Demographic Doom
Why the World is Falling Apart

A Philosophy Project by Glenn Campbell

The page below is no longer maintained but is retained for whatever value it may contain.

Glossary of Doom
Essential Population Concepts Explained

Definitions on this Page:
A: antinatalism · assimilation
B: baby bonus · Baby Boom · Baby Boom echo · David Benatar · birth control · birth rate
C: child-parent ratio
D: Darwinism · democratic age distortion · demographic-economic paradox · demographic-education paradox · demographic-success paradox · demographic dividend · demographic momentum · demographic transition · demographic trap · Demographic Winter · demography · dependency ratio · dependent · depopulation conspiracy theory
E: embedded growth obligation · Paul Ehrlich · eugenics
F: feedback loop · fertility · fertility trap · free-range parenting
G: government budget deficit · Grand Hotel Syndrome · Great Reversal
I: Idiocracy · immigrant phobia · immigration · inequality of place
L: little emperor
M: Malthusian dilemma · marginal cost · marriage · Medicare · migration · Millennials · modern monetary theory · modular family
N: natural birth control · Neolithic Revolution · nuclear family
O: One-Child Policy · one-way door · overparenting
P: pensions crisis · population ageing · Population Bomb · population explosion · population implosion · population pyramid · Population Research Institute · Population Reference Bureau · positive feedback loop
R: refugees · replacement fertility
S: Social Security · sovereign debt · Soylent Green · space colony
T: talent flight · tribal parenting
V: vanity economy
Below is a glossary of terms for demography and economic collapse, in alphabetical order. This list includes both generally accepted terms and ones that I have invented myself (as noted below term). All definitions are my own and may include an element of opinion that others may not agree with.

Where an Instagram link is given, this is a video of less than one minute on the Demographic Doom Instagram feed, usually excerpted from a third-party video. If a YouTube link is given, this is usually a short third-party video explaining the term and its implications.

THIS PAGE IS NO LONGER MAINTAINED. It was active between March and April 2019. As the number of terms grew, putting them all on a single page became awkward. Instead, I am now adding new definitions to the DD Blog. As each new term is added, it is announced with a Twitter post, you can see all of these new posts via the Twitter hashtags #ddoom_definition for any term appropriate for this glossary and #ddoom_mynewterm for my own original terms.

Glossary terms below will not be revised, but the definitions on the blog can be.

—Glenn Campbell
A philosophy asserting that bringing children into the world is morally wrong. There are many arguments in support of this philosophy, but the most interesting{my opinion} is the idea that in producing a child, you are creating a world of potential suffering that did not have to happen. For example, if you make a child and they suffer from a debilitating and painful disease, you are responsible for that misfortune in the same way that you are responsible for injuries if you drive drunk and cause an accident. If your child turns out fine, it does not absolve you of the enormous risks you took in having them.

If antinatalists had their way, no one would have children ever again and humanity would eventually vanish. To counter this position, you need to believe that humanity has some intrinsic value that is worth preserving in spite of the risks.

Indian man suing parents for giving birth to him  
Wikipedia: AntinatalismNatalismDavid Benatar  
Instagram video: Colbert on Indian man suing parents
Youtube Search: antinatalism
The process of integrating new immigrants into a country's existing culture. If immigrants are not assimilated, they tend to form isolated enclaves of their home culture (say, in the suburbs of Paris) where they interact only with other ex-patriots. These enclaves are generally more impoverished than the country at large and may import the problems of the old country into the new one. They may also generate tensions with the native population, which sees their country being "overrun" by people who are not like them.

While a country in need of workers can theoretically open its gates to immigration and admit large numbers of new citizens, assimilation is slow process and places practical limits to how many immigrants can be admitted. If immigration happens too fast, there is a risk that voters may become frustrated and elect politicians who want to ban all immigration. See immigrant phobia.

Wikipedia: Cultural assimilationAcculturation  
baby bonus
A monetary incentive offered by a government to try to induce its citizens to have more babies. For example, the Russian government offers US$9000 to couples for each child after the first. Such a reward can take the form of cash payments or tax breaks, like a lifetime tax amnesty offered by Hungary's government. A baby bonus is different than pro-natalist services like subsidized child care and free health insurance, which are not paid directly to the parents.

Cash-strapped governments like Russia prefer baby bonuses because they are less expensive than government-sponsored family services. These governments typically claim their program is successful, but it is impossible to judge this claim scientifically because there is no control group (parents not offered the bonus). Parents who would have a second child anyway are happy to collect the money, but it isn't clear that the offer changed their minds. If a cash reward like this did change someone's mind, one would wonder if they are having another child for the right reasons. For example, a drug addict might have another child just for the $9000 bonus and neglect the child thereafter.

Such inducements are destined to fail because no cash reward the government can offer can compensate for the huge costs and risks of child rearing. Even in Russia, a one-time $9000 payment is trivial compared to the 20-year cost of raising a child.

Wikipedia: Baby bonus  
Instagram video: Seth Meyers on Hungary's baby bonus · Singapore baby bonus - official video
Baby Boom
baby boom
A temporary period of high birth rates (lowercase), or specifically the post-war Baby Boom in the United States (uppercase).

The U.S. Baby Boom has a clear start date—1946—since it began as young males returned home from World War II in mid-1945. They married their sweethearts, and nine month later babies started popping out. The end date is less clear, but it roughly coincides with the legalization of the birth control pill in the early 1960s. The generally-accepted final year of the boom is 1964.

Usage Notes:{my opinion}

  • In this project, "baby boom" in lowercase refers to a birth spurt in any country while "Baby Boom" in uppercase usually refers to the U.S. post-war Baby Boom from 1946 to roughly 1964.
  • To qualify as a (lowercase) baby boom, the high-birth period must be preceded by a low birth period. For example, we wouldn't normally say Niger is experiencing a baby boom, because its birth rates have been high for decades and haven't fallen. Instead, it is experiencing an ongoing population explosion. The United States, however, experienced low fertility during the Great Depression and WWII
Wikipedia: Baby boomMid-twentieth century baby boomBaby boomers  

Baby Boom echo
A period in the 1970s and 1980s when the total number of births in the USA was relatively high. This was not due to high fertility, which had already fallen to around replacement fertility, but because there were so many women in their childbearing years, thanks to the Baby Boom.
Google Search: baby boom echo
David Benatar
The best-known living antinatalism proponent. Among other quirks, he refuses to have his photo taken.
The Case for Not Being Born  
Wikipedia: David Benatar  
Youtube Search: David Benatar
birth control
Any of many deliberate methods intended to prevent human procreation. These methods can include abstinence, condoms, the birth control pill, and natural birth control. While most birth control methods allow people to have sex without producing babies, the term can also encompass not having sex at all (abstinence) or timing sex to minimize the chance of conception.
Wikipedia: Birth control  
birth rate
A statistical measure of how many babies are born in a community in a given year. Usually expressed in births per 1000 people. For example, if 1000 babies are born each year in a city of 50,000, the birth rate is 20 per 1000.

{my opinion}Birth rate is subtly different than fertility, which is expressed as the number of babies borne by the average woman in her lifetime. Birth rate is more precise, since it can be directly calculated from hospital and census records, but it is also more opaque. Is "20 per 1000" a good number or a bad one? It is hard to tell without more information. Fertility, on the other hand, is more speculative. It takes into account the proportion of females in the community and the age at which they give birth. As long as census and hospital records are correct, birth rate is never wrong, but fertility can be, since it makes assumptions about the future and requires a complex methodology to calculate.Birth rate can be expressed with great precision, like 22.32 per 1000, but I regard it as false precision to express fertility with more than one decimal place. In this project, I may refer to "birth rate" as a shorthand for fertility, but I never give a number, because none of my readers will know what it means. While I do give numbers for fertility, I try to qualify them as approximate. I say that Japan has a fertility rate of "roughly 1.3", because various sources list it as anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4. The only important thing is that Japan's fertility is "substantially below replacement fertility" and has been so for many decades.

Wikipedia: Birth rate  

child-parent ratio
(my term)
The ratio of children to adult caregivers in a family, school or daycare. For example, in a household with 3 children and two parents where only one parent works, the parenting ratio is 3 during the day when only one parent is on duty and 1.5 at night when both are on duty. A classroom with 10-30 children and one teach has a very high child-parent ratio, at least while class is in session. This is a more efficient use of adult resources, even if it means each child gets less attention.

A low child-parent often leads to overparenting.

Definition announced on Twitter  
The evolutionary theory espoused by Charles Darwin.

Some would argue that humanity is getting "dumber" because in the modern world, the least intelligent are most likely to reproduce. While this may in fact be true, strict Darwinism does not apply.{my opinion} To change the genetic make-up of humanity, there would have to be a near-extinction event in which all the smart people were killed off. As it stands, the smart people are still alive and breeding with other smart people, just not at the same rate as dumb people.

A better concept is trait dilution: The traits that make people more successful in society are being diluted by less-functional traits. See demographic-economic paradox

Wikipedia: DarwinismSocial DarwinismIdiocracy  
democratic age distortion
(my term)

age polarization
A fundamental flaw in democracy that allocates more power to the elderly, who will soon be leaving the world, than to children, who will be occupying it for much longer. One problem is that the elderly can vote, right up until the time of death, while children under 18 cannot. Retired people are also more likely to vote than younger adults, having more time to get to the polls. This distortion means that old people will invariably vote to preserve their pensions and other benefits at the expense of education and the health of future generations.
Term announced on Twitter (paradox)  
demographic-economic paradox
The accepted observation by demographers that in the modern world economic success is inversely related to fertility. In short, the wealthier you are compared to the rest of your society, the fewer children you are likely to have. This is a reversal of the condition during most of human history when the wealthy tended to be more successful in producing surviving offspring, since they could offer better resources like more nutritious food and better physical protection.

Also see demographic-education distortion.

Wikipedia: Income and fertility  
demographic-education paradox
(my term)
The observation, in virtually all cultures, that fertility tends to be inversely related to the years of formal education experiences by the mother. For example, a woman with little or no formal education is likely to bear more children than a woman who has learned to read and write. Likewise, a woman with advanced degrees and training, like a PhD or medical license, is likely to have fewer children than one with only a college diploma.

While this seems like a paradox at first, it makes practical sense, because when a woman is in school, she inclined to put off childbirth until after her studies are completed. Delaying childbirth has the net effect of reducing fertility, since by the time an educated woman is ready to have children, her remaining reproductive years may be limited.

"Demographic-education paradox" is my own term modeled after demographic-education paradox. It is encompassed by the demographic-success paradox.

Google Search: fertility and education
demographic-success paradox
(my term)
The broad observation that the more successful a person is—by whatever criteria you measure "success"—the less likely they are to have children. "Success" can be any measurable quality with positive and negative poles, including intelligence (as measured by standardized tests), education (as measured by years of schooling), income (in comparison to other members of ones society), artistic accomplishment (as rated by critics), scientific accomplishment (as measured by the number of papers published), etc. No matter what the field may be, if a person is rated as "successful", they will probably have fewer children than those who are "unsuccessful".

Part of the explanation for this observed phenomenon is that people who have devoted themselves intensely to one field tend to have less time for children.

"Demographic-success paradox" is my own term modeled after demographic-economic paradox and encompassing the demographic-education paradox.

demographic dividend
The multi-decade period after a country's birth rate falls from high to low, when there are a large number of active workers and relatively few dependents (children and old people). Since there are many taxpayers and consumers and relatively few people using government services, the society may experience temporary prosperity. The prosperity ends when the workers from the early high-birth period finally retire, when they shift from being taxpayers to tax consumers.

For example, the children of the Baby Boom began joining the workforce in large numbers around the mid-1967 (when the first of them turned 21). The period from 1967 to 2011, when the first Baby Boomers retired, could be called America's demographic dividend. Since birth rates fell after the mid-1960s, there weren't many children to support, and because the Great Depression and WWII were low-birth periods, there weren't many seniors. Economically, it was the best of all possible worlds.

Other countries experienced their dividend at different times. For example, China's birth rate did not fall until the early 1980s. Thanks to its One-Child Policy following a high-birth period, China had a huge workforce and relatively few children and old people. This gave China its main advantage in the world economy: a vast and cheap labor force. That benefit is ending around the present day (2019) as the workers from the high-birth period prior to the One-Child Policy begin to withdraw from the workforce. With a looming shortage of workers and growing demands of seniors, the "China Economic Miracle" may be coming to an end.

Demographers naively talk about "harnessing" the demographic dividend.{my opinion} They see it as an opportunity for a society to use its extra resources to invest in its future. Unfortunately, the dividend is more likely to generate a temporary spurt of superfluous wealth, where both governments and individuals spend their extra income on unnecessary luxuries. During the dividend, everything seems to be growing, and most people caught up in it believe the prosperity will go on forever. This leads them to incur huge debts on the assumption that growth will continue. When economic growth inevitable slows and reverses due to a shrinking workforce and growing number of seniors, these debts become unpayable.

Wikipedia: Demographic dividend  

demographic momentum
population momentum
The decades-long delay between a change in birth rates and a corresponding change in total population. Most commonly refers to the case where national fertility falls below replacement fertility but does not result in an immediate loss of population, but it can also work in the other direction: If population is falling but birth rates rise above replacement level, it may take decades before total population starts to climb again. Example: Japan's fertility has been below replacement since the 1970s, but the population did not peak until 2010.

Excluding migration, two things can account for a growing population while birth rates are below replacement: (1) Greater longevity of old people (which was the major factor in Japan), and (2) an excess of fertile women from an earlier high-birth period. Although their individual fertility may be low, the number of mothers is high, so there are a lot of infants. The latter occurred in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s during the Baby Boom echo. Fertility was low, but there were a lot of mothers from the Baby Boom.

Wikipedia: Population momentum  

demographic transition
Theory that societies go through a predictable series of population stages as they achieve modernity.
Wikipedia: Demographic transition  
demographic trap
A largely discredited theory that suggests high population growth can be self-reinforcing and remain high indefinitely. Used to justify continued belief in a population explosion. Not to be confused with a fertility trap, which asserts the opposite, that low fertility is self-reinforcing.
Wikipedia: Demographic trap  
Demographic Winter
Title of a 2008 2-part video series on falling fertility.

I wish I had thought of the term "demographic winter" first, since it nicely describes the coming demographic Dark Age. Although I highly recommend the videos, I feel like there is a hidden religious agenda. The only reason you would want babies, the video seems to suggest, is because God commands you to.

Google Search: demographic winter

The statistical study of populations. Demography is mainly concerned with human populations, but it can also be applied to populations of any living thing or inanimate objects with a limited lifespan.

Demography is the most predictable of the social sciences because it is dealing mainly with human bodies and is making only a few basic assumptions about their behavior. While much about the future is unknowable, demography can predict with great precision how many people will be entering or leaving the workforce two decades from now, because those people are already alive and countable. If two countries go to war a decade from now, demography can at least predict the maximum number of young men will be available for military duty.

Wikipedia: Demography  
dependency ratio
The ratio of dependents to the working-age population. Dependents include both children and the elderly, who either can't work or aren't expected to. Dependents are consumers of government services while paying little in taxes. If either group becomes too large, the working-age population may have difficulty supporting them.
Wikipedia: Dependency ratio  

A person who can't take care of themselves and who relies on others for support. Includes children, the elderly and the disabled.
depopulation conspiracy theory
One of numerous theories espoused by conspiracy believers suggesting that fertility is being deliberately suppressed in certain nations and communities by an elite controlling group. One theory, for example, insists that the elites are trying to annihilate the White race.
My YouTube Playlist of Population Conspiracy Videos  
CDC Data on Declining US Fertility Rate Is Being Used by White Nationalists - The Inverse  
Depopulation conspiracy theory - RationalWiki  
Wikipedia: White genocide conspiracy theory  
embedded growth obligation
(2019.04.21) The inherent assumption of infinite growth in many business models, as defined by economist Eric Weinstein: "If it doesn't grow at this rate, it's going to turn pathological."
Instagram video: Eric Weinstein defines the term.
Paul Ehrlich
Author of The Population Bomb.
Wikipedia: Paul R. Ehrlich  
The attempt to improve the genetic quality of a human population through selective breeding or direction genetic manipulation.

Eugenics has a sordid history, since those who practiced it tended to equate genetic quality with racial purity. Eugenics programs in the past have focused on eliminating "inferior" groups rather than breeding better ones.

Wikipedia: EugenicsEugenics in the United StatesDysgenics  
feedback loop
The condition where a change in a system is routed back to form an input into the same system. There are two kinds of feedback loops: positive feedback loop and negative feedback loop
Wikipedia: Feedback  
total fertility rate
fertility rate
The average number of children borne by the average woman in a given community over course of her life. Fertility is specified by a decimal number, like 1.3 for a nation like Japan that isn't producing enough babies to 7.2 for a nation like Niger that is producing far too many.

The total fertility rate is a snapshot of a past period of time—the previous year at best. It is calculated by adding up all the births of women at each age during that period. It doesn't take into the account the possibility that young women today may behave differently in the future than older women do today. Since there are many subtleties and uncertainties in measuring fertility, it is senseless to attempt additional precision beyond a single decimal place (1.4 but not 1.437). Note: In this project, all fertility rates are approximate. Japan, for example, has been variously estimated to have a fertility rate anywhere between 1.2 and 1.4, depending on the source. What is most important for our purposes is whether the fertility of a community is above or below replacement fertility (2.1) — by how much and for how long. Regardless of the exact number, no one would dispute that Japan has had substantially below-replacement fertility for many decades, which is sufficient for our analysis.

Fertility rate is subtly different than birth rate. See that entry for discussion.

Fertility Rates by Country  
Wikipedia: Total fertility rate  
fertility trap
low fertility trap
The idea that once fertility falls below a certain level, it is difficult or impossible to reverse. Not to be confused with a demographic trap, which asserts the opposite, that high fertility is likely to persist.
Low Fertility Trap  
The Low-Fertility Trap  
The Low-Fertility Trap Hypothesis: Forces that May Lead to Further Postponement and Fewer Births in Europe  
free-range parenting
A parenting style where children are given wide latitude to go where they wish and manage their own activities. The opposite of overparenting.
Free-Range Kids website  
Wikipedia: Free-range parenting  

government budget deficit
The annual gap between the amount of money a government collects in taxes and the money it spends on programs. A consistent budget deficit leads to growing sovereign debt.
Wikipedia: Government budget balance  
Grand Hotel Syndrome
(my term)
A phenomenon where elite cities within a country continue to grow even as the total population of the country stabilizes and falls, like a failing hotel that keeps its most profitable wings open while closing off the less popular ones. The Grand Hotel Syndrome can give its residents and visitors the illusion that the whole country is still growing, but the remaining citizens and activity are increasingly concentrated in a small area.

Imagine a grand hotel of a bygone era. It has 500 rooms, and in its heyday, it filled every one of them. As the hotel loses popularity and the number of guests dwindles, the hotel's management closes off the least population floors and wings of the hotel. The hotel once had three restaurants, but now it has only two. If you check into the hotel today, it still seems crowded, but this is only because your wing and the restaurants you visit remain well-patronized. You don't see the wings and restaurant that have been closed, because you have no reason to go there. You don't miss these regions, because they were never very popular anyway.

The same thing happens when a country loses total population. The remaining young people move to one or two big cities where the opportunities are best. This is how greater Tokyo can still be growing even as the total population of Japan is shrinking.

The only problem with the Grand Hotel is that whole hotel still exists and still has to be maintained so it doesn't fall to ruin. Over time, it is less efficient than a new hotel built to house only the actual number of guests.

the Great Reversal
(my term)
A massive economic worldwide collapse caused by the end of the demographic dividend. Governments, corporations and individuals with unsustainable debts will be forced to default on them, leading to widespread financial failure. It is impossible to say exactly when the collapse will happen, where it will start or how it will unfold. The only sure thing is that government debt cannot grow indefinitely. Sooner or later, some event must occur to neutralize it.

The Great Reversal is a delayed consequence of the post-war Baby Boom, the high birth period from 1946 to roughly 1964. Although birth rates came down in the 1960s and 1970s, the "Boomers" continued to power economic activity for the rest of the 20th Century and into the 21st. During this period, the U.S. had a big workforce and few dependents. Beginning in 2011, this happy circumstance started to wane, as the Boomers began retiring. Now, the U.S. government is facing huge costs in servicing the Baby Boomers, even as they stop paying taxes.

During the demographic dividend, politicians and average citizens came to assume that economic growth would go on forever, and they borrowed money based on this assumption. Now that the workforce is on the verge of shrinking, the debt can never be repaid and will eventually end in default. The Great Reversal is the mechanism by which the debt is wiped out. Unfortunately, governments and financial institutions may be wiped out as well.

A 2005 comedy movie expressing the idea that humans are becoming genetically stupid. A man of "average" intelligence in the present day is placed in suspended animation. When he awakes up 500 years from now, he finds he is the smartest human in the world. Search YouTube for clips and full movie.
Wikipedia: Idiocracy  

immigrant phobia
(my term)
A backlash by native-born citizens against the arrival of new immigrants, who are seen as corrupting their culture and taking their jobs.

Under ideal circumstances, a government will admit only immigrants with job skills the country needs who can go to work immediately and generate tax revenue. Unfortunately, natives see immigrants doing better than they are and accuse them of stealing their jobs. At election time, these natives are likely to vote against immigration, even if the country needs it to survive. Good examples are Hungary under Victor Orban or the United States under Donald Trump.

Wikipedia: White backlash  
The voluntary acceptance by a country of new permanent citizens born in other countries. (Guest workers and temporary refugees do not count.) If a country's fertility has fallen below replacement fertility for an extended period, immigration is the only way for the country to maintain its population in the long run.

The term "immigration" is migration seen from the receiving country's perspective, but there is another side of the equation: For every immigrant moving to a new country, a home country is losing a piece of its human capital. The home country has paid for part of the individual's upbringing and education, but it can no long recoup its investment through taxes on the adult. While immigration is generally good for the receiving country, it can be seen as a theft of talent from the donor.

Wikipedia: Immigration  
inequality of place
Term used by Robert Reich to refer to the flight of talent out of rural areas in USA to large cities on the East and West coasts.
little emperor
little emperor syndrome
Phenomenon of the spoiled only child resulting from China's One-Child Policy. When one child becomes the focus of both his parents' and grandparents' attention, he or she may have an unreasonable sense of entitlement that the real world can never fulfill.

More broadly, little emperors suffer from overparenting, where parents overprotect and over-manage their children's lives, leading to the children being unprepared for independence when they reach adulthood.

Wikipedia: Little Emperor SyndromeSnowflake (slang)  

Malthusian dilemma
Theory proposed by Thomas Malthus that population will always grow to absorb all of the food resources available. According to this theory, it is useless to feed the hungry, because they will only increase in numbers and eventually outstrip the additional food supply.

While this theory is fairly accurate for animals—say, pigeons—it utterly fails for humans who have access to birth control. In the human world, an abundance of resources seems to have the opposite effect, reducing the desire to produce children.

Wikipedia: Malthusian catastropheThomas Robert Malthus  
marginal cost
(2019.04.21) In economics, the marginal cost is the cost of producing a single unit of a product after fixed costs have been covered. For example if you build a factory to produced widgets, the fixed cost is the cost of the factory and its basic operating expenses. The marginal cost is how much each widget costs thereafter (for the raw materials, labor, energy, packaging and other requirements for each widget). One of the main goals of industry is to reduce the marginal cost whenever possible. In the software industry, the marginal cost is very low, since it costs little to copy and distribute a computer file. In the auto industry, the marginal cost is high, since so many raw materials and outside parts are going into it.

The concept of marginal cost can be applied to the family. In the traditional nuclear family, the marginal cost—or the cost of raising each child—tends to be very high for the first child and lower for subsequent children. For the first baby, you have to buy all the baby clothes and equipment new, while subsequent children can use hand-me-downs. For the first child, you also have to create a suitable home for raising a child, while for subsequent children, the home already exists.

Marginal cost also applies to the knowledge and effort of raising a child. For the first child, parents are obsessed about doing things right, and there's a risk that they could overdo it. With subsequent children, the parents are more relaxed, and their parenting activities are more efficient.

The trouble with the nuclear family is that when the marginal costs drop to their lowest level, say with the 3rd child, the parents quit having children and their gains in marginal cost are lost.

Defined on Twitter  
The 2014 Jeremy Rifkin video that got me thinking about marginal cost.  
An emotional, legal and economic contract joining two people together, ostensibly for life.

In modern legal systems, marriage is not a parenting contract, since it does not affect parental rights or obligations. If you produced the gametes that made the child, you are bear the same responsibility for their upbringing regardless of your marital status.

My Book: "The Case Against Marriage"  
Wikipedia: Marriage  
A government-run health insurance program in the United States that provides free health care to all U.S. citizens over the age of 65. Although the U.S. does not provide free health insurance for all, as most developed countries do, it does provide free health care during the single most expensive part of life: the dying phase. Medicare faces the same financial stresses as Social Security: as more workers retire and start drawing on these benefits, there are not enough active workers to support them.

Medicare should not be confused with Medicaid, which is a government insurance program for low-income people below the age of 65.

Medicare pays only about 80% of the costs of medical care, which can still leave ruinous hospital bills. To cover the other 20%, retirees often buy "gap insurance" from private insurers, which addressed the medical bills not paid by Medicare.

As new lifesaving medicines and medical techniques are invented, lives will be extended, but greater cost to the Medicare system. If medical advances keep people alive for five years longer, this means five more years of medical expenses billed to Medicare. Like Social Security, Medicare is effectively a pay-as-you go system. As the Baby Boomers retire and the workforce shrinks, the Medicare system will become insolvent.

Wikipedia: Medicare (United States)  
The movement of people across borders and with the internal regions of single countries. The flow tends to go in one direction only: from the poorer and less stable areas to better ones. This makes the poor regions poorer and the rich regions richer. Within a country, people tend to move from rural areas to the city, making rural areas the first places to empty out during a population implosion. See the Grand Hotel Syndrome.

I interpret "migration" to include refugees, illegal immigrants and guest workers not granted permanent citizenship, in contrast to immigration, which implies the receiving country's permission.

According to demographers, migration is motivated by two factors: "push" and "pull". Pull is when people are drawn to a new region by better opportunities. Even though their life back home was good, they believe their life in the new region will be even better. Push is when people are forced out of their home region by intolerable conditions, including war, famine, corruption and political persecution. People motivated by pull tend to be talented and ambitious{my opinion}, while those driven by pull would have preferred to stay at home if they could.

Wikipedia: International migration  
Generation Y
A vaguely defined generational term referring to those who came of age around the turn of the 21st Century. Generally refers to anyone born in the 1980s and 1990s. Contrast with the U.S. Baby Boom generation, which has a clearly defined start date, 1946, and an end date roughly coinciding with the public adoption of the birth control pill in the mid-1960s. For the Millennial generation, there is no clear markers.
Wikipedia: Millennials  
modern monetary theory
Deficits Don't Matter
A theory that "Deficits don't matter." The government can spend as much as it wants, the thinking goes, because it can print more money to pay its bills and can carry debts indefinitely. The theory is supported by some politicians but is generally dismissed by economists and experienced investors.
Wikipedia: Modern Monetary Theory  
Instagram video: CNN's Chris Cillizza explains Modern Monetary Theory · Laurence Fink dismisses MMT as "garbage"

"Pro" position

"Con" position
modular family
(my term)
A deliberately created family unit consisting of approximately 20 children of mixed ages and parentage living under one roof. The modular unit is supported by a wide network of adults, but only one on-duty adult is required to directly supervise the group. The aim is to raise a large number of children in a healthy emotional environment while making optimal use of adult resources. Compare to the nuclear family, where 1-4 children are raised by 1-2 adults.

The practical benefit of modular families is that the child-parent ratio is high: Only one adult needs to be on duty at any time. With 20 children in the family, older children care for younger one and teach them basic skills. A large family like this may be healthier for the children than a nuclear family, since they have a rich variety of relationships and must learn from their earliest years to work within a group and negotiate with others. They are also less likely to experience the crippling effects of overparenting.

"Modular parenting" is my own original term, invented on 9 March 2019. It could be replaced by a different term if I find a better one.

I have chosen 18-20 as the optimal number of children in the modular family because it allows for one child at each age, from infants to 18-year-olds, while at the same time achieving an economy of scale where one on-duty adult can supervise all of them. Having only one child at each age means there is a clear hierarchy, with older children having greater status and responsibility. If there were more than one child at each age, I suspect there would be too much competition between them, and one of them would invariably monopolize most of the attention of older and younger children.

In the modular family, the children themselves are a captive labor force. Every child who is old enough to do so is caring for younger children. Collectively, they are changing diapers, bathing babies, cleaning house and preparing meals, with only management supervision from the one on-duty adult. Being the adult parent is a professional responsibility, rewarded by the community like any other job. The group needs an adult to provide a stable leadership presence, but when things are running well, the children are doing most of the work of maintaining the household.

The children themselves don't see it as work because they have been indoctrinated into this culture from birth. They understand that their job is caring for the group, especially those who are younger than them. Talking baby-talk to a baby is essential for their language development, but you don't need to be an adult to do it; any 8-year-old can do it just as effectively. The modular family harnesses the natural inclination of older kids to supervise younger kids. It gives them a feeling of power, so it doesn't seem like work at all. Furthermore, by teaching basic skills to a younger child, the older child is consolidating his or her own knowledge. Maybe someone else teaches you the ABC's, but what really reinforces them is you teaching them to someone else.

The modular family occupies a single stable location—a "house" with a name that the children take as a badge of identity. (Think of Gryffindor and Slytherin in the Harry Potter series, but in this house every age is represented.) The relationships formed in this house are permanent. The people you grew up with will always be your brothers and sisters, and you know you can always go to them for help and support. The modular family is a permanent institution with a stable population. As older children age out of the house and move into the larger community, new infants are brought in. It is in some sense a "child factory", but potentially a warm, healthy and enjoyable one.

There are many questions raised by this structure, to be addressed elsewhere in this project. Questions include:

  • Where do the babies come from?
  • Who provides the family's financial support?
  • What is the structure of the community that supports this family?
  • Is there a place for traditional classroom learning?
  • What is the place of technology in this family?
  • What is the culture these children are raised in?
This term announced on Twitter  

Term announced in my video in March 2019.

This entry was replaced on 9 July 20019 by a Revised Version on the blog.

natural birth control
the rhythm method
natural family planning
Method of birth control in which sex takes place only during the phase in a woman's menstrual cycle when conception is least likely to occur. Tends to be promoted by religious organizations that oppose artificial methods of birth control. Has a high failure rate compared to other forms. Advocated by pro-life groups like the Population Research Institute and the Catholic Church. Traditionally, this is the only birth control method approved by the Catholic Church.
Wikipedia: Calendar-based contraceptive methods  
Instagram video: Catholic position on birth control and family planning

"Pro" video from Population Research Institute

My re-edit of a Catholic video
Neolithic Revolution
The human transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled agriculture. In the Western world, this transition took place about 10,000 years ago and set the stage for modern civilizations.
Wikipedia: Neolithic Revolution  
nuclear family
The traditional child-rearing unit of a mother, a father and one or more children. Recent modifications in progressive societies have allowed parents of the same gender, but two parents is still considered "normal".

The nuclear family is not the only way to raise children. In pre-agricultural societies, the basic "family" unit was a band or tribe. (See tribal parenting.) Children were raised more communally, with female members of a tribe taking responsibility for the tribe's children as others collected food. In other words, a tribe can probably take responsibility for its children as well as two adults can, as long as the tribe isn't too large.

Wikipedia: Nuclear familyTribe  

My video on the failure of the nuclear family
One-Child Policy
A past government policy in China in which urban couples were limited to one child between them. In effect 1978 through 2016. Although now abandoned, the One-Child Policy has effectively trained parents to want only one, since this is the way they were raised.
Wikipedia: One-child policy  
the one-way door
(my term)
The idea that once fertility starts to fall, it can never be reversed.

My term based on a 2015 lecture by Professor Chris Whitty, excerpted in the Instagram link below. He mentions it only in passing, but I have seized it as a useful label for the essential problem of fertility. Sometime in the future, some group of humans is going to go back through the one-way door, or humanity will vanish.

Instagram video: Chris Whitty mentions the one-way door.
helicopter parents
snowplow parenting
overparenting The phenomenon in the modern world of children receiving too much attention and protection from their parents, leading to their difficulty standing on their own later in life. The natural result of overparenting is a little emperor. Overparenting tends to take place when there is a low child-parent ratio, as with an only child. It is not usually a risk in large families, where parental attention is limited and the siblings must learn to share, negotiate and manage their own activities.
New York Times: How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood  
Wikipedia: Helicopter parent  
pensions crisis
The global problem of underfunded pension systems, including both public and private programs. Encompasses Social Security.
Wikipedia: Pensions crisis  
population ageing
The rise in the average age of members of a nation or community, usually due to low birth rates. Population ageing is not subject to the delays of demographic momentum. In any year when birth rates are below replacement fertility, the population will age, even if the total population is not yet shrinking.
Wikipedia: Population ageing  
The Population Bomb
A 1968 book by Paul Ehrlich popularizing the idea of a population explosion.
The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation - Smithsonian Magazine  
Wikipedia: The Population Bomb  
population explosion
A condition where birth rates are consistently high over multiple generations and where total population is consistently expanding. Not to be confused with a baby boom, where the high-birth period was followed by a low-birth period. The term was popularized in the late 1960s by Paul Ehrlich's book The Population Bomb. Today, only a handful of countries can still be said to be "exploding", mainly in equatorial Africa.

Many countries that were experiencing an explosion in the 1960s have since fallen below replacement fertility, including China, Iran, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Other once-exploding countries are close behind, including India and Egypt.

Wikipedia: Population growth  
population implosion
(my term)

population decline
The accelerating loss of population due to persistently low birth rates. The population loss feeds on itself because low birth rates lead to a shortage of reproductive-age women decades later. The best current example of population implosion is Japan, where the population is already falling by hundreds of thousands every year. More importantly, there are relatively few women of childbearing age in Japan, so the loss can only accelerate.

The fact that implosion is a slow-moving disaster playing out over decades doesn't make it any less devastating, especially in countries like Japan that are traditionally closed to immigration. Japan's national debt has become the highest in the world in relation to GDP, and it can only get worse as its population ages.

Wikipedia: Population decline  
population pyramid
A common graphical representation of the population of a nation or community. The graph consists of a series of bars representing the population over a five-year age span. At the bottom are infants, age 0-4, and at the top are elderly people, eventually dwindling to negligible around age 100. Males are on the left and females are on the right. See these videos for discussion...
Wikipedia: Population pyramid  
Instagram video: Population Pyramids Explained by PRB

Population Research Institute
A pro-life advocacy group masquerading as a research organization. I found it amusing to go through their YouTube videos to find the obvious linguistic bias. Not to be confused with the Population Reference Bureau.
Wikipedia: Population Research Institute  
Population Reference Bureau
An academic think-tank dedicated to distributing academically sound information on population. Not to be confused with Population Research Institute. YouTube
YouTube Channel  
Wikipedia: Population Reference Bureau  

positive feedback loop
A condition where a change in a system is routed back in such a way as to accelerate those changes. In spite of its name, a positive feedback loop is rarely "positive". Instead it causes systems to collapse.
Wikipedia: Positive feedback  
People forced out of their home countries or regions by intolerable conditions, including war, poverty and persecution.

Countries that accept refugees tend to distinguish "economic refugees" fleeing poverty from "political" ones fleeing war or persecution. In practice, however, there is little difference between the two.{my opinion} All refugees are making the same calculation: "If I stay here, I'll die. If I go somewhere else, at least I have a chance."

Wikipedia: Refugee  
replacement fertility
The number of babies an average woman in a community must produce (fertility) to assure a stable population. In the developed world, this number is in the ballpark of 2.1 — one baby to replace the mother, one to replace the father and 0.1 to cover situations where the child doesn't live to maturity or the mother doesn't live to the normal end of her reproductive life. Replacement fertility can vary by location. In poor countries with poor health care, replacement fertility can be higher, like 2.5, due to high infant mortality.
Wikipedia: Sub-replacement fertility  
Instagram video: Replacement fertility

Social Security
A mandatory government pension system in the United States. Payments are automatically deducted from a worker's paycheck, and monthly payments are made back to them once they reach age 65. The payouts are dependent on the amount the worker pays in over the course of his career. Social security payments alone are not considered enough to live on, so most{?} U.S. workers also have independent pension plans.

In theory, Social Security is a "trust fund" independent of the rest of the U.S. government, but the only way the fund is allowed to invest its money is buying U.S. government securities. In effect, the Social Security system has loaned all of its money to the government, which has spent it as though it was tax income. This means that Social Security is essentially a pay-as-you-go system, where payouts to seniors are funded by taxes on current workers. This system worked during the demographic dividend era when there were plenty of workers and few retirees, but it is scheduled to become insolvent as the bulk of Baby Boomers retire.

In recent reports that the U.S. government has $22 trillion in debt (early 2019), roughly $2.7 trillion of the total is money the government owes the Social Security Trust Fund.

Other countries have similar government-sponsored pension systems and face similar financial stresses as their workforces shrink and growing numbers of people retire.

Wikipedia: Social Security (United States)Social Security Trust Fund  
sovereign debt
government debt
Debt incurred by a nation, usually through the sale of bonds. Sovereign debt tends to increase over time if there is a persistant government budget deficit.
Wikipedia: Government debt  
Soylent Green
A 1973 movie that depicted the overpopulated world of 2022, when people were so desperate for food that they turned to institutionalized cannibalism. Apparently based on the hysteria created by Paul Ehrlich. Needless to say, 2022 won't be quite like that. Dystopia is still possible, but not the overpopulated kind.
Wikipedia: Soylent Green  
space colony
A theoretical group of humans launched into space in the hope of settling on a new planet.
Passengers - A 2016 film based on this premise.  
Wikipedia: Space colonizationInterstellar arkGeneration ship  
talent flight
human capital flight
brain drain
The movement of talented migrants from one country or region to another, generally from poorer regions to wealthier ones.
Wikipedia: Human capital flight  
tribal parenting
(my term)

tribal family
My term for a method of child-rearing in which members of a tribe or kinship group care for children communally. This was presumably the method of child care in hunter-gatherer societies that preceded the Agricultural Revolution. The equivalent in modern societies might be daycare or kindergarten. Alternative to the nuclear family.
Term announced on Twitter  
vanity economy
(2019.04.18) A national economy based primarily on the buying of discretionary products and services, not substantially connected to survival, health or productivity. Such an economy indicatedgreat societal wealth, but it is also highly vulnerable in a downturn. If people lose their jobs or feel at risk of it, they can quickly curtail their nonessential purchases, leading to a worsening feedback loop. When people stop buying nonessential things, it leads to more layoffs and less spending, which in turn leads to more layoffs.

"Nonessential" products and services can includes fashion, restaurant meals, luxury cars, leisure travel, etc. "Essential" products and services include basic food, shelter and clothing, as well as medical services and a few productivity tolls like smartphones and computers.

Page Created: 1 March 2019

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