When the State plays god

When a government tries to control every aspect of life, the Law of Unintended Consequences isn’t far behind. Exhibit A: China, which from 1980 to 2015 ruthlessly enforced a “one-child policy:”

China’s population shrank last year for the first time in 70 years, experts said, warning of a “demographic crisis” that puts pressure on the country’s slowing economy…

China’s median age was 22 in 1980. By 2018, it was 40. That will rise to 46 in 2030 and 56 in 2050. In the US, the median age was 30 in 1980 and 38 in 2018. In 2030, it will be 40, and 44 in 2050. India, by comparison, had a median age of 20 in 1980 and 28 in 2018.

Get that? By mid-century, half of China’s population will be 56 or older. There will be many more years of population decline ahead. Why? Because after two generations of using everything from fines to abortion and forced sterilization to enforce one child per family, single-child or childless families are now the Chinese social norm:

Northeast China – Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin provinces – has a population of about 109 million, and its socio-educational level is several years ahead of the country average. The fertility rate in northeast China was only 0.9 in 2000 and 0.56 in 2015. This means that the next-generation population in this region is only a quarter the size of the last generation.

Demographers consider a fertility rate of 2.1 (children per woman) to be the “replacement” rate, neither increasing or decreasing a country’s population.  A fertility rate of 0.56 roughly means only 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have a child!  Absent an extraordinary event, China is well established on the road to demographic and economic decline previously pioneered by Japan.

Japan’s economic crisis was essentially a demographic crisis. The decline in young people in the labour force has led to a shortage in manufacturing: the workforce employed in industry decreased from 22.9 million in 1992 to 17 million in 2017, and the workforce is ageing, leading to a decline in production and innovation. As a result, Japan’s manufacturing exports as a share of the global total declined from 12.5 per cent in 1993 to 5.2 per cent in 2017, and the number of Japanese firms ranked in the Fortune Global 500 fell from 149 in 1994 to 52 in 2018.

In any society, an increase in the number of elderly leads to a drop in savings, and a decrease in the labour force leads to a decline in return on investment, which reduces the investment rate…

Since 2000, China’s total fertility rate has been lower than that of Japan. The average in 2010-2016 was 1.18 in China and 1.42 in Japan. This means China’s ageing crisis will be more severe than Japan’s, and its economic outlook bleaker.

In Japan’s case, the demographic crisis was precipitated by cultural changes. Women found new opportunities outside the home and began marrying later… if at all.  Unwed parenting still carries social stigma in Japan, so this had a dramatic effect. Add to that the notorious Japanese work ethic of self-destructive loyalty to a corporation, and it’s easy to understand why professional couples have been also reluctant to have children for more than a generation.

China, however, will have to face the fact its government prevented or aborted the next generation. But before we look down on our noses at them, it’s important to recognize the impact of our own government’s actions. Since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, millions of babies have been voluntarily aborted in the United States. In this era of heated debate over immigration, legal or otherwise, it’s significant to realize that without such immigration, the population of the United States and of most Western European nations would be in decline as well.  That doesn’t mean I support the ongoing invasion of the U.S., however.

The future belongs first to those who show up.  It looks very likely the world powers of today have sown the seeds of their own overthrow, and are destined to be replaced.  Groups have been dispossessed of their patrimony and replaced before.  Perhaps reservations await the descendants of those who developed the concept for the original Native Americans.  History has a knack for that kind of irony.

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A worthwhile New Years resolution

…would be for the United States to admit we’ve achieved everything we’re likely to in Afghanistan (i.e. not much), and end the operation:

No other country in the world symbolizes the decline of the American empire as much as Afghanistan. There is virtually no possibility of a military victory over the Taliban and little chance of leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy — facts that Washington’s policy community has mostly been unable to accept…

Indeed, Afghanistan represents the triumph of the deterministic forces of geography, history, culture, and ethnic and sectarian awareness, with Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras and other groups competing for patches of ground. Tribes, warlords and mafia-style networks that control the drug trade rule huge segments of the country…

The United States’ special adviser to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is trying to broker a diplomatic solution that allows the United States to draw down its forces without the political foundation in Kabul disintegrating immediately.

That may be the real reason the United States keeps spending so heavily in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is terrified of a repeat of 1975, when panicked South Vietnamese fled Saigon as Americans pulled out and North Vietnamese forces advanced on the city. The United States military did not truly begin to recover from that humiliation until its victory in the Persian Gulf war of 1991. An abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan could conceivably provide a new symbol of the decline in American hard power.

There is also the fear that an Afghanistan in chaos could once again provide a haven for an international terrorist group determined to perpetrate another Sept. 11-scale attack. Of course, Yemen, Somalia and a number of other places could also provide the setting for that.  The point is, we remain in Afghanistan out of fear of even worse outcomes, rather than in the expectation of better ones.

Afghanistan has become America’s “tar baby.”  The more we try to do there, the more we seem “stuck” with no vision or endgame in sight.  The writer of the linked article is correct that our misadventures there are likely to signal to our adversaries we aren’t the power we used to be.  But what is far worse is that our indecision and inability to know “when to fold them” demonstrates poor strategic judgment as well.  Nothing encourages aggression like thinking your potential opponent is both weak AND a fool.

(Chinese) Rear Admiral Lou Yuan has told an audience in Shenzhen that the ongoing disputes over the ownership of the East and South China Seas could be resolved by sinking two US super carriers.

His speech, delivered on December 20 to the 2018 Military Industry List summit, declared that China’s new and highly capable anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were more than capable of hitting US carriers, despite them being at the centre of a ‘bubble’ of defensive escorts.

“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Admiral Lou declared.
He said the loss of one super carrier would cost the US the lives of 5000 service men and women. Sinking two would double that toll.

Our extended presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan underscored our country’s emphasis upon what the military calls “force protection.”  It’s natural for any military to seek to limit casualties, but when it becomes apparent that even a few deaths are enough to change national policy, outside observers begin to doubt one’s resolve.  The thoughts expressed by Admiral Lou Yuan echo those of the Japanese militarists in 1940: the U.S. is a paper tiger, and will acquiesce to its rivals if smacked hard enough on the nose.  Japan’s miscalculation led to a brutal Pacific War that ended in atomic fireballs over two of its cities.  To see the line of thought being resurrected by the Chinese, whose potential to oppose the U.S. dwarfs that of Russia, should give plenty of people pause.

Afghanistan is known as “the graveyard of empires” for a reason.  The sooner we recognize that, and take steps to restore the deterrent credibility we’ve lost there, the better.  The misguided 17-year (and counting) occupation may have sought to avoid another 9/11.  But at this point, it risks far worse outcomes by emboldening rivals who believe they’ve taken our measure by watching us there.  Perhaps America in 2019 lacks the ability to muster the resolve shown after Pearl Harbor in 1941.  Then again, perhaps not.

The only certain thing is it’s better to ensure we never have to find out.

The blink of an eye

This piece of information out of Japan got a lot of attention over the weekend:

The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis.

Most people will simply marvel at this geological feat, then move their attention on to the next video by Charlie Sheen or something. But it’s worth pondering for a moment…

This violent hiccup by the earth is yet another reminder that uniformitarian theories about the age of the planet are not reliable. Case in point: one of many different processes geologists refer to when estimating the age of the earth is that of ‘continental drift,’ or the shifting of tectonic plates. By gauging the present rate of movement, then projecting this back to the point where all the continents were supposed to have been one large land mass, one gets a certain period of years.

It should be obvious such a calculation doesn’t take into account 8-foot hopscotches by entire islands. Even if one is generous and supposes the current rate of movement is more of an average, this is still making quite the assumption given the time periods allegedly involved.

As with Mount St. Helens thirty-plus years ago, we’re finding the earth can turn itself inside out with amazing rapidity. And that’s just a normal result of a creation cursed by sin and decay. Such glimpses should give us pause to wonder about the potential for catastrophe if the Creator removed even more of the common grace

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

That was no gentle rain that accumulated over forty days — it was, almost literally, all hell breaking loose from above and below. We were promised such a worldwide flood would never occur again and indeed, it hasn’t. But as noted yesterday, creation itself groans under the weight of corruption and sin. We are told that one day–no one knows the time–those ‘birth pains’ will reach a crescendo unlike anything ever seen, but that on the far side of that lies a renewal both of God’s people and His creation.

“Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”