19 August 2019   Leave a comment

Zachary Karabell has written a fascinating essay for Foreign Affairs which addresses the demographic decline affecting many of the states in the world. Global population is still predicted to increase to about 10 billion by the middle of the century, but several countries, like Germany and Japan, but also countries like China and India, are experiencing fertility rates less than replacement. A slowdown of population growth would undoubtedly be better for the global environment, but only if people stopped consuming so much. The demographic decline may make that possible:

“No capitalist economic system operates on the presumption that there will be zero or negative growth. No one deploys investment capital or loans expecting less tomorrow than today. But in a world of graying and shrinking populations, that is the most likely scenario, as Japan’s aging, graying, and shrinking absolute population now demonstrates. A world of zero to negative population growth is likely to be a world of zero to negative economic growth, because fewer and older people consume less. There is nothing inherently problematic about that, except for the fact that it will completely upend existing financial and economic systems. The future world may be one of enough food and abundant material goods relative to the population; it may also be one in which capitalism at best frays and at worst breaks down completely.”

The shift should not be surprising. Capitalism developed when there were about 700 million people on the planet and in a region of the world (Europe) where scarcity was the main feature of human existence. Its emphasis on production led to the pillaging of the environment; its neglect of consumption will perhaps be its final undoing.

Posted August 19, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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