The Corner

George Weigel

Stan, that’s a thought-provoking piece by George Weigel, and there’s plenty to learn from it, but I don’t think he’s right about the demographic ‘crisis’ in Europe. To the extent that there is a problem, it’s one that’s easily solved by (1) putting a stop to mass immigration and (2) by people working a little longer. Both could be easily done (Off to work, Gramps!), the only question is whether Europeans have the will to do it. That’s an entirely different matter.

As for whether a shrinking population is by definition a bad thing, I doubt it. In fact, a little more elbow-room would seem to be a thoroughly pleasant prospect. As for the economic impact, what matters surely is GDP per capita rather than the aggregate size of an economy. In an age of automation, there’s no convincing reason to think that this must shrink along with the population. As for why people are having fewer children (a trend that you can see in many places across the planet, not just Europe), that is more likely to reflect the fact that, thanks to modern medicine, more children survive into adulthood. There’s less need, so to speak, for “spares”. To attribute part of the blame for this phenomenon on a supposed European cultural or spiritual deficit is entirely to miss the point.

Finally, if countries really do wish to increase, or at least slow the decrease, in their birth rates, some of the evidence (at least so far as Europe is concerned) appears to show that making it easier for women to go out to work is the way to go. Compare the data for the Nordic countries and, say, France, with Germany and Italy. Yes, these data are complicated by endless local variables, but intuitively they make sense to me… 

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