The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
New Plymouth, New Zealand
December 02
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at

OCTOBER 6, 2010 7:50PM

Dropping Fertility Rates: A Capitalist’s Worst Nightmare

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The most famous “involuntary” solution to population explosion is China’s infamous “one-child” policy, accompanied by mandatory abortion for women who conceive a second child. The main problem I see with such a policy in western democracies is achieving majority support for it. Without majority support, you have a privileged minority imposing its will on the rest of us (I am well aware this describes America’s current corporate controlled oligopoly, but that doesn’t make it right.).

I feel there it is fairer and more democratic to explore voluntary solutions first.  And that we start by examining the enormous drop in global fertility over the past four decades.

Why Are Global Fertility Rates Dropping?

The replacement fertility rate – the rate which keeps total population at the same level – is 2.1 children per women. When the fertility rate drops below 2.1, total population drops, unless augmented by immigration. In most of the industrial north, fertility rates hover between 1.1 – 1.4. Although rates are much higher in the developing world, they are dropping there as well. The fertility rate in the third world, 6.0 in 1972, had dropped to 2.9 in 2010.

Demographers attribute the drop in the developed world mainly to the massive entry of women into the workforce.  With availability, affordability and acceptability of reliable birth control measures – including abortion on demand – as an important secondary factor. The latter is the most likely explanation for variability in European countries (in France and Ireland fertility rates remain close to the replacement rate).

However fertility rates are also much lower in countries experiencing serious economic difficulties over the past two decades (Japan, Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy and Greece have been in and out of recession since the 1990s). The fertility rate in Japan is at the lower end at 1.21. In Eastern Europe, it hovers around 1.27. In the Soviet Union low fertility, combined with net out-migration is actually causing total population to decline.

Pressures Keeping Third World Populations High

Demographers have always blamed the combination of an agrarian economy with widespread chronic illness for high fertility rates in the third world. And point to the drop in birth rates accompanying the increasing urbanization of developing countries. The problem with tuberculosis, a major plague in the third world – as well as malaria, dengue fever, sleeping sickness and river blindness and other nasty tropical illnesses – is that they don’t necessarily kill you. It is fairly common for half the members of an extended family to be incapacitated (unable to work) by such illnesses for 20 years or more. Which in cultures reliant on subsistence farming, produces constant pressure to have more children to provide extra farm labor.

I also feel that the absence of any public pension policy in third world countries is an additional pressure.  Without it, parents have to ensure there are enough healthy children around to support them when they become too old to work.

Pressures Keeping First World Populations High

The best country to study in terms of first world population pressures is the US, which at 2.1, has the highest fertility rate in the developed world. In my mind the simple fact that America’s high fertility rate is viewed as a “success” in the eyes of corporate economists says it all (In fact, we are the envy of other western democracies, who are dying to know our secret.).

The problem with capitalism is that it only works well in a society with perpetual growth (see my recent article on capitalism, growth and stagnation:

And perpetual growth is only possible in cultures with robust population growth. Economists blame Japan’s continuing deflation on its low birth rate. And political leaders in Korea, which has a fertility rate of 1.08, are frantic that their county is headed down the same road – unless they can massively increase immigration or convince large numbers of women to have more babies.

To be continued, with a discussion of the corporate agenda to keep US birth rates high and how the government covertly encourages immigration (to maintain population).

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they say we're going to top out at about 16 billion. wish i believed them. there are way too many homo saps already.
As always, interesting facts and figures Dr Stuart. In order to ethically reduce the global population you would need first and foremost a Global pension necessitating a Global government. Their would have to be an end to first, second, and third worlds and every human life would be of equal value. This would involve a Quantum shift in the perception of those in power. The only way this shift could ever take place is through a program of ruthless eradication of excess wealth and I do mean ruthless. The merchants among us have to be taught, if necessary with extreme prejudice, that their ability to barter over cabbages in the market place entitles them to nothing except maybe an extra cabbage.
To answer the question about immigration: fertility rates are calculated by country - not globally. Any country with a fertility rate below 2.1 (the replacement rate) is under some pressure to allow liberal immigration to stimulate domestic demand - which in most countries comprises the majority of GDP.

And Jack, I do have some ideas about reducing population pressure (I acknowledge a global pension would be a pretty big ask) - actually enlarging on some stuff people are doing already. More about this on Sat.