Population Decline: Threat or Solution?

May 30, 2008


This Washington Post article criticizes Japan’s leaders for not acting more quickly to head off a decline in population by increasing immigration.  It simply astounds me to see seemingly intelligent people wringing their hands over a decline in human population, even if it’s about to begin in one of the most overpopulated nations on earth, a nation who cannibalizes manufacturing jobs all over the world to support its bloated work force. 

Yet, they worry about a shrinking work force – that they won’t have enough workers to support their industries’ grand plans for never-ending sales volume and profit growth.  They worry too that they won’t have enough young workers to support an aging population.  Never mind that growing the population only makes matters worse in the future, since population growth must end eventually one way or another.  That’s too long term thinking.  All anyone cares about is the short term. 

Such focus on perpetual growth is self-destructive.  As explained in Five Short Blasts, once an optimum population density has been breached (as it was long, long ago in Japan), further growth becomes cancerous, destroying our standard of living and quality of life.  Beyond that optimum population density, over-crowding begins driving down per capita consumption.  But since per capita output – productivity – always rises, the inevitable consequence of these colliding factors is rising unemployment and poverty.  Not understanding this, our leaders continue to pin their hopes on growing ourselves out of our economic ills when it is this cancerous “growth” that is causing our problems in the first place.  When will our leaders ever come to understand that corporate plans for never-ending growth are unsustainable and contrary to the interests of their citizens and the common good?  They’d better understand it soon or the “patient” – our economy and quality of life – will soon succumb to the cancer.