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Make Babies, Not War


Help prevent slow-motion suicide by demography.


Ladies and gentlemen: Repopulate your future!

I grew up in a tight-knit and diverse neighborhood in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City. There were about 80 children under the age of 18 living in our neighborhood - yes, 80!

Some of my fondest memories are of afternoon-long games of cops-and-robbers, cream-the-carrier, and pick-up basketball at one of 3 strategically placed hoops. It was a neighborhood built around kids.

I'm the youngest of 8 children, so my family accounted for about 10% of the neighborhood's rapscallion population. There was the family down the street with 14 kids; our next-door neighbors had 8, another family had 6, and a bunch had 3 or 4 kids each. It was a great time and place to grow up.

Sadly, this type of neighborhood is a thing of the past. Today, children are routinely reduced to a line item in the family budget. Some fear there won't be enough of anything to go around, and it's therefore a bad idea to bring more children into the world. Some believe we need to limit the size of families to ensure adequate resources for the future. (Thomas Malthus, call your office.)

Last week, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, attempted to justify the inclusion of millions of dollars for contraceptives in President Obama's stimulus package as a cost-cutting measure. (Please, no jokes about mixing "stimulus" with "contraceptives.") Pelosi's implication was that fewer children and a smaller population in the future would lead to reduced local, state and federal costs and a higher standard of living for those lucky enough to be born.

Think of it as the flip side of Malthus's forecast of catastrophe through demography: Riches flow from the empty cradle.

Pelosi has it exactly backward. Her policy would, in fact, destroy the future prosperity of our country.

If you doubt it, take a look at what's happening in Europe.

No country in Western Europe has a high enough fertility rate (2.1 children per family, according to demographers) to replace the current population. The United Nations says Germany, Russia, Spain, Poland and Italy have fertility rates of 1.3 children per couple. That's dangerously below replacement levels. Children are growing scarcer in Europe while the large and growing population of elderly is living longer than ever - and straining government at every level.

By 2050, the UN projects that more than 40% of Italy's population will be over the age of 60 while populations in 25 European nations will be lower than they are now: Russia will lose 31 million people; Italy, 7.2 million; Poland, 6.6 million; and Germany, 3.9 million.

So, Europe is growing older, shrinking, and strangling itself - a slow-motion suicide by demography. The economic fallout from this trend is terrifying. Will a shrinking population of young workers support an ever-increasing retired population, especially one that needs (and demands) higher levels of medical care? The short answer: It's politically unlikely - and financially impossible.

As every parent knows, there's more to children than line items.

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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