Friday, September 08, 2006

More Low Birthrates and Little Miss Sunshine Geography

I have been reading alot about low birthrates in the news lately. George Will wrote about the impact of low birthrates on Japan yesterday. Several Japanese government officials made interesting points.
Another says of immigration that it is wrong to import workers to do "hard, risky jobs. Hardships should be shouldered by the Japanese themselves." And, he asks, "Why should we increase our population?" Leaving aside the welfare state's grinding imperatives, that is not a foolish question. In 1920 Japan's population was 56 million. Today it is 127.5 million on a land mass the size of California (population: 36 million) that is three-quarters mountainous. A third official, noting that Japan imports 60 percent of its staple foods, says, "It might be good to have a declining population" of, say, 100 million by 2050.
Why should population always stay stable or increase? Sure, it is more expensive to run a pay as you go systems--both to fund consumption and social welfare--than to save for the inevitable. But, if you can see the train wreck coming, why not prepare for it instead of bemoaning the fact that women aren't willing to bear the brunt of the burden in producing more people to shore up the pyramid scheme?

What does it say for a society when it outsources the difficult and risky work to immigrants and foreigners? Is it a society to be proud of? If you believe in the free market, then employers would compete for workers by making the jobs less risky through industrial engineering and generous insurance plans and also improve the pay and working conditions. But why do that when cheap and compliant workers can so easily be found? For example, an appalling number of people are hurt lifting patients in hospitals and nursing homes or working in construction; not surprisingly, that work is mainly done by immigrants.

I also want to point out that, in Mayan culture, two groups acquire exalted status upon death. Men who die in battle, and women who die during childbirth. Both made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.

As a Californian, I also have to groan at the comparison to the land mass to California. Land mass is not everything. Much of CA is also mountainous and even more of it is a veritable desert. It isn't land so much as water that should be the constraint on population here. People who live on the lush east coast just don't get it.

Also in George Will's column:
But other senior officials say the way to square a declining population and workforce with the pension costs of long-lived retirees is to rethink retirement -- to "work for life," one official says.
As my daughter would say, "Helloooo?" Who are the retirees they are referring to? The women never get to retire. Their work load actually increases when the men stay home. That is why retired men are called "wet leaves" in Japan. They stick to your shoes.

WaPost had another piece recently about the low birthrate in Japan. My heart goes out to the princesses of the Chrysanthemum Throne. I wish they could be valued as whole human beings rather than just for their (in)ability to produce male heirs. It is especially unfair because, biologically, the princes determine the gender of the baby. In addition, all this business about ensuring the purity of the line is bunk. The only way to really ensure the purity of a line is matrilineally. ;-)

Little Miss Sunshine Geography
Mark and I went to see Little Miss Sunshine last night. I laughed so hard. I heartily recommend the movie to anyone who has read or wishes they had read Nietzsche and Proust. Or, if you are short of time like me, you can just read about reading Proust. The cinematography was quite good, but geographically inaccurate. Mark and I decided to give the filmmakers a pass on that. However, if you were doing the drive for real, you might see something like this sunset. We even have the buggy windscreen for realism!

Read an earlier post about plunging birthrates here.
keyword: modern motherhood


  1. Again, another insightful post - I want to know why no one else seems to "get it" about the whole pyramid scheme thing. Notice it is always men (and I'm going to guess usually older men) that are bemoaning the current state of events. The world population is not about to die out overnight - I daresay some of the commentators have more of an issue of the composition of that population than its actual number.

  2. If you want to be really scared, read the links at

    The other writers blame social welfare systems and state that the world is not overpopulated, but give no reasoning.


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