Which is more frightening: global warming or demographic winter?

Ross Douthat holds the dubious distinction of token conservative at the New York Times. Of course, what passes for conservative at the Times doesn’t hold a candle to what’s considered conservative here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Nonetheless, Mr Douthat leads me to believe that his employment notwithstanding, he may be aware that flyover country matters. Word is that he is a practicing Catholic, truly a fish out of water at the once-venerable Gray Lady of American journalism.

Earlier this year Mr. Douthat posted an eminently sensible column, “Five Rules for an Aging World” that should have gotten legs more than it did. Maybe that was because his opening paragraph was a slap upside the head to the smart set:  

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe the defining challenge of the 21st century will be climate change, and those who know that it will be the birth dearth, the population bust, the old age of the world.


How dare this guy even compare the birth dearth with today’s sacred cow climate change! Does he not want to save the planet? But how about saving humanity? Interestingly, large-scale ecological fearmongering began in the 1960s when the old conservationist movement was co-opted and rebooted as Environmentalism, Inc. Then came global warming gloom-and-doom, now rebranded as climate change, a quasi-religious creed predicting the End Times for secularists everywhere. Keep in mind that climate is always changing, but don’t confuse me with the facts.

Mr Douthat continues:

[I]t’s important for the weird people more obsessed with demography than climate to keep hammering away, because whatever the true balance of risk between the two, the relative balance is changing. Over the last 15 years, some of the worst-case scenarios for climate change have become less likely than before. At the same time, various forces, the Covid crisis especially, have pushed birthrates lower faster, bringing the old-age era forward rapidly.

Demography nerds vindicated in the NYT! Who’d a thought?

What next?

Yes, the world is rapidly ageing, fastest in the Global North. Talk about a Great Reset. Most of society’s institutions are predicated on growth; that is slowly but surely coming to an end. What then?

Mr Douthat has given it some thought. Too bad more elected officials don’t do so as well. The survival of the species depends on the health of the family, which is not on the political class radar screen. More pressing concerns preempt that, such as mollifying moneyed special interests. That’s just how “democracy” works.

So, an ageing world is what we’ve got, and we’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be prepared.”

Generational change

The US government calls our Social Security scheme an “entitlement” program. I guess if you’re required to pay into something your entire career on the basis that you’ll be paid back, then you’re “entitled” to those payments, much as you’re “entitled” to receive goods that you pay for at the corner store.

But the Social Security Trust Fund has been looted (thank you, US Congress), so now we have a ginormous Ponzi scheme of the sort which Bernie Madoff could not have imagined. Every few years steps are taken to keep the Fund solvent. Today the baby boomers, the last generation of above-replacement fertility, are drawing Social Security like nobody’s business. 

Boomers are also the last generation to thrive on post-World War II prosperity resulting from US industry not having been bombed to smithereens. Consequently, they hold a disproportionate share of individual wealth. This sets up a generational issue where younger workers bear the burden of a dysfunctional dependency ratio. There is no end in sight, because not enough children are coming along to pay into the system and pick up the slack.

Our ageing world will change everything. Ageing societies lose their dynamism and creativity. With a lack of youngsters coming along, there will be fewer scientists, workers, innovators, and taxpayers. A shrinking workforce will require greater reliance on artificial intelligence; fewer soldiers will mean a military more dependent on high-tech defense.

Infrastructure maintenance costs will rise even if population decreases. Costly bridges, highways and water systems do not shrink along with population. Below-replacement fertility is beginning to reveal these unanticipated costs.



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African migration

It is Mr. Douthat’s 5th rule for ageing populations that gets the most attention: “The African diaspora will reshape the world.”

The faster aging happens in the rich and middle-income world, the more important the fact that Africa’s population is still on track to reach 2.5 billion in 2050, and reach four billion by 2100. The movement of even a fraction of this population will probably be the 21st century’s most significant global transformation. And the balance between successful assimilation on the one hand, and destabilization and backlash on the other, will help decide whether the age of demographic decline ends in revitalization or collapse.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only remaining region with above replacement fertility. Yet fertility there is now falling faster than projections. Uranium-rich Niger, a global flashpoint following the recent military coup, leads the pack with a fertility rate of 6.7. The sub-Sahara region relies on resource extraction and foreign aid. There is high unemployment and a low-skilled workforce.

African migration is indeed reshaping Europe. That has been problematic, as there is thus far no “balance between successful assimilation… and destabilization and backlash.” Importing too many too fast impedes assimilation. Finding employment in deindustrializing Europe is a challenge. Shrinking immigration-resistant East Asian societies do not have massive African or other immigration. Those countries still retain social cohesion, something lost across the multicultural West.

Then there is the culture clash. The traditional African way of life is tribal, less structured and more laidback than that of Europe. Further, militant Islam is robust within their ranks, rattling secularist Europe. Impoverished African enclaves are plagued with crime. Popular resistance to this migration is marginalized as far-right, xenophobic, racist, etc. Meanwhile the globalist political class doubles down, imposing an unwanted multicultural dystopia on their increasingly alienated subjects. The ensuing wage suppression and social tension is totally toxic for families.

Europeans should wake up and smell the coffee before they lose everything.

‘Tis all rooted in demography.


Louis T. March has a background in government, business and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

Image credit: Bigstock 

Showing 8 reactions

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  • mrscracker
    “World population growth is projected to flatten in coming decades
    For the first time in modern history, the world’s population is expected to virtually stop growing by the end of this century, due in large part to falling global fertility rates, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the United Nations.”
    The global fertility rate is expected to be 1.9 births per woman by 2100, down from 2.5 today. The rate is projected to fall below the replacement fertility rate (2.1 births per woman) by 2070.
    Between 2020 and 2100, 90 countries are expected to lose population. Two-thirds of all countries and territories in Europe (32 of 48) are expected to lose population by 2100. In Latin America and the Caribbean, half of the region’s 50 countries’ populations are expected to shrink"

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this already Mr. Paul. No demographer is projecting indefinite global growth.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-08-17 06:27:29 +1000
    All projections show the global population rising for several decades at least. There won’t be a decline unless high-fertility nations in Africa have a marked reduction in fertility.

    Not coincidentally, countries with the highest fertility rates also have the most poverty.
  • mrscracker
    Mr. Paul,
    Have you considered that in light of the demographic projections Mr. March shares in his articles? From what I remember seeing, demographers do not project continued global population growth beyond this century. Some nations are on the cusp of implosion now. Societies just can’t proceed further when a certain percentage of their population is elderly.
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-08-16 11:43:03 +1000
    Jurgen: The planet will be fine. But if we don’t reverse global warming, it will kill ALL of us eventually.

    Do you want civilization to last for 50 years or 5 billion years?
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-08-15 03:30:06 +1000
    Paul, you should not worry.

    Our planet has a much much much longer life expectancy than you.
  • mrscracker
    “Word is that he is a practicing Catholic, truly a fish out of water at the once-venerable Gray Lady of American journalism.”
    And that would have been true in the 1800s as well. I read this today on the National Catholic Register site about St. Mary’s Church at New Haven, Connecticut:
    " Situated in an up-market area, not far from Yale University, the church was impressive architecturally, built to serve the needs of the largely immigrant Irish congregation. However, it provoked hostility and resentment from Protestants living nearby. A New York Times headline summed up this outrage: “How an Aristocratic Avenue Was Blemished by a Roman Church Edifice.”

    Plus ca change…
  • Paul Bunyan
    commented 2023-08-14 16:44:19 +1000
    “Underpopulation” is only an issue if you value economic growth above everything else.

    If we destroy the planet through rising sea levels and destroy the soil’s ability to produce food through overexploitation, there won’t be an economy to worry about. There can’t be an economy on a dead planet.
  • Louis T. March
    published this page in The Latest 2023-08-14 16:18:52 +1000