msinaisuhtlaM

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Mo
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 15 Mar 2012, 14:45

Jennifer wrote:The productivity going up shows what I've been already saying: we do NOT need an ever-expanding population to do what needs doing. We do NOT need even a replacement birth rate to keep society functioning. The only possible reason we actually "need" to continue the historical habit of "every generation contains more people than the previous generation" is to sustain various Ponzi schemes -- but breeding enough to keep them going won't solve the problem, only delay it by a generation or two.
Productivity has been rising almost unabated for literallyjoebiden centuries. People have been worried about what the lower classes were going to do after mechanization since the day after mechanization was invented. Somehow, we were more automated in the 90s than we were in the 50s, but had a lower unemployment rate*. Making observations on what the future economy needs or can sustain at the trough of a business cycle and using that trough as an explanation for what the future will hold is as naive as writing a book called Dow 36,000 at the peak of the business cycle.

* Despite having the labor pool virtually double due to women entering the workforce.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Eric the .5b » 15 Mar 2012, 14:57

Jennifer wrote:No, I'm not using code words separating the "useful" from the "un-useful" -- and given my own withdrawal from the child-having game, I'm clearly not worried about some future Idiocracy "OMG only the dumbasses are breeding" scenario, either. But I'm looking at the America I've lived in all my life: the good thing is, there are evermore opportunities for intelligent people. If you're smart you can be far more than a subsistence farmer or hunter/trapper, and that's great. But if you're not smart, then what? There's plenty of jobs available, but they don't pay enough to live on. Productivity has been going up even while wage inequality is growing.
Jennifer, that is the same argument. Yes, I cast what you and Thoreau said (with his focus on "geniuses" as the sole mechanism of progress) differently than how you're thinking about it and putting it, but your complaint really is "too many people we have no use for".

There are plenty of people doing skilled jobs who are in no way, shape, or form "smarter" than the average human being. Some are absolutely on the low end of the bell curve. They've just put in the time to learn how to do something (and had the chance to learn it). I may be a genius by some absolutely useless measures, but there are plenty of perfectly average people writing software. Some of them even write pretty decent software.

The biggest problem of the average person is an education system that's still aimed at turning out factory workers and low-level office workers. The capitalist serf ( :) ) of tomorrow will need to be a different sort of peon, if we want to be all elitist about it. Again, adaptation and inevitable social stress along the way, certainly.

That said, even now if the usefulness of the poor-dumb-average-person was in such sharp decline, we wouldn't be worrying about "wage inequality" or "insufficient growth in the average wage" or "wage stagnation", we'd be worrying about long-term trends of wages nose-diving in real dollars.

And that's entirely leaving aside any advances in intelligence augmentation or even just educational enhancement. What's a poor-dumb-average-person when we can make people smarter or make it easier and quicker to learn things? I mean, Hell, for my NaNoWriMo SF novel last year, I was going for a mildly revisionist cyberpunk bit and had one character who'd become a ridiculously good fencer by combining constant practice with a stolen device that put her brain functions in a quasi-Zen/perfect learning state...and then I found an article in Wired about the US military testing something that works exactly the same way. (Yes, I became Reverse Warren Ellis for a moment!)
Jennifer wrote:The productivity going up shows what I've been already saying: we do NOT need an ever-expanding population to do what needs doing. We do NOT need even a replacement birth rate to keep society functioning.
I never said either was necessary, and I think the population trend can do whatever it likes so long as it's the product of people making decisions based on their own lives without left- or right-wing blowhards making them tie their tubes or pump out babies. And yes, I absolutely respect your being creeped out by the creepy nativists of the latter type.

I'm just objecting to the "what use would more people be?" line of argument. I think once world population stabilizes at roughly ten billion people, infrastructure finishes catching up, and we sort out the inevitable problems, we'll end up with a world that will - in a slew of ways - make all our "gee whiz, we live in the future" remarks of the early 21st century seem terribly cute and quaint. Even along the way, more people with more opportunities will make things better.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 15 Mar 2012, 15:00

Mo wrote:
Jennifer wrote:The productivity going up shows what I've been already saying: we do NOT need an ever-expanding population to do what needs doing. We do NOT need even a replacement birth rate to keep society functioning. The only possible reason we actually "need" to continue the historical habit of "every generation contains more people than the previous generation" is to sustain various Ponzi schemes -- but breeding enough to keep them going won't solve the problem, only delay it by a generation or two.
Productivity has been rising almost unabated for literallyjoebiden centuries. People have been worried about what the lower classes were going to do after mechanization since the day after mechanization was invented. Somehow, we were more automated in the 90s than we were in the 50s, but had a lower unemployment rate*. Making observations on what the future economy needs or can sustain at the trough of a business cycle and using that trough as an explanation for what the future will hold is as naive as writing a book called Dow 36,000 at the peak of the business cycle.
By the same token, there's probably no need to Do Something or Fix Anything regarding the current birth rate: no need to freak out about less babies being made, and no need to nag, cajole or force women to have more babies than they/we have been having these past few decades when left to our own devices (including medical anti-reproductive technologies that have somehow become the focus of pretty much the entire contemporary American political opposition party, despite all the other, more immediate, problems we face). Low American birth rates are nothing to worry about, and future generations likely won't suffer for being smaller than current generations, ergo the people [men] worry-warting about people [women] not having enough babies need to chill out and find some real problem to solve.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 15 Mar 2012, 15:17

Eric the .5b wrote:I'm just objecting to the "what use would more people be?" line of argument.
Point taken. Of course, the "make more babies, ya selfish irresponsible cunts" people are the ones who raised that argument in the first place: we gotta make more babies to fund social security, fight the wars, expand the consumer base, make more worshippers for God, whatever.

Semi-related, at least in the sense of explaining why I personally am being so vociferous here -- in Georgia or some nearby Southern state, a lawmaker a couple days ago proposed a bill banning ALL abortions after the nth week, even if the fetus has already miscarried but the mother's body has not expelled it -- and in doing so, he compared women to, quote, "livestock." (Although at least he deserves points for honesty: anyone who seriously promotes forcing pregnant women to remain so against their will is taking a livestock-ish attitude toward us whether they use the actual word or not. Though I doubt even the lawmaker is honest enough to use the actual phrase "my personal contempt for women.")

This, after the whole "any woman who pays health insurance premiums and wants them to cover prescription birth control is a slut and prostitute" idea infected a good chunk of people in the political opposition; this, after "let's punish women getting abortions by requiring expensive, invasive, unnecessary and painful medical procedures beforehand" bills made national headlines; this, after a religious fucking nutcase who's seriously argued that all contraception is wrong because fundie Catholicism says so looks to have a serious chance at the mainstream Republican nomination ... basically, there's certain legal battles affecting American women's rights that I thought had been won and decided in my favor before I was even fucking born, but now that I'm middle-aged they're suddenly active battlegrounds again, this while other constitutional rights Americans have taken for granted since before there was even a constitution or a non-colonial USA are under assault, and I'm goddamned fed up with the entire bit.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Eric the .5b » 15 Mar 2012, 15:22

Jennifer wrote:By the same token, there's probably no need to Do Something or Fix Anything regarding the current birth rate
No, there isn't. There's probably a need to reconsider policies that are based on the current birth rate and life expectancy, however.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 15 Mar 2012, 15:35

Eric the .5b wrote:
Jennifer wrote:By the same token, there's probably no need to Do Something or Fix Anything regarding the current birth rate
No, there isn't. There's probably a need to reconsider policies that are based on the current birth rate and life expectancy, however.
Oh, definitely, but that's a whole other debate: if there is going to be government-funded retirement, what age should it kick in, what if any means testing should be done, how much must current workers pay into it, etc. -- in other words, the same "WTF will be do about Social Security" issue that's been mentioned in the news every month since I was old enough to pay attention to the news. I recall a Dave Barry line I read, I think in the early 1990s (paraphrase): "When Social Security started, there were 16 workers for every retiree. Now there's three workers per retiree, and when the Baby Boomers retire it'll be umpty-million retirees supported by three teenage Burger King employees."
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Eric the .5b » 15 Mar 2012, 16:15

That's exactly what I'm talking about.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 15 Mar 2012, 16:45

Eric the .5b wrote:That's exactly what I'm talking about.
But, IMO, focusing on the birth rate as the solution (not that you are, but a lot of the right-winger misogynists do) would only delay catastrophe and make matters infinitely worse: I don't think humanity is anywhere near "earth's maximum carrying capacity," I don't know what that maximum capacity is (barring obvious things like "the total mass of all currently living humans on earth cannot be greater than the total combined mass of the rest of the biosphere") , yet still I am quite certain "a birth rate sufficient to bring us back up to 16 young workers for every old retiree" would bring us up to that capacity pretty quick.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, only a tiny extremist margin of "low birth rates are bad" advocates actually want this. But I maintain that even the more reasonable-sounding idea "We need, at minimum, a replacement birth rate average of two-point-something children per woman" is not true. Rising productivity negates much of the former necessity of rising rates of new-people creation, and furthermore, even below-replacement birth rates will still result in steadily higher population growth for at least the next few generations, because (of course) it's not as though the entire older generation of workers instantly retires or drops dead the second today's infants join the workforce.

So, regarding low birth rates, I not only think there's no reason for anyone currently alive to worry about it, I even think it will ultimately lead to advantages, not just individuals enjoying the advantage "I personally am NOT stuck bearing/raising a kid I don't want" but eventually, society as a whole enjoying the advantage of "belonging to a smaller, though still quite large, work force" -- less workers overall means each individual worker is more valuable.

Naturally, there's a point where this breaks down -- if (hypothetically) birth rates were so low that it seriously looked like the entire US population, by the time I reached old age, was only one million people -- uh, no, that's nowhere NEAR enough for us to have a healthy economy with current productivity technology, nor any on the horizon. But "what is the least number of people we can have without becoming poorer as a direct result" is like "what is the most number of people earth can support" -- I don't know that number, but I'm confident in saying we are nowhere near it, and thus need not worry "we're not making enough babies."
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 15 Mar 2012, 17:41

Jennifer wrote:Of course, as I mentioned earlier, only a tiny extremist margin of "low birth rates are bad" advocates actually want this. But I maintain that even the more reasonable-sounding idea "We need, at minimum, a replacement birth rate average of two-point-something children per woman" is not true. Rising productivity negates much of the former necessity of rising rates of new-people creation, and furthermore, even below-replacement birth rates will still result in steadily higher population growth for at least the next few generations, because (of course) it's not as though the entire older generation of workers instantly retires or drops dead the second today's infants join the workforce.
:roll: :roll:

That's not true. As stated earlier, for basically all of US history productivity has been going up (at some points at a faster rate than current times) AND had a significantly higher birth rate than even replacement rates. You know what's better than a few productive people? Lots of productive people. I'm not saying birth rates are destiny or that our birth rates are too low, but taking an economic snapshot and making really simplistic projections moving forward. You know what's a quick way to reduce the productivity of your population? Make it really top heavy with old people.
Jennifer wrote:So, regarding low birth rates, I not only think there's no reason for anyone currently alive to worry about it, I even think it will ultimately lead to advantages, not just individuals enjoying the advantage "I personally am NOT stuck bearing/raising a kid I don't want" but eventually, society as a whole enjoying the advantage of "belonging to a smaller, though still quite large, work force" -- less workers overall means each individual worker is more valuable.

Naturally, there's a point where this breaks down -- if (hypothetically) birth rates were so low that it seriously looked like the entire US population, by the time I reached old age, was only one million people -- uh, no, that's nowhere NEAR enough for us to have a healthy economy with current productivity technology, nor any on the horizon. But "what is the least number of people we can have without becoming poorer as a direct result" is like "what is the most number of people earth can support" -- I don't know that number, but I'm confident in saying we are nowhere near it, and thus need not worry "we're not making enough babies."
You don't need the population to get down to a million to see the bad effects of a low birth rate. Italy is starting to see the early effects of it. Also, the common theory on the future of China is that they will get old before they get rich. This will be the outcome of their one child policy. So while you will likely never see what low birth rates will do to America, you will likely see the outcome in countries like Italy, China and Japan.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by fyodor » 15 Mar 2012, 18:02

Mo wrote:You don't need the population to get down to a million to see the bad effects of a low birth rate. Italy is starting to see the early effects of it.
Curiously, such as?

Jennifer, just as people are off the mark if they mistake your belief in peak oil predictions for support for government action, it would be off the mark to mistake predictions of dire consequences stemming from population decline for misogyny or any type of bullying of women into increased procreation. Someone can predict bad things without advocating unconscionable steps to avoid those bad things, as you well know. Now I"m not sure if that's exactly what you're saying, but at the least you sure seem anxious to conflate the two. You do realize there's no Santorum supporters here.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 15 Mar 2012, 18:17

fyodor wrote:
Mo wrote:You don't need the population to get down to a million to see the bad effects of a low birth rate. Italy is starting to see the early effects of it.
Curiously, such as?
Slowdown in productivity, high pension costs as a percentage of the budget, low workforce participation and low levels of innovation and dynamism in the economy.

Interestingly, in Europe female workforce participation is positively correlated with birth rates.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by lunchstealer » 15 Mar 2012, 18:36

Does anyone else read this thread title as "minthusiasM"?
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by fyodor » 15 Mar 2012, 18:45

Mo wrote:
fyodor wrote:
Mo wrote:You don't need the population to get down to a million to see the bad effects of a low birth rate. Italy is starting to see the early effects of it.
Curiously, such as?
Slowdown in productivity, high pension costs as a percentage of the budget, low workforce participation and low levels of innovation and dynamism in the economy.
The 2nd and third seem redundant to me, and are the obvious things we've discussed. (BTW, Hugh, even if population decline eventually kills old age supporting welfare programs, don't expect them to go down without a horrible fight and doing a lot of damage on their way!) The first and last surprise me, and I wonder if other factors are more responsible. (I can understand the theories that would explain them and have been discussed here, but I thought these factors would be minimal compared to forces acting in the opposite direction, especially with what I'm thinking is a relatively mild population decline thus far.)
Interestingly, in Europe female workforce participation is positively correlated with birth rates.
Really! Is this a comparison of different nations based on their female workforce, or is this a comparison of women who do or don't work? And I wonder how much of this might reflect immigraion populations, though I wouldn't have expected them to reflect this pattern either.

EDIT: :oops:
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 15 Mar 2012, 19:44

Why do the first and last surprise you? Older people (and by this I mean people in their 60s+) tend to get sick more often, are less willing to wok long hours and are less likely to start new businesses. Even though the youthfulness of entrepreneurship is largely overstated, it tends to be a younger (30s and 40s) man's game and conservatism and low risk tolerance is a trait of the older population than the younger one. Even without generous pensions, old people will tend to check out of the workforce. I plan on retiring at some point in the future and it won't be due to SS or a pension.

As for the women thing, it's a bit of both, but it doesn't hold nationality constant, so you're comparing Swedes and Dutch to Greeks and Italians. The former tend to have welfare states that encourage family formation (child care and such), while the latter have welfare states that encourage checking out of the workforce.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by thoreau » 15 Mar 2012, 20:17

Mo wrote:As for the women thing, it's a bit of both, but it doesn't hold nationality constant, so you're comparing Swedes and Dutch to Greeks and Italians. The former tend to have welfare states that encourage family formation (child care and such), while the latter have welfare states that encourage checking out of the workforce.
That's an important point. One of these welfare systems is far more conducive to long-term, sustainable prosperity than the other.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jadagul » 16 Mar 2012, 04:58

Mo wrote:
fyodor wrote:
Mo wrote:You don't need the population to get down to a million to see the bad effects of a low birth rate. Italy is starting to see the early effects of it.
Curiously, such as?
Slowdown in productivity, high pension costs as a percentage of the budget, low workforce participation and low levels of innovation and dynamism in the economy.

Interestingly, in Europe female workforce participation is positively correlated with birth rates.
Also, lesser ability to specialize. And a need to redesign a bunch of institutions that are expecting positive and significant GDP growth.
Jennifer wrote:
Eric the .5b wrote:
Jennifer wrote:By the same token, there's probably no need to Do Something or Fix Anything regarding the current birth rate
No, there isn't. There's probably a need to reconsider policies that are based on the current birth rate and life expectancy, however.
Oh, definitely, but that's a whole other debate: if there is going to be government-funded retirement, what age should it kick in, what if any means testing should be done, how much must current workers pay into it, etc. -- in other words, the same "WTF will be do about Social Security" issue that's been mentioned in the news every month since I was old enough to pay attention to the news. I recall a Dave Barry line I read, I think in the early 1990s (paraphrase): "When Social Security started, there were 16 workers for every retiree. Now there's three workers per retiree, and when the Baby Boomers retire it'll be umpty-million retirees supported by three teenage Burger King employees."
To reiterate: "government-funded" is completely irrelevant here. The ability to support private savings and private pensions is still dependent on the working/non-working population ratio.

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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Kolohe » 16 Mar 2012, 07:59

Mo wrote:
fyodor wrote:
Mo wrote:You don't need the population to get down to a million to see the bad effects of a low birth rate. Italy is starting to see the early effects of it.
Curiously, such as?
Slowdown in productivity, high pension costs as a percentage of the budget, low workforce participation and low levels of innovation and dynamism in the economy.
I thought this described the Italian economy ever since about 5 minutes after the Medici's left the scene.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 16 Mar 2012, 08:54

Jadagul wrote:To reiterate: "government-funded" is completely irrelevant here. The ability to support private savings and private pensions is still dependent on the working/non-working population ratio.
This x100.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 16 Mar 2012, 14:13

Mo wrote:
Jennifer wrote:Of course, as I mentioned earlier, only a tiny extremist margin of "low birth rates are bad" advocates actually want this. But I maintain that even the more reasonable-sounding idea "We need, at minimum, a replacement birth rate average of two-point-something children per woman" is not true. Rising productivity negates much of the former necessity of rising rates of new-people creation, and furthermore, even below-replacement birth rates will still result in steadily higher population growth for at least the next few generations, because (of course) it's not as though the entire older generation of workers instantly retires or drops dead the second today's infants join the workforce.
:roll: :roll:

That's not true. As stated earlier, for basically all of US history productivity has been going up (at some points at a faster rate than current times) AND had a significantly higher birth rate than even replacement rates. You know what's better than a few productive people? Lots of productive people.
However, a few productive people plus a whole bunch of unproductive people (not because they're lazy or stupid, but because they just can't get a job) is not-so-good. If worker wages rose more-or-less along with worker productivity, hooray. But higher productivity combined with stagnant or falling wages rather sucks. I highly doubt we'll see any 21st-century equivalent of the old progressive or labor movement -- like the legislation mandating "40 hour workweeks plus a two-day weekend" to replace the old "Work 12 hours a day and you get Sundays off" factory-worker paradigm -- so, since we won't be seeing 20-hour workweeks anytime soon, and probably won't see a welfare system or social safety net to help people who simply can't get a job with a living wage, nor even an increase in minimum wage so that it, in inflation-adjusted terms, is equivalent to what it was in the beginning .... what's left?
So while you will likely never see what low birth rates will do to America, you will likely see the outcome in countries like Italy, China and Japan.
They all have systemic problems far beyond low birth rates, though. Based on what I've read in the Economist from time to time, Italy's business regulations and laws are arcane enough to make modern overregulated rent-seeking America look downright laissez-faire. Japanese society is run by racist misogynist assholes who refuse to understand why an intelligent, educated woman would want to give all that up to spend the rest of her life as a mama-san servant to her child, yet would STILL rather watch their society depopulate than allow some (pardon my French) non-Japanese immigrants to become part of said society, the Chinese government doesn't even pretend to give a shit about any individual (or any million individuals) so long as "the nation" comes out looking good -- those countries have more than "low birth rates" wrong with them. (As does our own country; I'm not on a pro-USA rant here.)
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Jennifer » 16 Mar 2012, 14:26

Jadagul wrote:To reiterate: "government-funded" is completely irrelevant here. The ability to support private savings and private pensions is still dependent on the working/non-working population ratio.
Yes, but that percentage of working people doesn't need to be nearly as high as it once was. Consider: what exactly does a person (working or not) need to live? The three main requirements are food, shelter and clothing. There's absolutely no danger of running out of people to do all this; old people aren't running around naked because there just aren't enough weavers and seamstresses to make fabric, nor is anyone going hungry from an actual shortage of food.

So why does a larger old population need a correspondingly younger population today? Well, for people who are not merely old but infirm, there's not enough young people to do things like "empty bedpans" or "help people move about" and whatnot. So, what do we do about that? Option one: have more babies to grow up to do (literal) shit work for abysmally low pay, which is all these old folks can afford to pay. Two: have more people do shit work in exchange for decent pay, except few old people can afford to pay decent wages for such things. Three: turn to technology, work on robotics -- the one smart thing Japan has been doing regarding it aging population.
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 16 Mar 2012, 15:12

Jennifer wrote:However, a few productive people plus a whole bunch of unproductive people (not because they're lazy or stupid, but because they just can't get a job) is not-so-good. If worker wages rose more-or-less along with worker productivity, hooray. But higher productivity combined with stagnant or falling wages rather sucks. I highly doubt we'll see any 21st-century equivalent of the old progressive or labor movement -- like the legislation mandating "40 hour workweeks plus a two-day weekend" to replace the old "Work 12 hours a day and you get Sundays off" factory-worker paradigm -- so, since we won't be seeing 20-hour workweeks anytime soon, and probably won't see a welfare system or social safety net to help people who simply can't get a job with a living wage, nor even an increase in minimum wage so that it, in inflation-adjusted terms, is equivalent to what it was in the beginning .... what's left?
Let's not confuse wages with compensation. Even if we agree that wages have stagnated*, total compensation has risen. However, more of it is consumed by consumption of health care**. The 40 hour work week was created by noted progressive and man of the people Henry Ford to .... maximize productivity!And you continue to assume that conditions now, which are reversing, are the future. What is likely going to be the case is that we'll settle in around 5-6% unemployment long term. OH NOES! More people mean more demand, which means more opportunities for employment. I don't think we've somehow reached the end of work. Somehow, despite mechanizing more and more tasks, there's more and more stuff to do.
Jennifer wrote:They all have systemic problems far beyond low birth rates, though. Based on what I've read in the Economist from time to time, Italy's business regulations and laws are arcane enough to make modern overregulated rent-seeking America look downright laissez-faire. Japanese society is run by racist misogynist assholes who refuse to understand why an intelligent, educated woman would want to give all that up to spend the rest of her life as a mama-san servant to her child, yet would STILL rather watch their society depopulate than allow some (pardon my French) non-Japanese immigrants to become part of said society, the Chinese government doesn't even pretend to give a shit about any individual (or any million individuals) so long as "the nation" comes out looking good -- those countries have more than "low birth rates" wrong with them. (As does our own country; I'm not on a pro-USA rant here.)
If population growth doesn't matter, why do the Japanese need immigrants? For that matter, if the workforce can't handle more people in it, why even encourage women to work? You're contradicting yourself. Japan should have no problem in the future if there is no downside to hyper low birth rates. Every country has other systemic problems that you could use as an excuse. Italy is hardly the only arcane, overregulated country in Europe. The problem is they can't grow out of it, so low population growth rates exacerbate them. It's like how recessions expose accounting fraud.
Jennifer wrote:So why does a larger old population need a correspondingly younger population today? Well, for people who are not merely old but infirm, there's not enough young people to do things like "empty bedpans" or "help people move about" and whatnot. So, what do we do about that? Option one: have more babies to grow up to do (literal) shit work for abysmally low pay, which is all these old folks can afford to pay. Two: have more people do shit work in exchange for decent pay, except few old people can afford to pay decent wages for such things. Three: turn to technology, work on robotics -- the one smart thing Japan has been doing regarding it aging population.
You know where the value of my current assets are? Their expected future earnings. You know what happens if their expected future earnings get cut in half because there are fewer people to buy their products***? The value of my assets goes down 50%. You know what happens to my retirement plan if asset values drop 50%? It gets flushed down the toilet.

* I disagree with this point, but it isn't germane to this conversation
** Which people are largely fine with and have gotten longer lifespans for in exchange
*** Italy's population growth rate is at the level where if they continue, the population will go down 50% in under 40 years
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

no one ever yells worldstar when a pet gets fucked up - dhex

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JasonL
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by JasonL » 16 Mar 2012, 15:22

I think the bottom line is gradual increases or decreases in populations kind of don't matter that much to quality of life, with the following caveats:

1) If scarcity of some irreplaceable resource is sufficiently high, placing greater demand on that resource with greater population creates enviro doom. There is no evidence this is where we are - in particular, the irreplaceable part.

2) If a long run decline in population leads to a long run decline in surplus economic output, you are by definition making the world poorer. To argue that this is not a likely scenario, you are kind of proposing that some big percentage of people are not capable of being productive enough to feed and clothe themselves - that they contribute nothing to total wealth net of their consumption, and therefore it doesn't matter to total wealth if they were not born. I don't see any evidence for this. Even if we are postulating zero product laborers, we aren't saying that's some huge number of people. A great majority of people have productive capacity to produce a surplus over their consumption and therefore contribute to total wealth positively.

3) If the size of market shrinks to some critical level, you are in danger of destroying Smithian wealth generators of specialization and capital applied to economies of scale. Whatever threshold of market size this is, you do not want to go below it because wealth per head takes a dramatic living in huts kind of turn for the worse.

4) There are hypotheses about what it looks like when massive technology is deployed to meet every need, but a) I don't think we are very close to that and b) I don't think anyone has a clear picutre of what this world looks like. Robots all the way down? What does that mean? It feels like a magic wand at this point that allows anyone to make any population argument they want, so I'm just going to nod to the possibility, observe the outcomes are unclear and we aren't that close, and move on.

5) Beware demographics. People in their 20s and 30s are massively productive relative to everyone else and in the transition to a smaller population in total, at some point there will be a very small number of productive people supporting a very large number of unproductive people.

6) In developing economies, you need labor to be productive and you need to build out large markets. Declining population in these areas is a poop sandwich with malthusian mayonnaise where you are basically saying they will never produce a surplus per head so fewer people dying of malaria is better.

On balance, I don't find 1 convincing at all and robot future is just kind of handwavy to me at this point. I'll take stable to slightly growing population as a good, and can see a lot more cases where even larger population growth would help.

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Shem
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Shem » 16 Mar 2012, 18:20

Mo wrote:The 40 hour work week was created by noted progressive and man of the people Henry Ford to .... maximize productivity!
Henry Ford was neither the creator, nor the first institutor of the 40-hour work week in the US. Certain industries had it as early as the 1830s. Ford instituted it as part of his "treat workers like human beings and they'll turn into customers" plan, and it was widely adopted when it turned out to also drastically increase productivity.
"VOTE SHEMOCRACY! You will only have to do it once!" -Loyalty Officer Aresen

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Kolohe
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Kolohe » 16 Mar 2012, 18:27

"treat workers like human beings and they'll turn into customers"
Pet peeve - Ford made his fortune by ruthlessly eliminating any bit of skilled labor from his production process through automation, so he could replace those workers with unskilled labor who were, though highly paid compared to their peers, much lower paid than the people they replaced. He was the original 'outsourcer'. And once his competitors did the same thing (and had a better selection of vehicles), he wound up paying his workers the prevailing wage.
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex

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Mo
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Re: msinaisuhtlaM

Post by Mo » 16 Mar 2012, 18:40

Shem wrote:Henry Ford was neither the creator, nor the first institutor of the 40-hour work week in the US. Certain industries had it as early as the 1830s. Ford instituted it as part of his "treat workers like human beings and they'll turn into customers" plan, and it was widely adopted when it turned out to also drastically increase productivity.
You're right I misspoke. Ford popularized the 40 hour work week. A lot of that was based on industrial scientists that figured that 40 hours a week is peak productivity. 60 hours/week is where you hit peak output.
his voice is so soothing, but why do conspiracy nuts always sound like Batman and Robin solving one of Riddler's puzzles out loud? - fod

no one ever yells worldstar when a pet gets fucked up - dhex

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