Peak Child

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Who's going to pay for social security?

Ars Technica has an interesting article about a recent conference in Germany that asked, what are the biggest challenges for global health? The conferees picked out "peak child" as a major one. As Ars Technica reports: 

The majority of the world's nations now look very much like the industrialized world, with small family sizes and life expectancies of around 70 years and up. Many of them, however, have gotten there without the sort of economic growth that preceded a graying population in the industrialized world. As a result, one of the big challenges in global health is now caring for an older population on a low budget.

The trends were driven home by the Karolinska Institute's Hans Rosling, who relied on graphs that can be created using a site called Gapminder.org. These track various demographic features of most of the world's nations, such as life expectancy, GDP per capita, etc. The plots can be rolled forward and backward in time, and individual countries can be traced as changes occur. Rosling used a series of these graphs to demonstrate a number of points about the trends that have taken place over the past century.

Rosling started with a plot of family size vs. life expectancy; in the 1960s, the industrial world occupied the upper-left corner of the graphs below, with small families and longer life expectancies. Track forward to today, and all but a few African countries (many of which are suffering from HIV epidemics) have made their way to the upper left of the graph. Now, as he pointed out, Bangladesh is where Germany was in the 1960s. For adults, the greatest risk of death is in traffic accidents; for children, it's drowning. "The world has gotten better," Rosling declared. "It's bullshit to say otherwise."

The net result is that we reached what he termed "peak child" in about 2005. The world used to be dominated by the population in the lowest age brackets. That's now starting to shift—with the biggest chunk of the population now being in adolescence. The world isn't getting gray just yet, but, as Rosling put it, "we now just have adult population growth."

But that's going to pose some significant challenges, since Bangladesh hasn't tracked Germany exactly. If you plot life expectancy against GDP/capita, you'll see that Bangladesh's growing life expectancy hasn't been paralleled by economic growth. Similar things are happening all over the globe; Vietnam now has a life expectancy that US had during Vietnam war, but its purchasing power is where the US was during its Civil War. "We've never had a point in our history where countries have modern life expectancy illnesses without the income to support treatments," Rosling concluded.

This isn't to say that diseases related to abject poverty weren't a problem; there are certainly areas of the globe with failed governments or persistent poverty that don't have the basic nutrition and sanitation to see these sorts of extended life expectancies. But, in general, those have become the exceptions.

The whole article is well worth reading. 

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  1. The answer to this problem is better care for the elderly and longer more productive lives. If people are healthy and can work up into their 80s or 90s, then the lack of young workers isn’t such a problem. The lack of young people is only a problem if you have millions of old people who are not productive.

    1. Problem is, a lot of the gains to lifespans haven’t translated to gains in healthspan. Productive years have increased, to be sure, but not nearly to the extent that living years have.

      A lot of what we’ve gotten are several more years of doddering along on medication holding various cancers at bay for longer than they used to.

      1. But as the article above points out, growing life expectancy hasn’t been paralleled by economic growth. Countries that can’t afford the massive drug subsidies and various healthcare solutions for aging seniors will simply have to let them die off. China is going to be in a serious bind as their demographic imbalance progresses and their economic prosperity fails to keep up.

        The results may end up lowering life expectancy at some point, never mind quality of life for seniors.

        1. I read John’s post as more of an abstract conversation about the problems of an aging populace, so I was talking more about 1st world countries; I address the poor countries aspect of it below.

          In short, I agreed with you; they’ll just die off.

          1. What’s interesting is the overall population trends are not necessarily a steady curve. WWII and subsequent boomer generation created a population spike that was completely unprecedented over te last few hundred years. The resulting demographic shift, and the failure of 1st world countries to retain a full fertility replacement rate is already creating economic holes that can’t just be papered over by innovation and technology.

      2. I think this is why singulatarian projects such as the Methuselah Foundation are imperative for a libertarian future. If you can cure aging, you can do away with the idea of retirement and pension plans.

        1. I doubt it. Just look at how many healthy 68 year old Americans who demand social security and retirement.

          1. You mean 62.

      3. Too few people smoke anymore, leading to long and boring old age.

        1. Phillip Morris tried but Czechoslovakia wouldn’t listen.

      4. That is where we have failed. We I think with technology we will get better in the future.

    2. Personally I would rather die than work into my 80s. I can barely stand a full time job at 40.

    1. Definitely robots. We could call these cybernetic persons Cysons or something like that. What could go wrong?

      1. I see a good movie here.

  2. So they’ll get old, and since they can’t afford treatments for old-age illnesses, they’ll die, and the problem takes care of itself.

    Unless Tony and his ilk step in and demand that we tax ourselves into oblivion, because allowing anyone to die of natural causes when it could have otherwise been prevented is murder. Or something along those lines.

    1. You, sir, are a monster. A monster!

    2. Unless Tony and his ilk step in and demand that we tax ourselves into oblivion

      Society starts off free, and being free it creates wealth. As wealth is created, those who use force figure out ways to take it. As this happens the society becomes progressively less free and less able to create wealth. At some point more wealth is confiscated than created. We could call this “Peak Wealth”. From then on it’s a downward glide until there is no wealth left to consume and nobody creating it, at which point society implodes.

      1. Don’t be silly. We can always just print more money!

      2. Society started off with women second class citizens and blacks not even considered human. It most certainly did not start “free” for most people. Quite the contrary; we’re more free now than at any point in our history.

        1. I’m talking about economic freedom.

    3. We’ll keep raising taxes until there is no more death.

      1. Just make it illegal.
        Laws are magic.

  3. As efficiencies increase, less people will be needed to do work. 40 years ago, my position had a secretary and an assistant under it.

    As for not having children around to pay for social programs… I give that the same weight I give to the plantation owner’s lament that his field slaves aren’t breeding enough children for him to sell.

    1. I find all the handwringing about too few children pretty annoying as well. People get to decide for themselves how many children to have. It should never be a political topic or a matter of policy.

    2. 40 years ago, my position had a secretary and an assistant under it.

      Would that position be missionary by any chance?

      1. Reverse-reverse sideways cowgirl.

          1. Basically, but you have to factor in a three towels and pleasure swing rated for 600 lbs.

            1. Only 600? So it’s just for you?

    3. When Suge posts

      my position had a secretary and an assistant under it

      I get a totally different (and NSFW!) mental image. Why do you suppose that is?

      1. Because I am Lord Vile of The Reasonlands. My banner is Warty’s mutant penis and my words are: Life is too short to drink shitty beer.

    4. As for not having children around to pay for social programs… I give that the same weight I give to the plantation owner’s lament that his field slaves aren’t breeding enough children for him to sell.

      I agree. Hey, socialist assholes: My kids are not your retirement plan.

  4. I kind of feel bad about the schadenfreude I am experiencing about the prospect of the entitlement-transfer pyramid scheme collapsing from the bottom up.

    But not that bad.

    1. If you can’t experience anything but schadenfreude, come sit by me.

      The idea that the only economy that can ever exist, the only economy that will ever be available to us — is a jury-rigged robbery of the youngsters to buy diapers and Hoverounds for the oldsters, and this is why we must all breedbreedBREED — has always been a completely risible and ignorant view to me.

  5. I work in a field where almost no one retires. It’s horrible. Horrible.

    1. Walmart greeter or librarian?

      1. When I have to work out on the front desk, the two merge.

        1. Won’t they let you work out in the “workout” room? That’s horrible!

    2. Because everyone has diabeetus and dies before retirement age?

      I keed, I keed!

      1. We have one that is blind in one eye, has no toes and is missing half of a foot, and had a heart attack a month ago. She is coming back to work next Monday.

        1. We have one that is blind in one eye, has no toes and is missing half of a foot, and had a heart attack a month ago.

          Being from Kentucky originally myself, I believe that this woman is 35 years old.

        2. She may be coming back.

          I doubt it is to work though.

        3. This so sounds like a setup for a bad joke.

          Hey, what’s your thoughts or experiences on law librarianship as a career? Any?

          1. It’s hard to get a job as a law librarian without a JD. Not because it’s necessary, but because everyone you are competing with has one as well. But I, personally, don’t see a future in it. Technology is empowering paralegals to do the same work on the cheap in the private sector, and the law school libraries are as shaky as the rest of university librarianship.

            As for the bad joke part…

            There was a discussion about throwing a welcome back party for her. In the planning, someone suggested getting an ice cream cake. I muttered to my co-worker “Do they not know uncontrolled diabetes is what gave her the heart attack, or do they just not care?”

            1. Hmm. I was curious for someone else, so I’ll be sure to pass it along.

            2. My sister worked in a law library for…mmnm…10, 15 years in New Yawk. MS in “Lie Berry Science”. She got a PhD and now teaches in Bahston.

              Yeah, she’s a Mega Team Blue Lifetime member. We still drink together…

        4. Is her name Eileen?

          1. The worst part is… years ago, when I was a student worker, she tried to have me fired for not being sufficiently deferential to one of her student workers. My boss laughed in her face.

            1. Were you making fun of her leaning to the side due to missing half her foot by calling her Eileen?

              1. I don’t get it.

                1. Does she have a paraplegic boyfriend named Skip who is fond of water skiing?

                  1. We’re not close. I don’t know the names of any of her boyfriends.

                    1. Eileen … pronounced “I lean” … missing half a foot …

                      Paraplegic … water skiing … Skip skip.. skip.. skip…

                2. Because she leans….

                  1. I vote that SugarFree is playing with you, cause if I caught that right away, SugarFree was already six steps ahead of me, cause he’s MUCH better than I with teh WERDZ and stuff.

                    1. Don’t rain on my parade, dude.

                    2. “I vote that SugarFree is playing with you”

                      I hope so.

    3. honestly SF, were those old awful librarians any better when they were young?

      1. Probably. It’s not really just personality, it’s the technology gap. Most of them refuse to learn anything new. And they consider anyone younger than them to be tech support. Imagine having to explain how to program the TiVo to three dozen of your grandmothers. Hateful grandmothers. At least once a week.

        We have one that prints out every email he gets. Every email. Even spam.

        1. Wow. You can’t make people up like that.

        2. I believe it.
          I support an electronic document management system for the government that is supposed to reduce paper use.
          The first thing the customer does when they bring a document up on the screen is print it.

    4. Old anus models never retire, they die of disease.

  6. I’m sure I could help solve the “Peak Child” problem if they’d allow me to do some offshore drilling.

    1. Nicely done, sir.

  7. “We’ve never had a point in our history where countries have modern life expectancy illnesses without the income to support treatments,” Rosling concluded.

    Man-up and die, people. Man-up and die.

    1. they would if they truly knew what end-of-life care can entail.

      1. That’s why I say it. I have seen close-up just how horrific and sensless it is.

        $40,000 so someone can throw up clotted black gut juice for another three weeks.

        Follow the money.

    2. This statement is incomprehensible. We always have income to support treatments up until the point we die.

      Is people dying AFTER they run out of money worse than people dying BEFORE they run out of money?

      In what way are “modern life expectancy illnesses” different from older “life expectancy illnesses”? Don’t they just happen later now?

  8. No way, I don’t think so Reason, you’re not getting me to type “Peak Child” into google. Why don’t you just cut to the chase and send me a Big Bear High School Yearbook?

    1. That’s “peek child”, BT. Just get a job with the TSA for that kind of thing.

  9. “Run, Runner, Run!”

  10. It’s not fun to parody the Malthusians when they just take it as a compliment.

  11. Many of them, however, have gotten there without the sort of economic growth that preceded a graying population in the industrialized world. As a result, one of the big challenges in global health is now caring for an older population on a low budget.

    That’s because the elderly in question spent their lives under governments that suppressed economic activity. They had decades to change those governments or move, and they did not do either. I see their fate as a feature, not a bug.

    1. If you were a libertarian you’d see those people as slaves to an unjust system of coercion. And seeing as you were born into a system where criticizing your government puts you at zero risk of death or dismemberment, I’d say your comment is a bit of a joke.

  12. The world used to be dominated by the population in the lowest age brackets. That’s now starting to shift?with the biggest chunk of the population now being in adolescence.

    Does this mean we can expect a generation of neo-hippies?

  13. Wait, so now economic growth is good? I thought it was the source of all things evil.

    Color me confused.

    1. RACIST!

  14. Wait, if we are hitting peak child, who is going to pay off all the generational debt that we incur?

    1. A wealth tax.

    2. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      Oh, yonemoto! Good one!

    3. Don’t worry, progressives say that taking all of this will save us.

  15. The best part about living forever will be the compound interest.

  16. I have been wondering about funding work with poverty and hve begun to conclude that wht is required is a global tax policy.

    http://transremaxculver.wordpr…..l-economy/

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