The New Elephant

It has taken a few days for mariner to restore his awareness of the major themes of society and world events. Surprisingly, his attention is drawn not to irritating politics or immoral economic behavior or disregard for the meaning of life – his attention is drawn to demographics. Global population patterns have become the elephant in the room and will dictate the quality of national life in every nation – not in the future but already – now!

US citizens already have a sense of the demographics issue caused not by population alone but by the emerging wave of joblessness caused by automation. There will be too many people not contributing to the economy but still dependent on it for survival. Economic solutions aside, there simply will not be enough employed younger people earning and spending dollars to sustain a robust economy.

The US is not alone. Every nation in the top twenty GNP has a similar issue: the shape of the population leans toward older citizens and the younger generations are not plentiful enough to sustain either the economy or the older citizens. China, Japan and Germany, in particular, face an almost instantaneous shift between generations in about 30 years that surely will affect their economies. Demographically, one country stands poised to expand its economy many times over during the next 100 years: India.

Some numbers:

In 1965 the world population stood at 3.3 billion; today it is 7.3 billion.

In 2011 the average age of the world population was 32; by 2100 it will be 42.

Because China played with population via national mandates (first, grow the largest population, then one child per family), the nation will have difficulty sustaining a world-leading economy. In 2026, China will have 316 million citizens over age 60. That’s close to the entire US population.

America’s population is growing because more people are being born than are dying and because immigrants, most in their late teens or early 20s, are still coming to the United States. This combination means that the American population is younger than in other developed nations. In 2001, 21 percent of the population in the United States was under the age of 15. This compares with 18 percent in Europe and 15 percent in Japan.

To consider US immigration policy in a different light than racist invasion, the immigration policy should be liberalized and made part of a demographic plan for the nation’s future. Still, other forces like capitalistic oligarchy must be forced to participate more rationally in the nation’s economy. Further, the definition of work and the link between ‘earning’ and ‘working’ will have to be redefined otherwise the impact of automation will have a devastating effect regardless of demographics.

Stephen Chan, an international expert on population and demographics, states that immigration (perhaps a better term is ‘migration’) will continue to be a large event in international life (he refers to the current immigration out of the Middle East and Northern Africa). Consider Africa – the entire continent including central, large primitive areas where culture is still based on iron-age tribalism. These populations have no national economy to help them so their only solution is to immigrate (migrate) to nations where there may be a better opportunity to survive.

One of the more important areas of policy that must be expanded and modified to prepare for immigration-supported populations is education. The mariner suspects that the whole framework of familiar grades, secondary schools, trade schools, and colleges, is not capable of supporting the new requirements by which populations are to be educated. The slate chalkboard cannot compete with the Internet and modern technology. Nor will it prepare students and retirees for the new world of work.

So, whenever it happens that the US has representatives that understand today’s world and are making rational plans to manage it; until we have a statesman President; until we have a liberal Supreme Court; until we have state legislators who don’t keep their head where the Sun don’t shine – hold on to that slate chalkboard.

Ancient Mariner


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