The “greying” of the population in Western countries is a well-known phenomenon. The current demographic trend that sees Western women having an average of about 1.5 children each means that that the birthrate stays well below replacement level. With substantial improvements in medical care for the elderly, Western societies have become top-heavy with older people — geezers like me.
This situation is obviously one of the driving reasons for importing so many young and fecund foreigners from the Third World. It’s clear to long-term policy planners that the current welfare state cannot be sustained if the cohort of working-age people keeps shrinking while the geriatric cohort keeps ballooning. The importation of young foreigners is the only way to keep the system from crashing — or so the reasoning goes.
Nationalists who desire to preserve their country’s culture and genetic makeup routinely discuss the need to increase the birthrate, to make motherhood more socially fashionable — I can’t think of a better word — and less of a financial burden to families. In countries where nationalist parties control the government, such as Russia and Hungary, programs have been put in place to encourage and support childbearing, with an eye towards raising the fertility rate to the magic number of 2.1.
Even the most optimistic promoters of birth-encouragement, however, admit that achieving success will be a long and difficult process. And even if they enjoy such success right now — which doesn’t seem to be happening — the benefits won’t kick in for a full generation. Whereas the liabilities of a rapidly-aging population are kicking in right now.
Nevertheless, there is another, obvious way in which the demographic makeup of the population could be shifted. But no one really wants to talk about it — and with good reason.
The demographics of a population are controlled by two factors: the birth rate and the death rate. When either changes, the demographic balance shifts. Nudging the birthrate upwards is, as policy-makers have discovered, quite difficult. But nudging the death rate upwards would be quite easy, especially in a welfare state with a fully socialized medical system.
Do you think the policy wonks that manage socialized medical care haven’t noticed this alternative? I don’t — anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of statistics would be aware of it. But it’s not something that a clinician or social scientist would want to write about, nor would any medical journal want to publish about it.
Up until now the planners have preferred a less draconian solution to the problem of the greying of the population. The plan has been to import new workers from among the teeming hordes in the “developing countries” to replace the aging whites whose taxes have hitherto propped up the system. “New skin for the old ceremony,” as Leonard Cohen said.
But it’s not working out the way it was supposed to. Even Angela Merkel must have realized by now that the “New Germans” aren’t going to provide a sufficient economic base to replace the native German one. Not anytime soon, and maybe not ever, based on the way the second and third generations of culture-enrichers stubbornly cling to their low-skill welfare-parasite habits.
No, the system will eventually collapse if present trends continue. Even when London becomes the Dhaka of the West and Berlin morphs into Istanbul, the problem will remain: there won’t be enough working young people to pay for the old people.
And that’s when the policy planners will start looking at the other side of the ineluctable demographic equation. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that they’re already looking at it — quietly and discreetly, behind closed doors. How could they not be looking at it?
I’ll have more to say about the geriatric “final solution” to the demographic problem, but first let’s take a look at the statistics.
I recently ran across an excellent website called World Life Expectancy, which features well-designed graphical representations of demographic data for all the countries of the world, beginning in 1950 and projecting all the way up to 2050.
The site uses a graphing script to create a “population pyramid”, which shows the statistical breakdown of a population by age. Youngsters are at the bottom, geezers at the top; females on the
left right, males on the right left.
The traditional form of the pyramid is represented by the 2015 graph for Senegal:
Lots and lots of youngsters, very few old people, and a smoothly decreasing graph from the bottom to the top.
This is the sort of population that can, at least in theory, support socialized care for the elderly. Not many old people and lots of young ones: a modest tax on the youthful will suffice to support the senescent.
But for various reasons — among them the fact that the welfare state disincentivizes childbearing for all but the underclass — the population pyramid isn’t a pyramid at all for mature Western social democracies. Take a look at the USA in 2015:
You can see the Boomer Bulge up there at the top (that’s where I am). Down below is a second bulge for the children of the Boomers. And then below that it gets narrower.
Obviously, the American taxpayer is going to have to endure a much higher tax rate than the Senegalese do to support the geezers in their dotage.
But the USA is close to a best-case example of the fully-developed Western democracies. For something closer to worst-case, we need to look at Greece. Here it is in 1950:
This is not bad for supporting a full welfare state. It’s not quite a pyramid, but at least it’s similar to one.
Move ahead sixty-five years to 2015, however, and it looks completely different:
This isn’t a population pyramid, it’s a population minaret, minus the little crescent on the pointy top.
You don’t have to be an accredited statistician to deduce that a population shaped like this one can’t support a mature welfare state, with adequate pensions, housing, and medical care for the elderly. It just can’t. That’s why Greece is deep in debt to the European Central Bank, and getting deeper all the time. It would have to raise its retirement age to about 80 to right the ship of state, but it has great difficulty pushing the age past 60 — a lot of the riots in recent years have been about raising the retirement age or cutting pensions.
And every election just puts another batch of hard-core socialists in charge. So the system can’t be changed; it just becomes more and more sclerotic — fewer workers, higher unemployment, higher taxes, a degraded infrastructure, and total dependence on subsidies from Brussels.
Political change is all but impossible, so the system can’t do anything but collapse. Which it will unavoidably do, sooner or later.
Other Southern European states are in similar straits. The North will follow them later, with Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, being the last one to follow them over the cliff.
Keeping the Senegal pyramid in mind, look at this map showing the fertility rates of various countries around the globe:
That orange-red-magenta band across the middle of Africa is where the huge population surplus is being constantly generated. That’s what the long-time planners are importing into Europe in a vain attempt to save the sclerotic system.
Those countries are euphemistically said to be part of the “developing world”. The term came into fashion back when I was a kid. It was designed to make you think that all those teeming tropical backwaters were just late to the development game, but were now getting into the swing of it. Give them another few decades and they’d be just like us — factories and highways and skyscrapers and a thriving industrial economy that can support a modern welfare system like ours.
Well. It didn’t quite work out that way, did it?
Sixty years later they’re still teeming poverty-stricken tropical backwaters, only with millions upon millions more children to feed. The umpteen bazillion dollars the West has poured into Africa has just served to line the pockets of and build the mansions for the corrupt oligarchy that “govern” the place. Meanwhile well-meaning aid agencies supply food and medical care to keep all those poor babies alive. The local economy can’t afford them, but the incentives are there for parents to keep making them, so they do.
Senegal isn’t a “developing country”, it’s a baby-making factory. And if European policy-planners have their way, a large portion of those babies will eventually make their way to Europe to replace all those native Europeans who are dying off.
There’s only one problem with the whole scenario: when those babies turn into young adults and arrive in Europe, they don’t become productive workers, they go on the welfare rolls. Large numbers of them, a majority in some Western and Northern European countries.
The plan isn’t working. It can’t work. We have several decades of hard data now that demonstrate that it can’t work. But the leaders of the European Union don’t have a Plan B, so they just keep doubling down: more immigration, more “integration”, more welfare benefits. Because there isn’t any other option.
Almost ten years I wrote about these trends and their all but inevitable endgame in an essay called “Contemplating Geronticide”. In the decade since conditions have only worsened — an even older population, persistently low birthrates, and no sign that the “New Europeans” will ever supply the productive capital necessary to keep the system stable.
No political leader currently in power wants to implement radical change, because the unpredictable outcome of such a change might force him out of power. So nobody is willing to plan for anything but more of the same, more taxes, more welfare, more state control, on and on until the bus goes over the cliff.
We’ve moved beyond contemplating geronticide to managing it. Right now the management is quiet and unobtrusive, but it will eventually become more overt.
Here are two items from the possibilities I looked at back in 2008:
4. A gradual reduction in the quality of medical care for the elderly
State-financed health care, plagued as it is by chronic shortages, is already rationed in one form or another within the welfare states of Europe.
It would take just a small bureaucratic shift to push the rationed care away from old people, thereby hastening their demise and easing the burden on a highly stressed welfare system.
This is already happening. A de-facto triage of the elderly is in force in Britain’s National Health Service. The very old, especially those without children to make noise on their behalf, are being warehoused in appalling conditions and are dying in larger and larger numbers.
The policy of death-by-triage has recently become more overt, as the NHS proposes to deny surgery and other medical treatment to smokers and the obese, due to their lifestyle decisions.
Similar conditions have recently emerged in Sweden.
My next point:
5. The widespread increase of officially-sanctioned euthanasia.
The Dutch lead the world in euthanasia policy. They have already moved beyond voluntary to involuntary euthanasia, in which doctors and the children of elderly patients make the decision to put the old folks down.
It’s all ostensibly for the good of the patients and their families, of course. Quality of life and so on.
But it’s really for the good of the state, which needs old people to die off more rapidly so that the system can be maintained.
The politicians want to stay in power, so the system must be held together. Since the state is responsible for the general welfare, the state decides who must die. For the greater good, mind you.
The old and infirm have to be cleared out to make room for all those “youths” from Senegal.
I don’t have to tell you that this isn’t going to end well.
The system will obviously break down at some point. It can’t sustain itself indefinitely. It’s been very resilient so far, and the technocrats have managed it very shrewdly. A little more baling wire and duct tape, and they just might be able to keep the wheezing old junker running for another decade or two.
Most of the Boomers will probably manage to shuffle off this mortal coil while still drawing a generous pension. The brunt of the geronticide will probably be borne by subsequent generations. Even when the retirement age gets pushed past 70, medical advances will be able keep those retired geezers alive for a much longer time.
Those who have been triaged in, that is. The lucky ones.
The obese, the smokers, those who eat the wrong things — they may not be so lucky. Later it will have to become a simple lottery…
If I were a member of Generation X, I’d be seriously considering an alternative means of support for my old age.
And I would be doing my best to stay out of the government-run “health care” system.