FM newswire for 14 January, hot articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis…

  1. India’s hidden role in the Af-Pak War:  “Afghanistan: The Forgotten Conflict in Kashmir“, Pankaj Mishra, blog of the NY Review of Books, 8 December 2009
  2. Pro-war extremist collides with actual expert on Iran (results are illuminating, but not pretty):  “Explaining the concept of ‘learning curve’ to Jeffrey Goldberg“, “Hillary Mann Leverett, Race for Iran, 8 January 2010
  3. Provocative analysis of the Left’s political apathy:  “Symposium“, E. J. Dionne, Jr., Dissent magazine, Winter 2010 — “In a democracy political engagement is an act of patriotism, a declaration of faith in the judgment of one’s fellow citizens and thus, ultimately, in one’s nation … truly effective social critics are embedded in their societies and operate at least as much out of love as from alienation.”
  4. Amazing:  “Israeli general Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam denies Iran is nuclear threat“, The Times, 10 January 2010
  5. Review of Paul Berman’s 2003 book Terror and Liberalism, by Joshua Micah Marshall at Washington Monthly, May 2003
  6. Far away but of great importance to America:  “Leverage and China’s Property Market“, Patrick Chovanec (Asoc Prof at Tsinghua U’s School of Economics and Management in Beijing), blog of the Financial Times, 7 January 2010
  7. Chovanec also wrote “The Nine Nations of China“, interactive map at the website of The Atlantic, 5 November 2009

Quote of the Day

Much of the world faces not the leftist nirvana of zero population growth, but negative population growth.  Effective contraceptive for women has changed the world.  Effective contraception for men (the men’s pill) will change it even more (and it’s coming, eventually).  Japan is the pioneer, but much of the world follows their path:

While the effect on the world’s ecology might be beneficial, the effect on the world’s economies might be painful.  As seen in this quote:

“In an era of declining population, demand tends be below what is expected and a state of over-supply is less easily corrected. Thus a pessimistic atmosphere may issue; and although at long last pessimism may tend to correct itself through its effect on supply, the first result to prosperity of a change-over from an increasing to a declining population may be very disastrous.”
— John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936 (hat tip to Bruce Krasting)

3 thoughts on “FM newswire for 14 January, hot articles for your morning reading”

  1. Much of the world faces not the leftist nirvana of zero population growth, but negative population growth.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Good!


    Not only does the population need to stabilize, it would be especially nice if it stabilized below current levels. Of course, the impact of this demographic shift this will have huge negative repercussions, which is your point. But painful as the transition will be, it will be far better than the alternative. It is the growing pangs of a species maturing to adulthood. As for the specifics of the transition, yes, it is one of the greater challenges facing us, even as it ameliorates the other challenges. Hopefully we don’t screw up too badly. It also provides a less quantifiable benefit:

    Some lucky day each November great waves awake and are drawn
    Like smoking mountains bright from the west
    And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness: then suddenly
    The old granite forgets half a year’s filth
    The orange-peel, eggshells, papers, pieces of clothing, the clots
    Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
    Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all the droppings of
    the summer
    Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
    I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then…. But all seasons
    The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
    Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up the long coast
    Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
    The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks more numerous,
    The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two footed
    Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
    The dignity of room, the value of rareness.
    -Robinson Jeffers, “November Surf

    FM reply: Agreed! But you’re assuming the cultural effects are pleasant. What is our humanistic values (esp feminism) are a self-correcting anomaly, and higher fertility culture have a greater ability to survive. Perhaps the world does belong to Islam, after all. Would you be happy with that outcome?

  2. Japan is the guinea pig for the demographic collapse of advanced nations. Italy, Russia, Greece, Spain, are not far behind. In 2050 the world will have 2 billion more people, but almost all of them will be uneducated, impoverished persons in the developing world.

    Funny how the parts of the world that are trying to take care of the planet are the parts that are dying off. The other parts will continue growing and stripping the land in cheerful ignorance.

    If only we had one less phagehost, the world would be a better place. To those who want to cull the herd to save the planet I say: YOU FIRST!
    FM reply: Yep, Nature’s a bitch. As I have long said, perhaps our culture is just an anomaly. Those who are willing to reproduce will inherit the Earth.

  3. Hmmm. It seems I have failed to make myself understood. I apologize. I am not advocating “culling” the herd, merely cheering the spread of contraception and economic development that put the brakes on exponential population growth, enabling a higher quality of life for those who are born into this world.

    “Funny how the parts of the world that are trying to take care of the planet are the parts that are dying off. The other parts will continue growing and stripping the land in cheerful ignorance.”

    First, the projection is that the “other parts” will not continue growing indefinitely. The reasons are too lengthy to describe here but primarily rest on economic development and urbanization (with the prerequisite of available contraception, of course). Look up some demographics info.

    Second, your contention that these folks will continue “stripping the land in cheerful ignorance” is possible but doubtful. The conventional wisdom is that environmental concern is a “luxury item” that requires a certain level of economic security, known as the Postmaterialist Thesis. This was contradicted by the results of a 24-country Gallup study, summarized in “Of Global Concern: Is Affluence a Prerequisite?” Those findings are disputed by later studies and analysis such as “Environmental Attitudes in International Comparison: An Analysis of the ISSP Surveys 1993 and 2000” (abstract only). It’s an open question in the social sciences. But assuming that the Postmaterialist Thesis is true (which I think it is, and would be a better outcome than if environmental concern turned out to be a cultural construction), the same economic development that causes birthrates to plummet would presumably foster the development of positive environmental attitudes. Of course, such economic development has its own environmental cost. And a premature demographic collapse could forestall environmental development. The issues are complex and I don’t pretend to any kind of complete understanding.

    But I think I can safely say that your (implied) strategy of attempting to outbreed the developing world so that the globe can maintain a high proportion of environmental consciousness is a flawed one.

    FM reply: I agree with all that you say. However there seems much evidence to support the alternative viewpoint is that the future goes to the last culture to adapt, or to the one that maintains the highest fertility. We (western civilization) seem unlikely to qualify on either count.

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