The First World’s Demographic Trilemma

The First World’s Demographic Trilemma. By John Derbyshire.

The unusual demographics of the Ukraine war:

The incomprehensible thing about this war is that Russia is not a belligerent young nation in need of expansion; it is not filled with frustrated young men hoping to assert themselves in conflict, as with Syria, Afghanistan or the world’s other conflict zones; it is already elderly, ageing quickly and in some parts heading for oblivion. Some 20,000 Russian villages have been completely abandoned in recent years, and 36,000 others have fewer than ten inhabitants left and will follow them soon. A third of land once farmed in the former USSR has now been abandoned. …

Compare that to an episode from British history:

Great numbers of warlike men came storming out of Scandinavia in the ninth and tenth centuries, wreaking havoc on the rest of Europe.

That piqued my curiosity. I wondered about the asymmetry. Why did Scandinavia have such a surplus of manpower? Why weren’t we storming out of Britain, France, Germany, and Russia to wreak havoc on them?

The teacher called on Dr. Malthus to slap me down. Scandinavia had been producing food in too much abundance, he explained. The population ballooned, the result followed. …

The current trilemma, now that humanity — for the last two hundred years — is for the first time ever not hard up against the Malthusian limit:

Paul Morland … has a new book coming out, title: Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers. …

Morland talks of the trilemma facing ageing nations … There are three horns of the trilemma, of which a nation may only choose two.

  1. Ethnic continuity.
  2. A thriving economy.
  3. A comfortable lifestyle without the huge stress of mixing child-raising and a modern economy.

Those are your three options; but you can only choose two.

Israel has chosen (1) and (2): ethnic continuity and a thriving economy. Far as I know Israelis do have a decently comfortable lifestyle, but it’s with, not without the stress of raising kids while working full-time. But Israel is the only advanced modern nation country with Total Fertility Rate [TFR] well above replacement level. And no, it’s not just Israeli Arabs propping up that number, nor is it the ultra-Orthodox …

Japan’s chosen (1) and (3): ethnic continuity and that comfortable lifestyle with a minimum of bother from kids, at the cost of a thriving economy. .. Japan’s economy is doing OK, I think. Still, I’ll allow it’s not the world-bestriding economic colossus that boosters back in the 1970s told us it would be.

Britain’s chosen (2) and (3): the thriving economy and the comfortable child-free lifestyle, two parents working full-time, at the sacrifice of ethnic continuity. Morland’s nailed that all right. But … mass immigration doesn’t really solve the trilemma, just postpones the inevitable — puts it off for our children and grandchildren to deal with. That’s not a solution, it’s a cowardly cop-out. …

The ChiComs seem to be trying for the trifecta. … Ain’t gonna happen. Morland’s right: it’s a genuine trilemma. Pick two out of three. Mrs. Derbyshire, who is plugged in to Chinese social media, reports that a common lament from her old high school and college classmates is that their kids, now in their late twenties and early thirties, have no interest in starting families. “Shall I ever be a grandmother?” the classmates moan.

How about us in the U.S.A.? Am I kidding? We can’t even talk about these things. “Ethnic continuity”? [Scream.] Systemic racism: that’s what’s important …