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Population Decline and the Remaking of Great Power Politics
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
There is a revolution taking place, but few seem to have noticed. Most of the developed countries of the world are plagued, not by overpopulation, but by a stunning decline in their populations.

For half a century or more, the belief has been that fertility decline will result in, as Cincotta argued, "'a more peaceful and secure world'" (p 109). Fewer children would mean greater resources for everyone and lead to prosperity. Which is why the EC spent "650 million Euros on sexual and reproductive health" (p 110) to produce fewer children in poor countries.

This book challenges the assumption that population decline will lead to peace and prosperity. In many ways, it overturns it utterly. The authors of these essays conclude the world may well be "headed for a period of instability among the great powers on account of population decline" (p 202).

Europe itself is undergoing a drop in population so dramatic there will likely be "88 million fewer Europeans by the end of the century" (p 34). Will these developed nations be able to continue their social programs when the ratio of retired senior citizen to worker shrinks to almost one to one? Under such circumstances, can Europe afford a military? Or expect to have any influence in the world?

Certainly it is possible that many of the developed countries in the world will see their influence dim as their manpower and military might lessens. One possible outcome of having nations overburdened by large numbers of the elderly is that they prefer peace to almost anything.

But, as one essay points out, they might also end up "trapped between a policy of appeasement...and a strategy of massive nuclear retaliation" (p 144), a worrisome prospect.

It would be one very troubling possible outcome for Russia. Right now, Russia is locked in a population death spiral. Not only are Russians not reproducing, but only "30 percent of children are 'born healthy'" (p 85). Fewer and fewer young men are available for military service, and those that are available tend to have health and education problems.

If Russia felt threatened, would it feel it had no alternative but to resort to nuclear warfare?

A decline in population has not caused prosperity for Japan. If birth rates continue as they are, by 2050 Japan will have suffered a loss of 30% of its population. There will be a staggering number of elderly burdening the society with health care needs. Can Japan continue as any kind of a military power or will it have to withdraw from international politics? What about its technology--can it continue to innovate and prosper with fewer young people? Or will it simply dwindle into poverty?

China has had a draconian one child only policy for decades. In many ways, China will see the effects of a declining population more severely than anywhere else. Already, "the proportion of working-age Chinese has already 2010 and is in seemingly irreversible decline" (p 171), leading, once again, to a staggeringly large number of elderly Chinese to be cared for by a smaller number of workers.

Moreover, having fewer children has resulted in catastrophic declines in the numbers of women in both India and China. Due to abortion and infanticide, some areas have ratios as high as 156 boy babies for every 100 girls.

Will the 100 million men in China and India with no wives result in ...what? Further chaos for the governments? Revolutions? Of will the governments deal with the problem by starting wars, and sending all those young men out to fight?

Within 15 years, India will overtake China in terms of population, and there is no reason to think this will harm the country. Yes, without a doubt, the added population will strain India's resources, among them a poor water supply. Also, India has a struggling educational system.

Yet India also plans to spend "30 billion dollars modernizing its military" (p 196) and having a young population may result in technological innovation and business expansion. A growing population in India may well result in positive effects in the coming decades. In other countries, historically, a growing population has tended to result in a growing economy.

An important book; lots of intriguing arguments.
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Slowly... oh, so slowly, the word is getting out that we are in the midst of a demographic transition. Most of the attention is given to changing ethnicity in the West and North America--especially when it changes the results of an election! The more important demographic transition, however, is the inexorable decline in birth rate across the board. The future of that trend is now in Japan, other parts of Asia, and most of Europe, Seniors become an ever-increasing percentage of a society with all the consequences that entails in terms of retirement benefits and especially health care. Few have continued to connect the dots to another result: the decline of overall military and economic vigor as there are fewer and fewer young, energetic individuals. Yoshihara and company do so. And, yes, they consider the possibility that a graying society will become less militaristic, but they do not hold out a lot of hope for a wide-spread geriatric peace, and rightly so.

This book is worth the investment. I wish political leaders on both sides of the aisle in the US were reading it, too.
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