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Sunday, October 08, 2006

300 million Americans 


As every newshound knows, at some point this month some mother will give birth to the 300 millionth American. While much of the world from the shrinking and therefore dying civilization of Europe to the radicals of the umma undoubtedly deplore that milestone, it is cause to rejoice. We have a lot of room to grow, and should take pleasure in it.

The New York Times has a USA Todayish box of factoids (at right, click on the graphic to enlarge it) that compares various statistics of American life in 1915, 1967 and 2006, the years in which our population reached 100 million, 200 million and 300 million respectively.

The NYT's statistical vision of the tripling of America in the last 91 years might inspire a dozen blog posts, but I'll spare you that horror and call your attention to a mere two bits.

First, look at what has happened to our military since the last Democratic administation with any testicular fortitude. In 1967, at the height of the battle for Vietnam in the middle of World War III,1 we had 1.7% of our population under arms, or approximately 3.4 million people. Today, while waging two wars in Asia at what many of us fear is not the height of World War IV, we have less than 0.5% of our population under arms. Point is, the present conflict may be pushing the limits of our existing military, but it has barely burdened us a society. With our modern willingness to open virtually all missions to women and recognize the value of soldiers in their "late youth," we obviously could build a much larger military if we wanted to.2

The other circled table, relating to the cost of gasoline, is typical New York Times legerdemain. The Times has chosen to show us a two-month old price of gasoline ($3.07), so it has grossly distorted the real increase in gasoline prices in the last 40 years. In fact, the average price of gasoline at the pump was only $2.31 as of October 2, the last week that government data are available. That would have shown very little difference in real terms from 1967, only about 15% over 40 years. Given the massive expansion of world oil consumption in that period, that small real increase reveals the extraordinary productivity of the oil industry, which is driven primarily by technology from American companies such as, er, Halliburton. In any case, cynics will speculate that the Times chose to husband the resources of its graphic arts department rather than correct the chart because the facts undermine the NYT's political objectives.
__________________________________
1. Just trying out some new nomenclature.
2. I appreciate that the cost per soldier of training, equipment and upkeep is vastly higher than it was in 1967, so we would have to give up some standard of living to put the same proportion of our population -- around 5,000,000 people -- under arms today.

40 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 10:44:00 AM:

" it is cause to rejoice. "

No, it isn't. The whole planet is grossly overpopulated with humans. We should be working hard to reduce the population world wide to about what it was 400 years ago. Quality, not quantity. ____Even in the US, which you say has "plenty of room", how many boys have easy access to woodland or forest? How many grow up entirely in a city or suburban environment?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 12:18:00 PM:

So, Don...are you quality, or quantity?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 12:31:00 PM:

Agree on the new nomenclature. The Cold War (and all the little 'hot' wars in that period) was World War III. World War IV has just barely gotten started (or more accurately, we just started taking notice of it.)

Don Cox: I'm quite happy we're growing as we live in a flexible and successful culture. I'll worry about the success of my own culture before I sacrifice the future of my society for everyone else's. Besides - to reduce the population to what it was 400 years ago - what's your timeline for that? What are the implications to the way society is ordered today if that were to happen? And which parts of the society are the most likely to comply? (I think you know the answer to that one already.)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 12:33:00 PM:

BTW, I would guess Don is 'quantity' but firmly believes he is 'quality' and would thus be spared.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 12:41:00 PM:

Don asked:
Even in the US, which you say has "plenty of room", how many boys have easy access to woodland or forest? How many grow up entirely in a city or suburban environment?

As many families as want to travel to and visit the millions of acres of National Park forest that we spend millions to maintain. Here in NC, I don't think there is a single place in the state you would have to drive more than 50 miles to reach rural land.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 04:08:00 PM:

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Cox's sentiments re: overpopulation.

During lunch, recently, the subject of world population in the seventeenth century came up and I was informed that the population, then, was around a half billion. "Those were the days my friend", we all sang. But, how to reclaim that halcyon age was the Big Question?

The consensus was that humans had to quit reproducing right now. But how long would it take for the present population of 6 billion to reduce itself to .5 billion was the next Big Question.

Well, we were lucky, as one of the group was a Homeopath (I know what you're thinking but I can assure you that I am as as straight as a pin). Anyway, he said the way that Homeopaths did these calculations was to assume a die-off rate of 50% of the population every 50 years. You know, now: 6, 50 years later: 3, and so forth. In the end we agreed that in about 200 years, providing no-one had any more children, our population would return to that of the golden era.

But, wouldn't everyone be very old by that time, I asked? The Homeopath retorted that, yes, on average people would be about 200+ years old but, as compensation, they would be very wise. We all nodded in agreement. After all, who isn't in favor of wisdom?

But, then, I had another question: "How did you come up with the 50 year half-life business?" The Homeopath replied that the number "1/2" was a venerated number in Homeopathy. We all nodded in agreement. After all, who are we to criticize alien belief systems?

But, then, I had another question: "How do you know that life was so great in the 1600's?" He replied that he read it in the comments section of the "TigerHawk" blog and that says it all, don't you think? We all nodded in agreement.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 05:01:00 PM:

I would also draw attention to the numbers for working women and price of a new house. I wonder if any of those farm wives in 1915 would have rhapsodized about their lives of leisure.... Also a new house in 1915 would not have had A/C, maybe central heat (but maybe not) maybe running water (but maybe not), no phone, probably no electricity.... anyway you all get the idea.  

By Blogger Elam Bend, at Sun Oct 08, 05:46:00 PM:

By almost every measure, life around the planet now is better than it was at any time in history, despite being overpopulated.

There are large swaths of productive areas in the world that are hardly touched in terms of their productive capacity (mostly due to war or simply economic backwardness), yet the trend is toward rural depopulation as everyone moves to the cities.

Indeed, much of the Great Plains have return to frontier level population density and more are headed that way.

If you find your town or place too crowded, there are plenty of options.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 07:54:00 PM:

TH-

Your thoughts on the size of the military hint that you'd like to re-instate the draft? True?

JK  

By Blogger gumshoe, at Sun Oct 08, 10:59:00 PM:

michael hammer -

thanks for the laugh.

i especially enjoyed the
vision of a think-tank full of
200 year old baby boomers
plotting out their next round of
millenial sucesses.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 11:01:00 PM:

In defense of Don above, publicly-owned land is not the same as open land. Privately-owned range or wood-and-field allows some opportunity to learn hunting and stalking, or practice with pistol and rifle, that state and national parks never will. All those against rifle practice, raise both hands. Being pro-business does not necessarily entail a coast-to-coast suburb.  

By Blogger Steverino, at Sun Oct 08, 11:02:00 PM:

As I recall, German historian Hans Delbruck calculated that the maximum military a society could field and support was about 5% of its population.

Tantor  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 11:10:00 PM:

ja, perhaps Don could eliminate himself. This would be one less we would have to concern ourselves about, and his comment already seems to self-eliminate him anyway.  

By Blogger BenJCarter, at Sun Oct 08, 11:20:00 PM:

Hehe, nice one hammer :D  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 11:22:00 PM:

Well, Harriman state park- quite nice- is less than 50 miles from Manhattan, and available by bus.

The catskills region is less than 75 miles away- any many lightly populated towns in NJ are inside that radius.

So even boys in Manhattan- the most densely packed area in the US- are a bus ride away from the woods, should they choose to take advantage of it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 11:22:00 PM:

People are the most valuable resource created on this planet.

We can feed all 6 billion of us with a hydroponic farm the size of Rhode Island.

Cheers,

Julian Simon's ghost  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Oct 08, 11:27:00 PM:

You could fit the entire population of the planet into Texas and have only have the population density of Paris (Google it if you must).

You could ship all the resultant waste to Arkansas using very little energy (and you really wouldn't lose much, it's just Arkansas).  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Oct 08, 11:39:00 PM:

JK,

No, I would not institute a draft. I would, however, increase the size of the military by at least a few hundred thousand. I'm guessing that could be done with volunteers, especially if leaders of both political parties would openly advocate for people to volunteer.

My point was rather that we are not, as a society, really even breaking a sweat so far.  

By Blogger Steverino, at Sun Oct 08, 11:43:00 PM:

Tigerhawk: "2. I appreciate that the cost per soldier of training, equipment and upkeep is vastly higher than it was in 1967, so we would have to give up some standard of living to put the same proportion of our population -- around 5,000,000 people -- under arms today."

Tigerhawk, that's a beancounter's argument, penny-wise and pound-foolish. While it may cost more to train and equip a modern soldier, the total cost of the lethal end result is cheaper than the 1967 grunt. And if anyone thinks training and equipping troops for victory is expensive, try defeat.

A modern US soldier may be equipped more expensively than a WWI doughboy or a Roman legionnaire but look at the difference in lethality. A modern GI armed with an M-16 and clad in battle armor is probably the lethal equivalent of a squad of riflemen carrying single-shot Springfields. An M-16 may cost more than a Springfield but its lethal effect is far cheaper than a Springfield. Certainly a single M-16 is cheaper than its equivalent of ten Springfields.

The economics are more dramatic when you compare a modern GI to a Roman legionnaire. The GI armed with M-16 is probably the lethal equivalent of a century of legionnaires armed with spear and sword. Certainly that complement of spear, sword, shield, and armor for a hundred legionnaires would far exceed the relative expense of equipping a single modern soldier, with far less lethality to show for it.

The effectiveness of our weapons is increasing which makes them effectively cheaper in total though individually more expensive. That's why we have less men under arms now yet a vastly more lethal army. We have fewer fighters and bombers now yet can command the sky anywhere.

My point is that when you compare the military of 1967 to 2006, you are comparing apples to oranges, or dumb bombs to JDAMs.

Tantor  

By Blogger Steverino, at Sun Oct 08, 11:56:00 PM:

Tigerhawk,

You're quite right about the draft. We don't need one and it's hard to believe we would get a better military by drafting people. It's worth noting that we had a much larger military under Reagan and it was all volunteer. We shaved off the equivalent of a European nation's military beginning under Reagan in 1986 through Clinton. If we restored the military to Reagan's level (which I don't advocate), it would be the equivalent of gaining France as an ally.

It's interesting to speculate what we could do with those infantry divisions Clinton cut in his term. How do you like his Peace Dividend now?

Tantor  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon Oct 09, 01:37:00 AM:

Tantor:

"If we restored the military to Reagan's level (which I don't advocate), it would be the equivalent of gaining France as an ally."

You meant to say *losing* France as an ally, didn't you?  

By Blogger Patrick, at Mon Oct 09, 07:13:00 AM:

This weekend I bought gas in Atlanta for $2.05/gal, making the NYT off by a massive 50%.

No agenda there. Uh uh. Nosireee bob.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Oct 09, 07:17:00 AM:

Yeah, regular gas is $2.10 in New Jersey, where presumably some NYT staffers live (it's printing plant is in Edison, among other things).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 09, 09:41:00 AM:

I wonder if Don would like to selectively reduce our population? Perhaps there are certain groups that contribute less to our overall well being, doncha think Don. Why don't you level with us? You are thinking of a kind of final solution aren't you? Wouldn't it be kind of empowering to make the decision, you know, who goes and who stays. 'OOOooohh. That's good!'

BTW even the wierdo vegan hippies know that "The mathematical & biological fact is that if every single man woman and child on Earth was given 1/4 acre of land for food and 1/4 acre of land for recreation and shelter (1/4 acre + 1/4 acre = ½ acre), we in fact would only require less than 10% of all the land on Earth! "

http://www.gardensofeden.org/  

By Blogger TheDoctorOfLove, at Mon Oct 09, 10:57:00 AM:

In a similar vein, comparisons of potential military strength based on raw population figures fail to take into account that it is tne non-farm population that is the determining factor in sustaining a war for more than one growing season.

Ignoring this fact caused Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire to starve in the spring and summer of 1918. Germany made the same mistake again in WWII when it tried to match the combined field strength of its enemies in 1944. Germany would have more or less starved to death in 1946 but for the fact that the United States was not so foolish and remained able to not only feed itself, but also Britain, Japan, Germany and a substantially devasted Russia, while feeding its own appropriately sized military (16 million in uniform, 10% of the population) all at once. Even Stalin observed that Russia could not field proportionately the number of troops that Germany did, and this in the well known all-volunteer Soviet army of the Great Patriotic War.

It makes Chinese boasts about its population meaningless (leaving aside that nuclear weapons also make such boasts meaningless). China's genuinely non-farm population is not much larger than the US, and by some estimates is actually smaller (the US having fewer than 5 million that would qualify as "farm"). In a multi year war, if China repeated Germany's mistake, we (meaning the US) would win merely by waiting for the effects of the inevitable Chinese famine (which would result in the collapse of central Chinese authority, as it has so many times in the past).

Germany considered declaring war on Austria in the winter of 1917-18 because the Austrians, in their desperation, kept grabbing the grain boats going up the Danube.

Hitler's whole wwii war strategy was to replay 1919 as the german army thought it could have, by securing the Ukraine and using the Ukrainians as slave laborers (meet the new boss, same as the old boss) to ensure that the winter of 1917-18 wasn't replayed. That's why, once reasonably securing his western front, he immediately attempted to grab the Ukraine. Read "My Struggle".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 09, 11:14:00 AM:

Don:

I'm just curious. Since YOU feel the need to reduce the planet's population to a much lower level in order to make the planet 'healthier' and YOU want people to spend more time in nature, I assume this is because YOU value these things highly. I have a couple of questions for you:

1) Who decides who gets to live or die? Who decides who gets to reproduce? You can't just stop reproducing until we are down to the magical half billion number - then you have a huge demographic problem - lots of elderly, not enough young.

2) What about choice? Liberals like you LOVE choice - how come you don't value their choices to live, reproduce, move, etc. I like being outdoors, but I don't want to live in a 'rural' area. I like where I live. Why do I need YOU to determine that my life isn't good because I don't crawl around Yellowstone with you?

Get a life, Don. Freedom and markets usually fix problems a LOT quicker and better than people who try to central plan everything.  

By Blogger Knucklehead, at Mon Oct 09, 12:42:00 PM:

The NYT factoid box is a masterpiece of innumerate nonsense.

As one example juxtapose the "An Aging Nation" (% of population age 65 or older) vs. "Living Longer". In 1915 life expectancy was 54.5 years. One needed to exceed life expectancy by a full decade just to reach the age of 65. Small wonder only 4.9% of people in the US in 1915 were age 65 or older. Someone age 65 in 2006 has an additional 12 years of life expectancy. Small wonder 12.3% of us are in the 65 and older bracket.

Car Crazy? (Motor Vehicle registrations) It might be useful to tell us the numbers of horses and buggies and other forms of transportation in 1915. By 2006 standards the good people of 1915 were probably freakin' horse fanatics. Besides, the autos and roads of the day were apparently death traps!

"Safer on the Roads? 1.5 deaths/100 million vehicle miles in 2006 (we may presume that is an estimated or 2005 number) - 42,643 deaths. That suggests that Americans have, or will have, driven (or otherwise used vehicles to travel) roughly 2,842,866,666,667 (yes, that's 2.84 trillion miles!). In 1915, presuming the stats are correct (who was doing the vehicular fatality counts in 1915?) the "vehicular miles traveled" was a mere 19,368,571,429 (19.4 million). They didn't get around much in them days horses, buggies, trains and such being much slower than modern autos and, of course, roads being what they were.

And, as someone above pointed out, it might be interesting to hear from the women of 1915 about their "non-working" lives of leisure.

The NYT gave us a bunch of factoids without telling us much. Unless the article touches on some of the apples to oranges comparison. I'll never know 'cause I refuse to register for their dopey site.  

By Blogger Knucklehead, at Mon Oct 09, 12:48:00 PM:

Oops, my bad. I meant billions of miles for 1915. In 1915 the average per capita miles traveled (by "vehicle" I suppose) was 194. In 2006 we passportless, "never left Bwooklyn" murricans manage to get around nearly 10,000 miles per capita per year.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 09, 12:52:00 PM:

Don is one of those vile misanthropes who sees a crowded street and hates the noise and bustle of individual people going about their business, with lives and loves all of their own. P. J. O'Rourke once said that concern about over-population was the polite way for progressives to be racists. It's no wonder that the population-reducers are found on the Left: Socialists have always perceived people in the aggregate rather than as sovereign individuals. Whenever I hear someone calling for population reduction I think, "OK—you first."

You'd thnk that after the spectacular failure of every single one of nitwit doomsayer Paul Ehrlich's predictions, the Jeremiahs of over-population would be a bit more circumspect. But no, on and on they harp. They're not even like the Boy who Cried Wolf, since in that story the wolf actually turned up in the end.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 09, 01:36:00 PM:

I appreciate that the cost per soldier of training, equipment and upkeep is vastly higher than it was in 1967, so we would have to give up some standard of living to put the same proportion of our population -- around 5,000,000 people -- under arms today.

Maybe not all that much. Real GDP today is over three times higher than in 1967, and therefore we only lose if the cost of training / equipping a soldier is three times higher now than it was then.

However, before you want a military with 5,000,000 people in it, the basic question is what you want that military to do. If the key to fighting the war on terror is not quantity but quality, then it is not necessary to have a military that large just "because we can".  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Oct 09, 04:16:00 PM:

So, it sounds like we're agreed then: Don belongs to the "quantity" demographic.

You first, Don. We'll, uh, be right behind you. Sure.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Mon Oct 09, 08:01:00 PM:

How many people can live on a given plot of land is not a fixed number, but is an entirely technology-dependent question. If you're going to be a hunter-gatherer and not bury your waste products, then you need a lot of space for a small group of people. Once you take up herding you can fit more; agriculture, more still; and on as far as you like, depending on your technologies of sanitation, food growth, and energy use.

The world is empty. There are a few coastal areas that are crowded and a few inland hot spots (Chicago, Mexico City) but those are dots on an empty terrain. To prove it to yourself, navigate over supposedly densely-packed Europe on googlearth and see how much emptiness there is there. Then navigate from exactly the same height across the Russian taiga, or inland China, or norther Canada. It will take a long time to cross those areas.  

By Blogger a psychiatrist who learned from veterans, at Mon Oct 09, 08:15:00 PM:

Don, I hope you consider like the voice of your mother, Allah Akhbar as it is the last thing you will hear before your head is sawed off.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 13, 03:07:00 PM:

"it would be the equivalent of gaining France as an ally" - Tantor


...Yes, and with a lot fewer dropped rifles. :~)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Oct 20, 01:44:00 PM:

I wrote this argumentative essay for college in 1994. It applies today more than ever. Enjoy.

The need for Population Control. Oct. 1994 Kenneth G. Henley

Imagine that you have moved to a small, uninhabited tropical island with about one hundred other people. There is plenty of space and food. The island is free from disease, war, and crime. You live a very happy and worry-free life. Modern science and medicine have made it possible for all people to live longer, healthier lives. It has also allowed for a low infant mortality rate. Despite the use of birth control by families who have chosen to do so, these factors have resulted in a booming population.
Thirty years later, the population has more than tripled. The tiny island barely has enough farmland to produce enough food to feed everyone. It is extremely difficult to find a place to live when a growing family needs a larger home and many are forced to live in small cramped houses and apartments. Due to these factors, the cost of living has skyrocketed. Some families have even become homeless and now live in the streets, starving. Crime is out of control.
How did such a peaceful, happy society end up in such chaos? Lack of population control resulted in the mass overpopulation of the island. When the demand for food and space exceeded the ecological capacity to sustain the island, people began to starve. The political and economical tension brought on by limited living areas and an extremely high cost of living has caused the crime rate to reach an unprecedented level and the villages on the island are on the brink of war. The small island has transformed from an almost Utopian society to one of war and chaos due to one factor. Lack of population control.


All living things must be subject to population control. This is the nature of the cycle of life. Every creature on the face of the earth has a place in the circle of life. They exist as either predator or prey and each help one another to control the total population. They also fall victim to disease, predators and die from injuries. Humans should be no exception. With this in mind, let us explore man’s place in the circle of life.
As we live today, we control our own population. We die in war, transportation fatalities, disease, and murder. We have no predators, except ourselves. On a global scale, we produce enough food on which to live.
Modern civilization is changing these factors greatly. Modern medical science seeks cures for disease. Transportation is becoming safer. With the end of the Cold War we are closer to world peace than ever before. These factors are being welcomed by multitudes of people who yearn for a better world. Who would not? Who would welcome loosing their family to AIDS, their son to war, or their friend in an automobile accident?
We must, however, look beyond the “better world” and analyze the effects it may have on our environment in years to come. Could the loss or great decrease in the very few factors that control the ever-growing population of more than six billion human inhabitants of Earth cause us to end up like the hypothetical tropical island?


In “The Cause of War” Margaret Sanger states the findings of Robert Thomas Malthus, formulator of the Malthus doctrine. “He showed that the population of mankind tends to increase faster than the food supply. He demonstrated that were it not for the more common diseases, for plague, famine, floods and wars, human beings would crowd each other to such an extent that misery would reach an intolerable level. He described these factors as ‘natural checks’ pointing out that as long as no other checks are employed, such disasters are unavoidable. If we do not exercise sufficient judgment to regulate the birth rate, we encounter disease, starvation and war.”¬¬¬
According to Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, the time required for the population of the world to reach its first billion had stretched through all of human pre-history into the early 1800’s. The second billion was added in a little more than a century, and the 3-billion mark was reached in 1960, less than fifty years later. The additional billions since then were accumulated in time spans of about a dozen years each reaching six billion by 1996.
At such a high rate of growth, common sense could only tell us that the world population is growing at an alarming rate. If the population continues to grow at such a rate with no type of enforced regulation, we will surely face serious problems. By no means do I suggest the total restriction of further medical advancement or establishment of world peace in order to control population. I am merely suggesting that a medium be found to regulate the two. I also suggest that this issue be addressed by governments of the world before the problem becomes too difficult an issue to deal with effectively.  

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