The Corner

The More the Merrier?

From the WSJ’s interview with Rick Santorum:

Mr. Santorum also believes that making babies creates wealth. It’s very difficult to grow an economy with a shrinking population, he says, pointing to the “demographic winter in Europe” as a cause of that region’s troubles.

This is somewhat akin to arguing that the United States risks starvation because there are fewer farm workers than there once were.  Times and productivity have moved on. The belief that rising per capita income (the number that counts: the overall size of the economy is a relative irrelevance) depends on population increase is an idea that technology and globalization ought to have left behind. Indications (pre-dating the 08/09 slump) that the American economy has been finding it increasingly difficult to generate jobs at a rate that keeps pace with the country’s growing population are a warning sign of further difficulties to come.

And it is a stretch to claim that Europe’s troubles stem from a supposed “demographic winter”, To be fair, Santorum is not the only one to think that way: exaggerated fears of the consequences of a birth dearth was one of the driving forces behind the decision by many European countries to open their doors to mass immigration rather than making better uses of the people they already had. It was not a decision that has worked out too well.

The WSJ continues:

To help avoid that fate in the U.S., he wants to triple the per-child tax credit and also cut individual tax rates.

Well, simplifying the tax system to allow for flatter, lower taxes is a good idea. But it would have to be paid for in part by reducing the sort of tax ‘breaks’ that Santorum wants to add to the pile with his tripled per-child tax credit. If he really wants to see an increase in the birth rate the evidence there is seems to suggest that making it easier for women to combine motherhood with careers is probably the way to go, but somehow I suspect that’s not a route that Santorum would like this country to take. 

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