Monday, July 27, 2009
civilization and population
Recent fertility trends strongly suggest that the simple biological model of human breeding is wrong, or at least, is wrong when the institutions that support economic freedom and the rule of law, e.g., markets, price stability, honest bureaucracies, security of private property, and the fair enforcement of contracts, are well-developed. Economic freedom and the rule of law are the equivalent of enclosing the open access breeding commons, causing parents to bear more and more of the costs of rearing children. In other words, economic freedom actually generates an invisible hand of population control.
in other words, civilization sows the seeds of its own demise. one can hear the echoes of the pleas of the augustan period of ancient rome for roman nobility to breed lest they be (as they ultimately were) overrun and extinguished by the baseborn new men of the empire. falling birth rate was a significant difficulty for the later roman empire and other exemplary empires which eventually declined and were overrun. this almost seems a minsky correlative to population dynamics.
If we prize physical beauty and youth as a culture, no one will want to get old (or look old). Our eventual failures are planted by our successes.
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