Thursday 24 October 2013

The three most important issues in The West now


1. Religion.

Unless The West becomes religious again, then nothing can be done - because our lack of religion has made us crazy. This must come first.

2. Demography.

Population growth and migration - and the nature and characteristics of populations - is by far the most important and powerful 'economic' factor in the world. Never has the global population been so big, so rapidly growing in real terms, so rapidly changing in composition, so old in some places and young in others; and never has the movement of peoples occurred on such a vast and fast scale.

3. Bureaucracy.

...must be eliminated. We must return to individual people taking all significant decisions, and not groups, committees, voters etc. Otherwise - no matter what we 'know' about the problems, and no matter how sane we may be as individuals - then we will continue incrementally to be destroyed by decisions that are necessarily irresponsible, short-termist, irrational, blame avoiding - nonsensical.



JP said...

We do not merely "lack" religion...

We are engaged in an active campaign to crush religion and, to the extent that it is not entirely eliminated from public life, to pervert religion into an absurd parody of itself.

The mere absence of religion would be far less dangerous, and far more easily reversed, than the anti-religious mania that currently prevails among the elites.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JP - True. As I have written before, there is no such thing as 'neutrality' except as a momentary transitional state when moving one or other direction between a positive and negative attitude. Therefore a society is either pro- or anti-Christianity (insofar as it is aware of Christianity): ours is anti-.

ajb said...

For 2., I agree that this is and will be very important, but world population growth rates peaked in the 1960s. The rate of increase is falling, and we may hit absolute falling population very soon (within a few decades).

Of course, you know all this. Which is to say, the real story right now isn't global population growth, but 'where' increase is happening and where population is decreasing ('composition' in your second paragraph).

Anonymous said...

The loss of belief in the transcendental - truth, justice, goodness, morality, beauty, God - has terrifying consequences. When the transcendental is disregarded and discarded, the only values left are those of the material world; money, prestige, status, security, ego

And thus, everything is distorted and contorted towards the pursuit of the material away from the transcendental.

I'd like to think bureaucracy can be effective - as long as it is organised around the transcendental; such as the police/law enforcing justice; education teaching virtue; politics serving the collective good; science discovering knowledge; media pursuing truth; art creating beauty; etc, instead of being corrupted by the concerns of ego, status, money, prestige and security

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - I wonder if you know about the world population projections, and how they keep getting revised upwards? Warning - the following may induce sleepless nights:

ajb said...

Yes, I'm aware of the increase in 2012 UN estimates.

The medium range forecasts paint pretty much the same picture - a decreasing rate of growth, with relatively small amount of growth starting around 2040.

Bruce Charlton said...

The rate of growth is NOT the relevant statistic - and focusing upon it is grossly misleading and falsely reassuring.

It is the number of people and the type of people that matter. Billions of extra people born over the next few decades is what is significant.

The key point is that the people in Africa and the Middle East are NOT exhibiting the expected demographic transition to negative fertility - far from it.

But then they differ genetically from Europeans, and they are religious and getting more religious - so why would anybody (except a Western social scientist - which is to say a crazed-person) expect Africans and Middle Easterners to behave exactly the same way as secular Europeans? Humans are not inter-changeable units.

ajb said...

"The key point is that the people in Africa and the Middle East are NOT exhibiting the expected demographic transition to negative fertility - far from it."

You're correct that the composition is set to change dramatically, but I don't think the Middle East is comparable to sub-Saharan Africa.

Consider (1980 -> 2011 fertility rates):

Saudi Arabia 7.21 -> 2.74
Iran 6.48 -> 1.64 (lower than Norway)
Turkey 4.45 -> 2.06 (about the same as Iceland)

The outliers here are places like Yemen 8.99 -> 5.09

but even here, it is a drop of almost 4 in 30 years. In all these cases, the drop is dramatic and seems to be continuing towards European-levels.

Compare some sub-Saharan African examples over the same time period:

Nigeria (most populous country in Africa) 6.79 -> 5.49
Ethiopia 6.84 -> 4.04
South Africa 4.79 -> 2.42

Only South Africa is close, and not surprisingly it's the most economically developed. What's interesting about a place like Nigeria is that the fertility rate, although dropping, hasn't dropped that much, 1.3 in 30 years.

I think the standard view is that sub-Saharan Africa will continue to develop economically (especially with foreign infusions of technology and capital, such as China's), and this will lead to a continued drop in population growth there. But yes, it is set to become a significantly larger share of the global population in the next few decades, in part because global growth is slowing.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - As I said, these fertility rates are only a part of the picture. For a start, they omit mortality rates - especially child mortality rates. Secondly, in the medium term, growth depends on the age structure of the population - some places have a median age of mid teens - others mid forties. Thirdly, the problem is not the eventual long term theoretical stabilization, but the next few decades - and the key statistic to note is the *peak* population.

Rich said...


All good points. However, I see health and wellness playing a major role in the west too. The food being eaten is not suitable. It leads to massive health problems, mentally and physically. It is a resource suck of the highest order and must be changed if the west is ever to escape the malaise it is in.

Bruce Charlton said...

For those who have not read it, the third issue is covered by an article I wrote four years ago:

and the alternative -