Wednesday, 24 April 2013

USA’s Population Crisis: Hogwash?

If you have been in New Zealand over the last few weeks (and months) you will have despaired at times at the severe lack of rational public discourse. Maybe nothing has really changed in that regard (our cousins across “the ditch” in Australia would probably say something on this point like: “mate, what are you talkin’ about? You sheep-shaggers could never hold an intelligent conversation. Not like us ‘strayans.” They may have a point; look at the state of Australian philosophy. They have world-renowned “ethicist” Peter Singer as well as this fine philosophical institution...) Anyway, what really brought this lack of public rational discourse home to me was the utter lack of debate in the public arena about the redefinition of marriage that was passed last week.

I don’t want to re-litigate that argument, (if you wish to, go here) but instead segue from New Zealand to the USA where there does seem to be a more robust public sphere to debate. Moreover, there seems to be media outlets that publish different lines of thought from both sides of the political spectrum. One of those media outlets is the New York Times, which published a piece last week by Derek S. Hoff who argued that the fears of a stagnating, ageing USA are “hogwash”. 

This is going against the grain of not only this blog, but more and more of the commentators who are waking up to our demographic problem in the West. So I was interested to read Hoff’s argument. But then I realised that he doesn’t have one. At least not an easily followed, consistent one. And that’s when I started lamenting the state of public debate.

Seriously, go and read the piece yourself. What is the argument?  One of its thrusts seems to be that the USA should not be using its declining birthrate as an argument for immigration. But why not? Apparently, because the fears of a “population implosion” like Japan are not going to eventuate.  Hoff argues that the USA has a birthrate of 1.9 children per woman which he acknowledges is “slightly below the ‘replacement rate’ of 2.1) is “still among the highest of rich countries”. Immediately before this though, he states that the US is going to grow by over 100 million people over the next 50 years. Therefore there is no “ageing crisis”, no “population implosion” and no need for immigration “to make up for its declining birthrate”.  But the numbers provided (growing population and below-replacement fertility rate) only computes if there are large numbers of immigrants. That is, if you are not replacing your population through birth rates, then you will need to rely on immigration. Therefore, the predicted growing population figures cited by Hoff must include future immigration. So, the only reason that the USA is not facing a Japanese-style population implosion is precisely because of immigration. And therefore, Hoff’s figures are only true if immigration continues, which is precisely what he is arguing against.


No comments:

Post a Comment