A recent Pew Research Center’s finding that the U.S. birthrate was at a historical low ignited a flurry of anxious alarms from various media intelligentsia. One New York Times writer warned that the declining birthrate could be the greatest threat to the nation’s long-term health, while another from the Washington Post pushed for more immigration to make up for the failing fertility rate.
Moralists blame the baby bust on decadent narcissism and the decline of religion in America. They scold that sex is practiced primarily for pleasure rather than for procreation. The arrantly religious believe that all of society’s ills can be cured with the bromide of bibliolatry, so we should be fruitful and multiply as God has directed.
So, how does a lower birth rate portend national disaster? The media morosophs worry that there will not be enough workers to fund Social Security benefits for the multitudes of aging Baby Boomers about to retire. This is so typical of the Baby Boom generation — the greediest generation — willing that the nation suffer the negative consequences of burgeoning population in order to secure their retirements.
Given the addled objectivity of the religiously devout, their view on the issues of human population is understandable. But why do otherwise reasonably intelligent people slip into an intellectual coma over issues of human population?
Even dullards can observe that most every problem plaguing mankind, every threat to human life and to all life, derives from or is exacerbated by an oversupply of people. Those who advocate for endless population growth cannot avoid the inescapable reality that not only is the earth finite, but also, and more imminently, that life-sustaining resources will be exhausted before there is no more space to put everyone.
And, don’t expect technological miracles to save us. We don’t do big things anymore like travel to the moon. We do smart-phone apps.
As we stuff the nation with more people, we suffer increasingly draconian restrictions on our lifestyles and on our freedom. There are ever more proscriptive and prohibitive laws limiting our choices, and dictating everything from where we can park and for how long to what kind of toilets and light bulbs we can buy.
As the population increases the cost of finite resources soar. Food, water and medicine will continue to become ever more expensive. Fresh water will be the first resource to dry up. In the new future, water could cost as much as good tequila.
By necessity, there will be more severe restrictions on any human activity that causes global warming. When Americans numbered 140 million, human generated effluvia was less problematic than it is now with the U.S. population exceeding 300 million.
Fruit flies may be nature’s most prolific procreators, but they at least have the decency to live short lives. As procreators, humans have been giving fruit flies a run for their money, but unlike fruit flies humans are living longer lives.
The increased life spans, however, are not necessarily accompanied by quality of life. The added years are accompanied by diminished health — pain, immobility, mental deterioration and intrusive artificial life support. Medical science has not reduced disability to the extent that it has increased life expectancy. On average, for every year we live over 50 we get only seven months of good health. In the decades after 50, that ratio gets worse.
Not surprising then that the greatest portion of health-care expenditures are made to treat and care for patients’ last months of life. In fact, 40 percent of Medicare expenditures are paid to cover the expenses of 5 percent of patients in the last weeks of their lives. This is threatening to bankrupt the nation. Medicare cannot cover the cost of treating an ever-growing population that has an increasing life expectancy.
I am not suggesting that we set grandma out on an ice floe, but every adult should have an advance directive that instructs caregivers when to pull the plug on life support. And, religious considerations notwithstanding, there is wisdom and compassion in allowing assisted suicide for anyone who desires to make the final exit. The fear is that allowing assisted suicide will result in hidden homicides. Yes, that could happen, but following that logic we would prohibit all kinds of medical treatment because some patients die from it.
Encouraging a continuing, limitless increase in human population is selfish and short-sighted. Before we throw away the birth-control pills and open the flood gates to immigration, let’s give some thought to the destructive repercussions of excessive population and to the quality of our lives and when to end them.