Ok, do we have too many people or not enough? Some say too many and that we need to shrink the population. This was the thinking of the Chinese Communist Party when back in 1980 it implemented its one-child policy. Others say not enough and will point to China’s one-child policy as a case in point. As it turned out, China’s super-smart central planners failed to anticipate the impact that a falling birth rate would have forty years later or that post-industrial Chinese women would, once the restriction was lifted, choose to only have 1.3 children, much like their counterparts in Spain, Italy, Japan, and Korea. As a consequence China is now facing an irreversible population implosion and is suffering all the problems naturally associated with not having a second, third, or fourth child.
One problem that it has compounded is one that is born of our human nature, namely, the question of who is to take care of the old and the young. In all human societies this task has always fallen on the shoulders of those in between, that is, those who are roughly 20 to let’s say 60 years old depending on the times in which you live.
The problem with a shrinking population is that as the years roll by there are fewer adult children to care for aging parents or even grandparents, who at the same time have to take care of their own young. But c’est la vie. We’re talking about family so you do what you must.
But there is a twist today in the form of the new social welfare state. In the developed world the state has promised, and to some extent has delivered cradle-to-grave care, and people, being hopelessly shortsighted as they are, have come to expect it as they do the sun to rise.
All this is fine and dandy unless the state is doing so with taxes paid by a working age population that is shrinking. Spain is a prime example of this today. So the working age, tax paying population shrinks, and thus tax revenue, while the tax consuming population entering retirement expands. This is the rub.
So what’s the state to do?
Well, it sort of depends upon the old people because in this democratic age they vote, but also because the modern economy allows man to easily accumulate capital over the course of his lifetime– capital that is easy to preserve, liquidate, transfer, and invest– and thus the elderly also have a great deal more economic clout than they did in the past when they had to rely upon their adult children to hunt the buffalo and tend the fire.
Now, what the post-WWII mass of people that are now over sixty could say is ‘Whoa-dare Margaret! This is madness. When our parents and grandparents set this neat little system up they didn’t anticipate these new and strange demographic and economic realities. Its madness that our children and grandchildren should be paying so much in taxes to support us. I mean, I don't want to be set adrift on an iceberg or turned into soylent green, but neither do I want to be an excessive burden on young folks who need to be providing for my great-grandchildren. Nope! Margaret! I think we need to lower our expectations of what the state will provide for us in our golden years!’
But how likely is this?
Well, considering that old people remain human til they die and thus tend to be a wee bit self-centered and shortsighted, not likely at all. Add to this that some old folks tend to become scared of their own shadow. And so you do not have a demographic that is likely to take one for the team.
Another less altruistic solution is immigration. That is, you import working age people from whatever part of the world has a surplus in order to tax them in order to keep the gravy train rolling.
This will suit the bureaucrats just fine. After all, they need a paycheque like everyone else, they enjoy their status, and they just love watching the machine work. But while bureaucrats may be able to reduce all things to statistics, some statistics represent a decreasing quality of life or even human misery for the Common Man.
The problem is that people bring their history, notions, instincts, inclinations, customs, expectations and kitchen smells with them. Much like the English did when they settled Jamestown which turned into Virginia which turned into the South aka America. I’m fine with that but the Indians maybe were not so much.
Not all peoples (cultures) are compatible with all others and some just flat out clash.
I am Generation X. My generation and especially the Boomers need to revisit what it means to be old. Our children and grandchildren do in fact owe us something, but this is a debt for services rendered, the principle one being bequeathing to them to the best of our ability a secure future. It is wrong to crush them with debt or taxes, or via mass immigration degrade our culture and thus their quality of life, so that we can enjoy a standard of living in our golden years that kings of old could not have imagined.
Better to be a greeter at Walmart until you are carried out on a stretcher than to do such a thing.
This piece was previously published on Look Away on February 17, 2023.
Mark Atkins has six wee bairns who are all seventh-generation Henry County, Tennessee, and all from the same doe. It is the people of Henry County that he most wants to reach but writes to Southerners generally. He is without credentials but rather dares to speak by the same authority as the little boy who cried 'The king has no clothes!' His core belief and starting point is that like everything, we humans have a nature, it is not so hard to understand, and to pretend that it is other than it is, is to jump off a cliff. Which is what we Americans have in fact done.