I found Zachary Karabell’s review of a pair of books at Foreign Affairs on the relationship between capitalism and demographics thought-provoking:
For most of human history, the world’s population grew so slowly that for most people alive, it would have felt static. Between the year 1 and 1700, the human population went from about 200 million to about 600 million; by 1800, it had barely hit one billion. Then, the population exploded, first in the United Kingdom and the United States, next in much of the rest of Europe, and eventually in Asia. By the late 1920s, it had hit two billion. It reached three billion around 1960 and then four billion around 1975. It has nearly doubled since then. There are now some 7.6 billion people living on the planet.
Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population. The only thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer. These oscillations are not easy for any society to manage. “Rapid population acceleration and deceleration send shockwaves around the world wherever they occur and have shaped history in ways that are rarely appreciated,” the demographer Paul Morland writes in The Human Tide, his new history of demographics. Morland does not quite believe that “demography is destiny,” as the old adage mistakenly attributed to the French philosopher Auguste Comte would have it. Nor do Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet, a new book on the rapidly shifting demographics of the twenty-first century. But demographics are clearly part of destiny. If their role first in the rise of the West and now in the rise of the rest has been underappreciated, the potential consequences of plateauing and then shrinking populations in the decades ahead are almost wholly ignored.
but flawed. For example human history did not begin in 1AD but about 2,000 years earlier and the human story is hundreds of thousands of years older than that. From 10,000 BCE to 1700 CE the human population increased by about .04% per year. And, depending on what you mean by “capitalism”, it’s a lot older than 300 years old.
Here’s another one.
Capitalism is, essentially, a system that maximizes more—more output, more goods, and more services.
That is certainly not what I learned in economics class and I have never worked for a company that had the objective of maximizing output. I doubt that Mr. Karabell has, either. What I learned is that markets optimize the production and distribution of goods, a far cry from maximizing output. Quite to the contrary, history tells us that command economies maximize production, often to their own detriment due to the misallocation of resources that is inevitable.
I see no conflict between a market economy and a static population but there may be such a conflict between a static population and a socialist regime that depends on an ever-increasing population to pay for its mistakes in the present. It’s an interesting question.
I had some issues with this observation as well:
Some societies, such as the United States and Canada, are able to temporarily offset declining population with immigration, although soon, there won’t be enough immigrants left.
Is that actually true? Is the native population of the United States actually declining and by how much? Or is the recent decline in the birth rate an artifact of a very high proportion of immigrant population with a sharply declining immigrant birth rate? Between 2008 and 2017 the immigrant birth rate declined three times faster than the native birth rate did. When you combine a historically high proportion of immigrants, a declining immigrant birth rate, and the effects of the second generation, it might mean that the U. S. native population is actually stabilizing. It’s hard to tell.
Still, I agree with his bottom line observation:
Either way, the reversal of population trends is a paradigm shift of the first order and one that is almost completely unrecognized.
I do not expect to live to see its implications realized. I’ll open the question to the floor. What would a world with a stable human population look like?
BTW the apothegm “Demography is destiny” appears to belong to author and demographer Ben Wattenberg. Whatever you may read Auguste Comte never said or wrote it. The word “demography” was not coined until two years before his death.