The Corner

Two One-Handed Economists

First from the gub’ment the second from the private sector:

Jonah,

I am a macroeconomic theorist. There is nothing about increasing rates

of productivity which requires a high or low birthrate.

Generally, increasing productivity is an unmitigated good thing. You

can use the higher productivity to produce the same

amount of stuff with fewer workers or fewer hours per worker, or use

the extra productivity to produce more stuff, or anywhere

in between.

But for all you keep saying that you don’t know economics, as usual,

you have things basically correct. We could, in theory,

have relatively few do all the work as productivity increases. For

example, if all we wanted to do was have a 1910 standard of

living, we certainly could achieve this with a very small fraction of

the population working. Of course, we can do better than

this. Who wants that much leisure if your standard of living is that

low?

Generqally, economics is quite silent on what birthrates “should” be.

And…

You’re right, increased productivity helps ease the burden a lot. But the models that anyone runs to estimate Social Security obligations account for productivity growth. Of course, differing opinions on the speed of productivity growth will change the estimated date of bankruptcy for the program, but I don’t think many economists expect productivity to grow fast enough to keep the program flush for baby busters.

I would be curious to hear NRO contributors comment on immigration policy as it relates to this problem.

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