Saturday, August 02, 2008


One of the most remarkable cult movies, "Freaks" is now available to download. The image is small, but the whole film is there and watchable. It is a movie that would not be made today - deformed circus performers playing in a melodrama of love and betrayal among deformed circus performers. The melodrama is cheesy, but the freak angle is handled as respectfully as it could be. I had long read about this movie, and was glad to finally see it.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Abuse of Rank

The keynote speaker at the Sociological Imagination Group meeting in Boston this week is Robert Fuller, the former president of Oberlin and long-time social activist. He argues that the fundamental social problem at the root of all the other bad isms that we have been changing in modern societies is "rankism."

Fuller argues that there is nothing wrong with rank. The knee-jerk egalitarian movements that would throw out all functional hierarchies throw out the baby with the bath water. The real problem is the abuse of rank. Privileged people who use their rank to disrespect the dignity of those below them in the hierarchy do them an injury. Predictably, the injured resent, resist, and will do worse disrespect when they get the chance. Abuse of rank leads to a vicious social cycle.

Fuller told a story of walking along the street with this book, Somebodies and Nobodies. A woman saw the cover and called out "I ain't nobody." Fuller saw that she was drunk, in rags, living on the street. But she was not nobody. She asserted her dignity. But clearly she had been dissed as a human being often. And her next words were "That woman over there is a nobody."

Abuse of rank is rampant in all the divided political groups, insulting the intelligence and/or morality of Them. Fuller wants to promote a "dignitarian" consciousness.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

America is Doing Population Growth Right

The USA is the standout among industrialized populations. In the 1970s, our birthrate had drifted down to 1.7 kids per woman, as had happened in Europe. Europe kept going down, to the scary lows of 1.3 today. We, on the other hand, went back up. Currently the Total Fertility Rate of the United States is about 2.06 -- not quite replacement, but close.

In addition to having a respectable fertility rate, we do immigration right, as Ben Wattenberg writes in Fewer. We admit about 750,000 legal immigrants per year, and another quarter or half a million illegals. The illegal immigration is not, of course, "doing it right." Fixing that is a problem for another post. But the total number of immigrants we admit -- about a million a year, on a base of 300 million -- is a good number.

Alarmists claim we are being swamped by immigrants, but really we are absorbing the new Americans pretty well. Immigrants and their children make up a fifth of Americans today. In the 1920s, though, first and second generation immigrants made up a third of the U.S. population.

Immigrants have more kids than native-born Americans. Since our current TFR is a little low, this is a good thing. Yet the immigrants are not likely to bury the native-born demographically. Fertility rates fall to the national norm by the third generation. English speaking rises to national norms by the third generation. And intermarriage rates rise about 50% by the third generation for immigrants from Asia and Latin America.

The United States, alone among developed nations, is holding its population steady. It did so when world population was rising alarmingly, and is likely to do so now that world population may start to fall alarmingly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poor Country Population Decline

In the 1960s the Total Fertility Rate of the poor countries, the Third World in the terms of the day, was about 6 children per woman. Today, poor country fertility stands at 2.9. China has led the way with an aggressive one-child policy, which has pushed their TFR down to 1.8. India, with less coercion, has gone from about 5 children per woman down to 3, and falling. These are the world population leaders, the "population billionaires" as Ben Wattenberg calls them in Fewer. China and India have worked hardest to get control of their population growth as a matter of urgent national policy.

Yet many other developing nations have also seen their fertility drop dramatically. Brazil and Mexico have TFRs that are probably below the replacement level of 2.1. The rest of Latin America is not far behind. Several of the "-stans" of the former Soviet Union are down to replacement level. Black Africa is the standout in world fertility rates, but even there the TFRs are below their '60s peak. Moreover, because of AIDS and other endemic diseases, African mortality is actually increasing - the Malthusian dark side of population control.

Controlling poor country fertility is the single most important lever in controlling world population. Now that the rich countries are starting to grasp that their populations are likely to start falling, they look to the Third World for their future workers and parents. Yet if poor country populations drop, they will be sending fewer immigrants to the rich countries. Moreover, most poor countries are getting richer, especially the ones with more honest governments. This means that poor people who are willing to move to make a better life are more likely to move within their own country, rather than push on to a job-rich, population-poor country.

Monday, July 28, 2008

First-World Population Collapse

European fertility is down to 1.3 children per woman. That fact alone, if nothing else changes, means the population will be cut in half in two generations.

Fertility is not the only fact that determines population. People could have more babies. For Europe to maintain a stable population, the fertility rate would have to double right now. Think of every family you know. Their European equivalents would need to double their kids as quickly as possible. And the no-kid families - they need at least two right away. If the fertility rate changes by a tenth of a point in a decade that is big news. To double right away? Not gonna happen.

Perhaps many people could immigrate to Europe? Wattenberg, in Fewer, reports that the UN projected that Europe would need to increase its immigration rate 500% (and still up the birth rate a bit) to stay stable. Many European countries are already having riots about the immigrants they have. When the report came out with that helpful suggestion, the European Union told them never to write such a report again.

Things are no better in the Asian Tiger economies that have muscled into First World levels of development. Japan also has a 1.3 fertility rate, or worse, and they disdain immigrants even more than the Europeans do. South Korea is down to about 1.5. Singapore, 1.1. Macao, which is not a First World economy but is working on it, has the lowest Total Fertility Rate in the world: 1.0. One child per woman. For every two people now, only one will succeed them. That way lies social collapse.

The bright light in First World demography is the United States. With a fertility rate above 2 and immigration, legal and illegal, above 1 million per year, our population is likely to hold steady or even grow a bit by mid-century.