth is unsustainable,
Life is so rich !
If you truly envision a comfortable and prosperous life for your sons you should be excited about the impending population decline which at the end of the day will hurt hurt asset holders (boomers) the most and benefit workers as labour markets become more competitive (like in Europe where they don’t bring in immigrants to perform undesirable work, and dishwashers earn the same as servers). Who cares about a shrinking economic pie, a below replacement fertility economy could finally realize the utopia of abundance and leisure that Maynard Keynes predicted in 1931.
Right on the money Scott, as usual. I have been “preaching” about it for the past three decades!
The harsh reality is life’s too expensive now, and kids only make it worse. If you are squarely middle class or lower, kids can bring you down entire socioeconomic brackets. The fact that two middle class incomes can’t comfortably (I mean just being able to break even with some savings left over) support house payments, car payments, and child care, means societally we’re at a tipping point where humans are going to do what they’ve always done best – look out for themselves first.
The problem is that fertility is low status. Women in developed countries want 1 or 2 children maximum. Having 3 or more is an eccentric luxury. Stay-at-home-moms are looked down on by working women. Moreover, the perceived necessary standard of living (including living space, entertainment, education, etc.) is incompatible with fertility. The perceived optimal living situation — two incomes, large house, prestigious educations, etc. — are simply not attainable if you want a larger family. That’s why religiously conservative people tend to be the most fertile – they have an incentive to choose a “sub-optimal” lifestyle.
I think there are two separate issues here that are being conflated. Even with the decline predicted in the 2060s, by the 2080s we’ll still have grown, by billions – just not as fast as we have been. That’s still a net gain. Unless we’re talking about a mass die-off down to a “mere” few billion humans globally, I don’t see the concern. Certainly that is NOT our biggest threat – bigger than the inescapable existential threats of climate change and nuclear war, the former of which is here, and the latter of which is worryingly possible. This is an entirely different “problem” (one I don’t see as a paramount threat) from the very real problem at hand: to be competitive and to continue to improve as a species rather than waste ourselves, we need two things. 1) brains, and 2) men to step up and be the partners women rightfully deserve. Wholeheartedly agree that we need to welcome immigration in the U.S., and we need to teach men to just. be. better. humans. Policy changes can support both of those very real needs, and within years, not decades.
Sara throwing men under the bus 🤣
These are old, outdated, and dangerous thoughts. The planet Earth does not need so many humans. The Baby Boom on the 1940s to early 1960s was human-kinds biggest Ponzi Scheme. And it was enabled by Mad Avenue hype for over-consumption. We can do better. How about changing the way we think, to look at Quality of Life (QOL) metrics instead of GDP? The information has been out there for decades.
Scott, the immigrants coming over the TX border are not like my parents, they are not coming to work, they are looking for free handouts and services. Please come to the border and see what you are encouraging and supporting first hand before you continue to support the current immigration policy of open borders.
As a friend of “over the border” immigrants into TX and CA, I have yet to meet someone coming for “free” handouts. If YOU could move a few hours away to a different country to make 4, 5, or 10x what you were making at home, wouldn’t you do it to support your family’s future? It’s simply about money. Mexico has universal healthcare, etc. People come here to make more money, period.
Cathy, your statement is a fallacy of generalization. The USA needs immigrants, we should pay them and thank them for coming over!
This incredibly racist comment is the perfect example of why Scott’s post is mostly wrong. The planet needs fewer people, not less, especially those espousing such racist viewpoints.
use your brain and reread. Seems like you may like using the word Racist because Scott’s viewpoints are shared by the majority of high resolution thinkers.
What is a high resolution thinker?
I think they made a South Park episode about one of those (their episode about people from San Francisco)
His viewpoints certainly aren’t shared by most of the people commenting here. Many have pointed out valid and intelligent counterpoints and straight up ignorance on a large part of the content of this.
The only part of it I agree with is that older men need to step up and take more younger men under their wings.
The US can add 100m people easily by opening up its borders and letting in everyone who wants to live and prosper in a free country. They and their kids will contribute greatly. Lots of people want to come here and we should let them.
This is so wrong. The data shows that Latin immigrants in particular work harder than any other group (including those already here, like the writer above). The problem you speak of a the border is a failure of government — a control and management issue, not a people problem.
Cathy. You or your parents are immigrants. Are you living on handouts?
Social security isn’t a cost to the government, it’s the return of the funds they have “borrowed” over the course of a person’s work life. That the government spent the money on “other things” isn’t a transfer of wealth from the young to the old…just poor financial planning by our politicians