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What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books; 1st edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594036411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594036415
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

The UN projects that world population, currently around seven billion, will peak over the next eighty-five years between ten billion and twelve billion people before starting a long and inexorable decline. Which is, Last argues, precisely the real cataclysm humanity faces. An extremely sharp writer with a great eye for telling details and revealing anecdotes What To Expect When No One's Expecting is a rich and detailed read, well worth the price of admission just for Last's cogent summarizing of long-term demographic trends. —Nick Gillespie


"A powerful argument that the only thing worse than having children is not having them. I'm reading What To Expect When No One's Expecting aloud to the three little arguments for birth control at my house in hope they'll quit squabbling and making messes and start acting so cute that all my neighbors decide to conceive."

P.J. O’Rourke, Author of Holidays in Heck

“This book explodes old ways of thinking. Not moralizing, not blaming, Jonathan Last peers methodically ahead at the cold consequences of plunging global birth rates: aging and ever smaller national populations, the fatal destruction of the financial premises of the welfare state, disappearing military strength. He describes the comfortable, happy childlessness chosen by more and more highly educated couples—lives of personal contentment, yes, but with unutterably sad national consequences. We are left to draw conclusions ourselves: The use of sex is not simply personal; the future of the whole human race hangs on it. Those who missed Ben Wattenberg’s The Birth Dearth (1987) have another chance to be shaken awake by the earthquake rumbling louder and faster beneath us.”

Michael Novak, recipient of the Templeton Prize (1994), and author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

"Jonathan Last provides us with a well-written, well-argued description of one of the most profound, yet poorly understood phenomena of the 21st century: the world worldwide fall in birthrates and attendant rapid aging of the human population. He masterfully describes the key facts and concepts any literate person should know about the sea change in global demography and speculates wisely and soberly about the implications for the future of humanity. Avoiding the alarmism, sexism, and racial chauvinism that mars so such other writing on this subject, Last is an insightful and trustworthy guide."

Phillip Longman, Senior Fellow of the New America Foundation and author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About It

"Jonathan Last's writing matches his reasoning: as clear as a shot of gin, and just as bracing. America is changing more quickly than ever before, and this book explains why. A terrific, important read."

Tucker Carlson, Editor of The Daily Caller

"Jonathan Last's pulled off an amazing feat. He's written a book that's at once lively and profound, that deals with weighty matters with a light touch, and that explains a complex subject clearly. It might make you laugh, it could make you cry--but above all it will make you think."

William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard

"Imagine a merger of Mark Steyn and David Brooks with a Supreme Court imposed page limit."

Hugh Hewitt, Host, The Hugh Hewitt Show

“The Malthusian paranoia of a coming population boom has nothing on the reality of a coming population implosion. Frankly it kinda makes a girl want to procreate.”

S.E. Cupp

More About the Author

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a Washington-based political magazine. His writings have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Post, the Claremont Review of Books, First Things, The Week, Salon, Slate, TV Guide, and elsewhere.

He is a regular commentator on both television and radio and has appeared on ABC, CNN, Fox News Channel, PBS, NPR, CNBC, Sky News, and the BBC.

He blogs at JonathanLast.com and tweets, reluctantly, @JVLast.

Customer Reviews

This book was very informative and I would recommend it to everyone.
The topic of this book you know, reader, and while I think this book is generally accurate, it is too general for my tastes.
Mikila Velios
There are books that have changed the world, and it is possible that this will be one of them.
Shalom Freedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Having just finished this well-written and sobering look at fertility decline and the coming population implosion both here and abroad, I'm tempted to paraphrase Sir Edward Grey's famous remark on the eve of the First World War: "The lamps are going out in maternity wards all over the world, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime..." Contrary to the worries of the overpopulation crowd, we're simply not having enough babies, due to what the author describes as a "giant constellation" of factors -- and the likely consequences of this global baby bust are grim.

Demographics can be a tricky subject to write about, and difficult to read about. But have no fear -- Mr. Last lays out the facts and data about our demographic & fertility dilemma clearly and thoroughly (and in under 200 pages sans footnotes!); he teases out the implications of these facts judiciously; and he does it all with enough dark humor and interesting vignettes to make the demographic medicine go down easy. (One fascinating example: He notes that last year in Japan -- a nation well-advanced in a demographic death spiral -- consumers bought more adult diapers than diapers for babies, for the first time ever. Let that nugget sink in for a minute.) Mr. Last is clear-eyed about the probable consequences of population decline, and he does a fine job showing its likely effects on everything from the unsustainability of our entitlement programs to foreign policy to American economic growth and innovation -- while always cautioning that Demography is not inevitably Destiny.

No doubt some will assume the author wants to pin blame on feminism, or on selfish women who sacrifice motherhood for careers. I would respectfully ask such persons to read the book with an open mind, because Mr. Last does no such thing.
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100 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Lee Forest on February 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I might have expected the author to come at this subject from a moralistic, right-wing point of view, and was happy to discover that was not at all the case. Last presents a tremendous amount of data, academic research, and statistics from the U.S. and around the world in a way that is not at all dry, but engaging and oftentimes entertaining. Neither does he glorify parenthood -- he seems unsentimental and the actual baby part of the book is pushed into the background. Instead he focuses on laying out what has happened, is happening, and might happen as a result of falling birthrates--not bringing his own feelings or leanings into it but presenting a vast amount of academic research and government data, which is much more compelling or convincing than whatever his personal views might be. He makes the case that it's much better to expend efforts making it easier for those people who do want children to have them, than to try to coerce or convince those who don't want them to do so, given the at-best mixed results other nations have achieved by trying to lift their fertility rates. The most striking stat to me was that 97 percent of the world's population now lives in a nation whose fertility rate is falling -- I wouldn't have guessed that based on how much one reads about the "overcrowded" world. My corner of it seems that way, but it's not true on a global scale or even in the U.S. He manages to talk about potentially divisive social issues such divorce, cohabitation, abortion, contraception, and even entitlement programs in a straightforward manner, not preaching at all, but instead discussing the hidden costs of social developments which most of us (the author included) regard as net goods. I found the discussion of Europe's precarious situation and the implications for the U.S.Read more ›
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73 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Fred Fairclough Jr. on February 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Prospective buyers may appreciate this excellent book review cut and pasted from Apr/May 2013 issue of Bookforum.com:

Let It Breed

A conservative author finds economic peril in population decline

Nick Gillespie

Fifty years ago, one of the great truths that no serious person dared challenge was that humanity was just a few ticks away from the detonation of what Stanford's Paul Ehrlich dubbed "the population bomb," in his book of the same name. The world, everyone assumed, would be awash in (even more) hungry mouths to feed.

"The battle to feed all of humanity is over," intoned Ehrlich with all the certitude of a future MacArthur "Genius" grant recipient. "In the 1970s . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

As Jonathan V. Last notes in What to Expect When No One's Expecting, Ehrlich was so way off that it's stunning anyone ever took him and his neo-Malthusian assessment of overpopulation seriously. There were no mass starvations, and the famines that occurred all had political, not agronomic, causes. "What's so wonderful about Ehrlich's silly book," writes Last, a senior writer at the conservative Weekly Standard, "is that he was wrong at the exact moment when the very opposite of his prediction was unfolding." Total fertility rates, or the number of babies a woman is expected to bear over the course of her life, were already declining in the United States, but starting in 1968 "they sank like a stone."

They continue to. By 1979 the global fertility rate was 6.0, and now it's 2.52, according to UN data. All first-world countries are already below a 2.
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