The Demographic Cliff

In all the recent debates about U.S. fiscal policy, debt and threats of a fiscal cliff, an underlying problem has received little attention. “Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff,” Jonathan V. Last wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. “Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.”

Last coverThe article is an excerpt from Last’s new book that comes out today whose title says it all: What to Expect When No One’s Expectingbut the blurb for the book fills in some helpful details:

For years, we have been warned about the looming danger of overpopulation: people jostling for space on a planet that’s busting at the seams and running out of oil and food and land and everything else. It’s all bunk. The “population bomb” never exploded. What to Expect When No One’s Expecting explains why the population implosion happened and how it is remaking culture, the economy, and politics both at home and around the world.

We have enjoyed the writing Last has been doing on marriage and family for the Weekly Standard and were glad to see him write such a substantive book on the significant difference it makes when countries have fewer babies. What we especially appreciate is that Last is willing to describe the problem in great detail, but then also prescribe a way forward. And his prescription is simple:

In the face of this decline, the only thing that will preserve America’s place in the world is if all Americans—Democrats, Republicans, Hispanics, blacks, whites, Jews, Christians and atheists—decide to have more babies.

He goes on to to address a variety of cultural attitudes (such as our preoccupation with an exalted view of “happiness” that drives us away from procreation) and policies that should change (Social Security reform, college cost management, land management planning, etc.) in order to make it easier to welcome babies.