Day By Day

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Blogosphere and the Baby Bust.

It's all over the blogosphere -- discussion of Phillip Longman's 2004 article in Foreign Affairs titled "The Global Baby Bust." [here]

Here's a synopsis:
Most people think overpopulation is one of the worst dangers facing the globe. In fact, the opposite is true. As countries get richer, their populations age and their birthrates plummet. And this is not just a problem of rich countries: the developing world is also getting older fast. Falling birthrates might seem beneficial, but the economic and social price is too steep to pay. The right policies could help turn the tide, but only if enacted before it's too late.
There's really nothing new here. The concept of a "demographic transition" from large to small families was documented and fully discussed three decades ago by Richard Easterlin and is widely accepted by scholars. It was publicized about a decade ago by Ben Wattenberg in "The Birth Dearth." Yet it has not to date become common wisdom.

In large part this is because many powerful interest groups are heavily invested in the idea of overpopulation and resource depletion. But there is also the problem of the transmission of knowledge. What is well known in the scholarly community is often confined to that community. Wattenberg's efforts to publicize this important demographic information may have reached a broader audience of informed citizens, but it was not until these hoary old concepts were presented in a policy journal like Foreign Affairs, that they attracted the attention of people, like Prof. Reynolds, who are active participants in policy discussions and have a large and devoted audience, and through them began to gain popular notice.

This is one of the great glories of the blogosphere. Too large and diverse to be constrained by special interests, it serves, if imperfectly, to disseminate important information and in doing so adds greatly to the store of knowledge available to the citizens of the country. For this alone, ignoring its other virtues, and despite all its annoyances, it is a welcome and important innovation.

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