Wednesday, August 5, 2009

No Baby Boom, No Cry and other nonsense

James Call: Expert returns to discuss all the latest issues, plus shit that's just plain pissing him off!

Today in Shamelessness

So apparently, some woman on the Taconic Parkway, Diane Schuler, got plastered on vodka and high on pot, and then got in her car, resulting in an accident that took the lives of her daughter, 3 of her nieces, and 3 other innocent people. The NY Daily News plastered a big ol' picture of Schuler on their front page, with the headline "HOW COULD SHE".

Now, one has to ask: if Schuler has any conscience at all, any shred of human feeling in her heart, won't she be living in a personal hell for the next many years? She should never have done what she did, and she should pay the legal price, but unless she's a complete sociopath, the crushing guilt of such an incident is going to be very apt punishment for what she's done.

Is it REALLY necessary for the Daily News to plaster her face on the front page of a paper that is read by millions of New Yorkers, and seen by millions more? Does that serve any productive fucking function? When there are SERIOUS issues afoot - health care reform, rising joblessness, the dangerous situation in Afghanistan - the Daily News is going to waste very expensive front page publication time lambasting some woman who has to live with her grief for the rest of her life anyways?!?!

The people who publish and edit the Daily News should be hacked to death by machetes.

Today in Malthusianism

Reader "Lindsey" asks:

It seems many folks I know are having a baby or have recently adopted a dog. Despite generalized frustration, depression and an economy in shambles, it seems affection is a currency in these-here harsh-times. Do you think that the current economic crisis will spawn a neo-baby boom? Are there any stats available about the current birth rate in the US, and if so, how does it compare to the post-war boom? What are your thoughts? additionally, do you foresee any dystopic/Swiftian implications with this possible neo-baby boom?

To answer, in brief: no, yes, favorably, I'll tell you, and no.

First off, the last recorded data point, around October 2008, indicates a very slight decline in the US fertility rate. After a "baby boomlet" in 2006-2007, births are down slightly. And bear in mind, that's nine months after February 2008, when the recession/depression was just in its first phase. It's continuing full steam ahead, so one would expect the birth rate to decline further.

Now, the poorly educated tend to have more children than the well educated, and we certainly have more jobless folks these days. But these are the newly poor: many are bright enough to use birth control, and in this country, most aren't mainline Catholics anyways. So I would not expect these newly poor to be cranking out the kids. On the contracy, I think the fertility rate will decline further, as people (wisely) decide not to have kids whom they cannot provide for.

Here's a pretty succinct article on the matter.

It's probably for the best that our national birth rate declines. First of all, this is mostly the white birth rate. Latinos and blacks will continue to have a higher fertility rate for the time being, which will level the social playing field a bit. Although, honestly, I'd go for everyone's fertility level declining: we do not need more children in this country. Part of what allows America to enjoy the opulence it does is that the individual American consumes a much larger portion of world's wealth than he/she generates. It's why we're hated across most of the globe, after all. And it's why we have such nice tennis shoes.

That being said, even if we were to experience a doubling in population, from roughly 300 billion to roughly 600 billion people, I still wouldn't worry. This is an incredibly affluent country, and we can take it. The problem is the division of the allocation of resources within the population, not the overall size of the population. The only dystopian effect I could envision is if unemployment hit something like 20% for several generations, leading to a rise in fertility amongst the immobile poor. That would lead to a Mexico-like situation, which nobody wants. But still, hardly an India-like situation.

Honestly, I expect the overall birthrate to decline. Few formerly middle class families are going to want to bring children into the world in this day and age. I could be wrong, but I'll put money on that.

Reality is more frightening than dystopia, of course...

Today in Super-Depressing Crap

MUUUUUUUUUUUUUCH more frightening, negative future-wise, is the slow decline of the American income standard. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, anyone? Read the article at the link. You'll be sad, er, glad you did.

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