Nick Gillespie reviews Jonathan V. Last's book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster:
Fifty years ago, one of the great truths that no serious person dared challenge was that humanity was just a few ticks away from the detonation of what Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich dubbed “the population bomb,” in his book of the same name. The world, everyone assumed, would be awash in (even more) hungry mouths to feed.
“The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” intoned Ehrlich with all the certitude of a future MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient. “In the 1970s . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”
As Jonathan V. Last notes in What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, Ehrlich was so way off that it’s stunning anyone ever took him and his neo-Malthusian assessment of overpopulation seriously. There were no mass starvations, and the famines that occurred all had political, not agronomic, causes. “What’s so wonderful about Ehrlich’s silly book,” writes Last, a senior writer at the conservative Weekly Standard, “is that he was wrong at the exact moment when the very opposite of his prediction was unfolding.” Total fertility rates, or the number of babies a woman is expected to bear over the course of her life, were already declining in the United States, but starting in 1968 “they sank like a stone.” ...
What to Expect When No One’s Expecting is a rich and detailed read, well worth the price of admission just for Last’s cogent summarizing of long-term demographic trends. There is no question that birthrates are going down and that America’s (and the world’s) population will start to decline in the relatively near future. Things will change as a result.