Demography is destiny, as Mark Steyn has written. We know what the world’s population of 20-year-olds will look like in 20 years, because that population has been born. There is no way to come up with more people in the meantime. To a shocking degree, today’s birthrate statistics reflect a decision on the part of a number of nations, especially in Europe, effectively to commit suicide.
Today the Washington Times reports on a Russian Parliamentary hearing on “family policy,” at which it was reported that nearly half of Russia’s families have no children at all, and another 34% have only one. Russia’s current birthrate is 1.34 per woman, far below the rate needed for population equilibrium. At the current rate, Russia’s population will be cut in half by the year 2050.
This implies a rate of depopulation greater, on a percentage basis, than when the Black Death killed around one-third of Europe’s residents. Villages, towns, and even cities will be deserted and cease to exist. Or else they will be occupied by someone other than the Russians.
When people leave one territory and more to another, they are said to be voting with their feet. When a society makes a collective decision not to reproduce itself, its people could be said to be voting with their–well, let’s not go there.
It’s often noted that when people lose confidence in the future, they tend to stop reproducing. I think that’s true, but the issue goes deeper, and is ultimately, I think, philosophical. Whatever its causes, I doubt that changes in a government’s “families policy” will have much impact on this particular voting pattern.