I've noticed a change in how Western Civilization is described recently. It's almost like some are gleeful that it's almost over. Why wait for tomorrow? Some write the glowing post-mortem today:
There is no reason a nation with a shrinking population cannot maintain steady rates of GDP per capita growth if mechanization and labour productivity gains keep up a good pace. Indeed, George Mason economist Robin Hanson argues that soon enough robots will be doing almost all the jobs [pdf] anyway. So it is easy enough to imagine a country that maintains a high standard of living as the population eventually shrinks to ... nothing. People differ rather vehemently on this issue, but I see nothing wrong with a population dwindling away entirely, as long as living conditions remain high. All individual lives come to an end, but they are not therefore worthless. Societies don't last forever either, and neither do nation-states. A society that fades away in high style might count as a spectacular human triumph, not a failure. Where's the underprovided public good in steady-growth population decline?Who cares about the Western world? Societies eventually die. If it dies in this generation, but dies in style, fantastic. The article was written by an economist calling into question the notion that children are a public good. Some aren't a public good, I'll grant him that. Neither are some economists.
I would like to suggest that the chances of Western Civilization going out in style are slim to none without military to protect it. Forget about breeding workers to feed the pensions. The wealthy and childless don't need a pension anyway. They have their money. Who cares about the dull-witted and poor? Tough bananas. They're going to die one way or another.
Actually, with a dwindling population, the rich and poor will likely die in the same way: at the point of a sword.
The Western world may be run by a world of robots, but someone has to run the robots. And a wealthy society, as fat and old as Europe, is ripe for the picking by a younger, hungrier bunch.
I think the save the earth, one-child types might want to consider how they want to meet their Maker. It is unlikely they will go out while communing with nature. It is more likely they'll go out communing with human nature.
H/T Glenn Reynolds