Economist on Population Decline – Not Always a Bad Thing

CLD099.gifOne of the great, fundamental problems with coupling economic and environmental progress is the “growth” problem. It has long been assumed that “growth is good” and that without “growth” some sort of universal decline results. This is especially problematic with regards to population. On the one hand, we’ve all been told a hundred times of the perils of unchecked human population growth and the resource depleation, crowding, poverty and conflict it might lead to. On the other hand, we brag of the population growth of such-and-such a city, while states like North Dakota give away free land to stop population decline for fear of economic collapse. It has long been assumed that population growth goes hand in hand with economic progress. Not only that, but it is also assumed to be inevitable.
Is it possible to have sustained economic prosperity without population growth? If not, then I don’t think there is any point in trying to hold back population. But I don’t see any reason why it has to be that way. The Economist agrees. This article from the latest issue wisely points out that although a shrinking population may indeed lower GDP, what really matters is GDP per person. This is my favorite kind of article.
Despite this kind of thinking, governments from Japan to Italy are panicking about declining populations. Some of this is because population slowdown results in a more aged population, but again, the Economist points out that miild adjustments in corporate structure can account for this problem. So what’s the big deal? It seems that over and over again, the result of massive prosperity, coupled with the liberation of women, results in lower birth rates, and the slowing, and sometimes the reversal of population growth. The causes of this are undoubtedly good, so why resist them? More to share among fewer people can’t be bad.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.