Population implosion

The world’s  population reportedly hit 7 billion yesterday.  But, according to the Washington Post, the problem is not a population explosion but a population implosion:

The United Nations has declared that the human population will hit 7 billion Monday, and an expanding percentage of those people are in the market for reading glasses.

The aging of the human race has been faster than anyone could have imagined a few decades ago. Fertility rates have plunged globally; simultaneously, life spans have increased. The result is a re-contoured age graph: The pyramid, once with a tiny number of old folks at the peak and a broad foundation of children, is inverting. In wealthy countries, the graph already has a pronounced middle-age spread.

This is, in many respects, very good news. Longer life is a blessing of modern medicine and improvements in nutrition. Lower fertility rates have corresponded to more educational opportunities for women and greater prosperity for societies in general.

But the unexpectedly abrupt demographic transition has created economic upheaval. For the countries that hit the fertility brakes the hardest, the graying of society has become a full-blown crisis. They’re suddenly desperate for babies. They need more workers to provide goods and services to huge numbers of pensioners.

The fertility rate in Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and many other nations is less than 1.5 children per woman, dramatically lower than the “replacement” rate of 2.1 children (the extra 0.1 accounts for children who do not survive to adulthood). Japan (fertility rate 1.4) is already the oldest country in the history of the world; South Korea (1.2) is not far behind. China (1.5) is racing to get rich before it becomes old.

In far better shape demographically is the United States, with a fertility rate just slightly below replacement level. Immigration boosts the workforce. But the baby-boom generation is storming the higher age brackets; the number of Americans 60 to 64 jumped from 11 million to 17 million in the most recent census. When Social Security was established in 1935, life expectancy in the United States was just under 62 years at birth. Today, it is 78 and rising.

The precipitous drop in fertility in many nations caught demographers by surprise, said Linda Waite, director of the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. No one realized until relatively recently that fertility rates would keep dropping even when women began having fewer than two children, she said.

“It’s sort of a head slap,” Waite said. “It wasn’t even talked about. It was more an unspoken assumption that fertility would fall to replacement and then stabilize.”

“There are many countries, more all the time, that are going to be looking at a population implosion, rather than a population explosion,” said Matthew Connelly, a Columbia University professor of history and the author of “Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population.” . . .

That raises a philosophical question: Is a baby primarily a future consumer of precious resources on an already overstressed planet, or primarily a future producer of goods and services that sustain an economy — one with a growing cohort of people past their working years?The answer in many aging countries is emphatic: Babies wanted. Pro-natalist policies — government-funded child care, tax breaks, cash payments for additional births — have proliferated in many European countries.

via World population not only grows, but grows old – The Washington Post.

 

And the winner is. . .

Interesting discussions about “Manliness” in that contest we started last weekend.  As was noted in the thread, many of the virtues that were put forward could also apply to women.  Perhaps they apply to men, though,  in a distinctive way, but that way is what we are trying to get at.   There were lots of thoughtful comments.  I appreciated especially things said by sg, SKPeterson, Kirk.  I liked Helen’s point that “man” is not only the opposite of “woman,” it is also the opposite of “boy.”   Many males just never grow up, which is part of our problem today. That was the point too of that great Kipling poem.

Helen also got off a line that deserves to become a classic, in responding to FWS’s interesting comments about Adam & Eve and the curses we suffer, while trying to mitigate them.  Helen said, of Adam and Eve, respectively:  “He got the weeds.  She got him.”

But here are the runners up and the winner:

4.  Tyler (#49), with his close reading of a line from Homer’s Odyssey, quoting Telemakhos on his father Odysseus.  Both classical and apt.

3.  JunkerGeorge (#77), me being a sucker for all of those literary references, which culminated in what Pilate said of Christ:   “Ecce Homo.”  Behold the Man.   So that when we want to see what a man is, we need to behold Christ.

2. Abby (#59), with her moving and perceptive tribute to her late husband.

AND THE WINNER of  The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood (a book that would probably be good for all of us to read, so many are the confusions about the issue, so you can click on the link to buy it here) IS:

1. Joe (#35):

Seriously, I think manliness is nothing more than attempting to faithfully fulfilling your vocation as son, husband, father, etc. God has given to all men many vocations but certain of them can only be fulfilled by a man – attempting to fulfill these vocations is manliness.

As my students have learned (including those who worked on that book), whenever I ask them something that they don’t know the answer to (“What is this poem about?”  “What is the theme of this novel?”  “How can Christians influence the culture?”  “What’s the relation between faith and good works?” etc., etc.), a good guess that will be correct most of the time is “Vocation.”

But “seriously,” as Joe says, I think he nails it.  The two sentences are short, but unpack them and we’ll discover all kinds of things about manliness.  Indeed, this is basically the approach the book takes, with chapters about men at work, at the specialized calling of war, with women, with children, as citizen, with God.  Maybe my students had an influence on Mr. Bennett in the methodology of the book!  At any rate, please join me in congratulating Joe.

(If you want and if this didn’t make those of you who lost too angry, maybe we’ll have more contests like this!)

Manliness: A Contest

One of my former students, Nathan Martin, had worked with Reagan culture czar Bill Bennett on his sequel to The Book of Virtues, a collection of classic and contemporary readings entitled  The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.

It explores the traits and virtues of manhood, some arguably lost in our feminized and gender-neutral age, using stories, poems, and reflections from authors ranging from Homer and Shakespeare to Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.  (Luther even makes an appearance!)  The book is divided into chapters  dealing with Man at War; Man at Work; Man in Sports, Play, & Leisure; Man in the Polis; Man with Woman and Children; Man in Prayer and Reflection.

The Acknowledgements credit not only Nathan but also a slew of other Patrick Henry College products:  Christopher Beach, Olivia Linde, Brian Dutze, Shane Ayers, and David Carver.  That’s virtually the whole research team, drawing on their background in the Great Books, their perceptive thinking about these issues,  and their writing and editing skills.  So I’m very proud of them.

Nathan is also a fan of this blog (you might also recognize some of those other names as occasional commenters) and of the discussions that we have here.   He sent me two copies of the book, one for me and one to give away on my blog.

So I will celebrate my birthday Hobbit style:  Instead of getting a present, I will give a present.  Well, actually I’m not giving it; Nathan is.  And it won’t really be a gift.  Unlike God, I am making you earn it.   I’d like to start one of our famous discussions.  And the person deemed to have made the best comment will receive the free book.  (I haven’t quite determined how this will be decided yet.  Maybe it will be obvious.  Maybe we’ll vote on it.)  The comments, for the purposes of the contest, will be closed at midnight Eastern time on Sunday.

So here is the topic for discussion:  What is “manliness” in your thinking and in your experience?

I’d like to hear from women (what are the masculine traits that you look for in a man?) and men (when did you have to “act like a man,” and what did that entail?), and from people in various stages of life (boys, youth, husbands, fathers, and old guys like I have now become).

By the way, if you don’t want to hold out for a free book, you can buy one by clicking the links.

 

Divorce without marriage

As the number of co-habiting couples skyrockets, a new legal problem has come to the fore:   What to do when the couples split up?  From an article in the Washington Post:

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 39 percent of Americans think marriage is becoming obsolete. But it still takes a marriage (or some other legally binding agreement) to get a divorce. And as the number of couples choosing to live together rather than marry has increased drastically, so have the spats over their splits. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that almost half of its 1,600 members are seeing an increase in court battles between cohabiting couples. Nearly 40 percent of those lawyers said they’ve seen an increase in demand for cohabitation agreements — the equivalent of a prenup, sans wedding ring.

“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” Luxenberg says. “People don’t have rights unless they have the title — their name is on a piece of property or a bank account or something like that.”

Luxenberg recalls one client who lived with her partner for 20 years. They’d had a child and built a home together. The woman’s income was about $50,000, Luxenberg says, and her boyfriend’s was “six or seven times that.” When the couple split, the woman hired Luxenberg to see what recourse she had. The answer: not much.

There would be child support, “but she didn’t get any of his pension benefits or any of his profit sharing. And she wasn’t going to get alimony,” Luxenberg says. “I don’t think people think about those kinds of issues.” . . .

A recent census report found that 7.5 million heterosexual couples lived together in 2010, up 13 percent from 2009. The report suggests that some of the shift may be attributed to the economy — more couples than in the previous year reported at least one party being unemployed. (An Onion TV headline put it this way: “Nation’s Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: ‘Let’s Move In Together.’ ”)

The numbers have been climbing over the past decade as cohabitation has become more socially acceptable.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, an organization that promotes marriage, worries about the effect this has on children.

The good news, he says, is that divorces among parents with children have returned to levels not seen since the 1960s. Of couples who married in the early 1960s, 23 percent divorced before their first child turned 10. The rate peaked at slightly more than 27 percent in the late 1970s. By the mid-1990s, the rate dropped to just above 23 percent.

But a recent report Wilcox wrote, titled “Why Marriage Matters,” concludes that American families are less stable overall, in large part because couples are choosing cohabitation over marriage. Today, 24 percent of U.S. children are born to cohabiting couples, according to the report, and an additional 20 percent will live in a cohabiting household at some point in their childhood.

And 65 percent of children born to cohabiting parents will experience a parental breakup by the time they turn 12, compared with 24 percent of kids born to married parents.

“The more commitment people have to a relationship, typically the better they’ll do, the happier they are,” Wilson says.

This generation’s preference for cohabitation, he adds, may be a backlash against their parents’ propensity for divorce. But not getting married doesn’t protect couples who live together from heartache when the relationship falls apart.

The article goes on to give a number of sad stories.  But isn’t the point of just living together instead of getting married so that no one gets “tied down”?  Don’t a lot of people avoid getting married precisely so as to free themselves from the cost of divorce, alimony, sharing of assets, and the like?   If a couple isn’t married, what claim can they possibly have on each other’s property?   I don’t see how cohabiting couples have any grounds for complaining.  Of course the relationship isn’t permanent.  Of course you don’t have any kind of legal ties.  I thought that was the point!

Maybe we could restore the time-honored option of common law marriage.  If you live together for longer than a specified time, then you are married, whether you have a ceremony or whether you want to be or not, with all of the rights and responsibilities thereof!

HT:  Frank Sonnek

Marriage that expires

Now that we can remake humanity’s most basic institution at will, or so we think, we can come up with all kinds of improvements.  Mexico City is considering marriage licenses that have an expiration date.

Leftists in the city’s assembly – who have already riled conservatives by legalising gay marriage – proposed a reform to the civil code this week that would allow couples to decide on the length of their commitment, opting out of a lifetime.

The minimum marriage contract would be for two years and could be renewed if the couple stays happy. The contracts would include provisions on how children and property would be handled if the couple splits.

“The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends,” said Leonel Luna, the Mexico City assemblyman who co-authored the bill.

“You wouldn’t have to go through the tortuous process of divorce,” said Mr Luna, from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has the most seats in the 66-member chamber.

Mr Luna says the proposed law is gaining support and he expects a vote by the end of this year.

via Mexico City proposes temporary marriage licences – Telegraph.

This in one of the most Roman Catholic countries in the world, though with a government tradition of anti-clericalism.  If this passes and catches on, it would mean that marriage need not be between a man and a woman but that it is no longer, even in principle, a permanent relationship.  Cohabitation would replace marriage.

More bogus divorce statistics

We all have heard that the divorce rate is higher in the so-called Bible Belt states than elsewhere.  Also that the divorce rate in conservative “red” states is higher than in liberal “blue” states.  But now Australian Mark Richardson has taken a closer look at those statistics:

In August of this year, the US Census Bureau released a report on divorce rates in the different states of America. It was widely reported in the media that people were more likely to divorce in the Bible Belt states than in the liberal northeast.

At the time I accepted the statistics. I believed that people in the northeast were less likely to marry as teenagers and more likely to have higher incomes and higher education and that this explained the difference. . . .

But then I came across another statistic, namely that 28% of those divorced identified as conservative, 33% as moderate and 37% as liberal. It didn’t make sense. If those in the liberal states have the lowest rate of divorce, then why do those who identify as liberal have a much higher rate of divorce?

So I went back to the original source. And to my surprise I found that the divorce statistics had been misrepresented in most of the mainstream media. It turns out that what was being compared was the number of divorces per 1000 people in each state rather than the number of divorces per 1000 married couples:

Rates throughout this report count the marital events reported in the past 12 months per 1,000 men or women in the population 15 and older. (p.2)

That wouldn’t be significant if roughly the same number of people got married in each US state. But that’s not the case. There is a much lower rate of marriage in the liberal north-east of the US:

…the states with the lowest marriage rates for men in 2009 tended to be in the Northeast. Maine and New Jersey were among the states with low marriage rates with 13.5 and 14.8 marriages per 1,000 men. Maine and New Jersey also had low marriage rates per 1,000 women, with 12.2 and 13.3 marriages, respectively. (p.4)

…Twelve of the thirteen states where men had marriage rates below the U.S. average were located east of the Mississippi River. (p.5)

In comparison, a state like Wyoming had a marriage rate of 28.7 – that’s more than double the rate in Maine.

So you might expect states with a higher rate of marriage to also have a higher rate of divorce. And that’s how a representative of the Census Bureau explained the statistics:

Divorce rates tend to be higher in the South because marriage rates are also higher in the South,” said Diana Elliott, a family demographer at the Census Bureau. “In contrast, in the Northeast, first marriages tend to be delayed and the marriage rates are lower, meaning there are also fewer divorces.”

That is the key quote. The demographer responsible for the statistics is explaining in the plainest of English why the divorce rate is lower in the north-east. It is because in the liberal north-east people are less likely to be married in the first place.

via Oz Conservative: Do liberal states in the US really have lower divorce rates?.

HT: Joe Carter


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