2012 December 08 Saturday
Ross Douthat: More Babies To Keep America Top Dog

Elites want a big government to direct. But individuals need a good place to live, a good job, good pay, and a high quality of life for themselves and friends and families. Higher population densities work against all of that. Someone tell Ross Douthat the purpose of a government isn't to make America most powerful.

IN the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition.

How about improved quality? We need geniuses and near geniuses to maintain and improve our living standards. Well over half the population do nothing to raise per capita GDP. More babies from the masses aren't going to help. More babies from the smarter people would raise living standards for everyone. The IQ threshold for being a net producer is going to rise as more manual labor jobs get automated out of existence.

Being the most powerful country in the world has substantial downsides: Our power has emboldened our national security elites of both parties to unproductively spend a lot of money (and blood) pushing our weight around. This has been, and continues to be, a detriment to the republic.

Ross wants growing youthful population in order to fund old age retirement benefits. In other words, keep the pyramid scheme going. I think this is short sighted.

. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs, and relatively youthful populations speed economic growth and keep spending commitments affordable.

We need a population that is smart enough to earn high incomes. We need a larger fraction of our population to be net taxpayers who pay more than they take in benefits. We need a population that can invent and discover and manage businesses. But the skill levels of our population are going down.<

Policies that would reverse the current pattern of inverse correlation between educational attainment and fertility would do the most to improve our future prospects for higher living standards and lower social pathology.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 December 08 07:38 PM 

Engineer-Poet said at December 9, 2012 9:54 AM:
Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs
... and gang-bangers and drug dealers and flash-mob attackers and robbers and rapists and murderers.

Which of these they become depends in large part on their family, social and ethnic background.  Neither the ghettos nor the barrios create much in the way of new industries or world-changing inventions or lifesaving medical treatments.  There should be a higher bar for any encouragement of childbearing in those areas, and most should be specifically discouraged.

asdf said at December 9, 2012 3:32 PM:

It seems obvious Douthat's article is aimed at getting smart people to breed more. Unless of course you think hillbillies in West Virginia are reading the NYTimes all the time.

Randall Parker said at December 9, 2012 5:34 PM:


But Douthat isn't going to say what the real problem is. We can't solve the real problem without articulating it very clearly. Even with very clear articulation I am skeptical about the likelihood of solving it.


I am very curious about who creates new businesses that end up employing a substantial number of people. My impression is that some of the kinds of people who used to create large businesses now opt for smaller businesses with few employees. Will our smartest move away from employing the masses? I expect so.

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