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The Indefinite Article.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

De Population

We are all very familiar with the exponentional growth of the Earth's population, and we see in the the monthly extension of suburbs and strip malls a sprawling confirmation of the fact that this, our small world, is getting more and more crowded.

And that is why it is so strange to read reports such as this about the de-population crisis faced by Industrialized nations.

As the article points out, the United States is alone among industrialized nations in that its population is expected to grow over the next few decades. This is seen as an incredible advantage over other industrialized nations, especially those of Western Europe, whose social programs are under increasing strain as the population ages, and the tax base shrinks.

When I was in France last year there was a considerable amount of debate of how to deal with this crisis. The government is faced with a complex problem that has no easy solution. It is clear to policy makers, for example, that the government managed pension program cannot continue in its present form- there simply will not be eneough people paying into the program to fund all the retirees who are supported by it. But proposed changes to the program spark widespread outrage by the increasingly large percentage of the population that is approaching retirement. Immigration reform is another necessity, but French society is already straining, as evidenced by the resurgence of extreme-right political groups, to cope with the assimiliation of Europe's largest immigrant population.

I think that this population crisis is an incredibly serious challenge to the stability of Europe and to the world. How will it play out? Will the societies of Europe be capable of coping with the challenges to their identity that the inevitable influx of immigrants will pose? Will folks be willing to give up social services and programs that their parents were provided? What is the ambien air-velocity of an unladen sparrow? Etc.


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