Friday, April 21, 2006

. . . They just fade away

From The Washington Times:

Russia's population is declining rapidly, with almost half of Russian families childless, a senior member of Russia's lower house of parliament has said.


She added that the Russian birthrate is 1.34 children per woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.14, causing a steady decline in the population growth rate.

U.N. statistics say that at this rate Russia's population will be 101.5 million by 2050, shrinking by almost half from the over 143 million population of today.

I remember reading as essay written by Robert A Heinlein sometime in the early ‘60s. He and his wife went to the Soviet Union for a vacation. Mrs. Heinlein had spent more than a year studying Russian and was reasonably fluent. In striking up conversations with people she asked the polite questions about family, children and such and noticed that not too many young Russians were having kids. She calculated that they were in danger of falling below replacement rate. I guess she was right.

The interesting question is why? During Russia’s entire violent and sad history the people, no matter how oppressed and poor, did not give up on the future to the point of stopping reproduction. Of course it hasn’t been that long, in world history terms, since mankind developed reliable population control technologies.

And it is not only Russia but all of Europe that is suffering a population contraction. The falling birthrates in the rest of Old Europe are not as dramatic as Russia’s but the trend is there.

One possible explanation suggested by novelist John Ringo is that in societies which are experiencing increasing levels of affluence adults find that they have more enjoyable things to do than have children and spend more than a decade changing diapers and answering an endless series of “why, why, why questions”.

This may be true in the United States, whose White population is barely growing, and France with its legally mandated short work week and generous cradle-to-grave social welfare system. But that hardly explains Russia.

Perhaps the answer is that the Russians would have given up centuries ago if they had been able. Could it be that the human race isn’t so resilient after all? Perhaps God has designed us so that we owe our existence to the fact that our libido is more powerful than our angst.