The Population Dud: Paul Ehrlich, Call Your Office, by Issues and Insights

The population bomb never exploded and blew up the world like Paul Erhlich predicted it would. From the Issues and Insights Editorial Board at issuesinsights.com:

Newborn babies, once common, are increasingly rare as fertility rates fall. Photo: Image by James Timothy Peters from Pixabay, under Pixabay license (https://pixabay.com/service/license/).

There’s an old saying among economists, demographers, actuaries and sociologists: “Demographics is destiny.” If that’s true, and it certainly appears to be, America could be in very big trouble.

Back in 1970, leftist Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich warned in his sensationalist book, “The Population Bomb,” that overpopulation would lead to mass starvation and the depletion of our natural resources. As we all know, it didn’t happen.

Indeed, natural resources have never been more abundant, based on prices we pay, as the late economist Julian Simon predicted in making a very public1980 wager with Ehrlich about the future. Virtually every measurable form of pollution has fallen sharply in the intervening years. And billions of people were pulled out of poverty, all during a time of strong population growth.

In short, Ehrlich and his legions of doomsday followers couldn’t have been more wrong.

In fact, the real problem we face today is exactly the opposite: People in the U.S. are no longer having enough babies. That fertility decline shows in a dramatic slowdown in population growth. And no, don’t blame COVID-19 for that.

The Centers for Disease Control just this month reported that U.S. birth rates fell in 2020 for the sixth straight year, dropping below the population replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman to just 1.64 children per woman. American women had just 3.6 million babies last year, the fewest since 1979, when we had 110 million fewer people.

Over the last decade, the U.S. population grew just 7.4%, the smallest gain since the Great Depression. If current declining fertility trends stay in place, that small gain will soon turn into an actual population loss.

Of course, many Americans on the left, in particular global warming extremists and green activists, welcome a shrinking population. They see humanity as a plague, not a gift or a blessing.

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