CGG Weekly, August 12, 2005

"The most important thing in the world that makes young people civilized is good old people."
William D. Poe

Nicholas Eberstadt ("Power and Population in Asia," Policy Review, February/March 2004, pp. 3-27) suggests that "the current and impending 'graying' of Asia and Eurasia is an all but irrevocable force. Only a catastrophe of biblical proportions could forestall the tendency for Asia's populations to age substantially between now and 2025." Japan is a well-known example, probably the "'grayest' country on earth."

Over the coming generation, however, every single population center in Asia/Eurasia is anticipated to age appreciably—some of them at a pace or to an extreme never before witnessed in any ordinary human society. . . .Throughout East Asia, many populations will be more elderly than any yet known, and some will be aging at velocities not yet recorded in national populations.

As an example, Eberstadt mentions South Korea, whose median age will jump almost 12.5 years from its 2000 level, to over 44 years in 2025. That level surpasses Japan's current median age by three years.

But by 2025, Japan's case will be even more extreme, with a median age somewhat greater than 50 years. This means that 1 in 9 Japanese citizens will be over 80! Incredibly, she will then have as many people in their 80s, 90s, and 100s as she will have children under 15.

Such rapid and broad aging has huge implications for Japan's economy. It could mean that "Japan's annual deficit would approach 7 percent of GDP by 2025," resulting in a "debt equal to 190 percent of 2000 GDP."

All that aside, if Japan plays her economic cards wisely, she probably can weather the storm. She got older after she got rich. The game is more complicated for mammoth China. China is getting older before she started to become rich. "The impending tempo of population aging in China is very nearly as rapid as anything history has yet seen." By 2025, her median age will have risen from today's 30 to 39 years, and will be greater than that of the United States Yet, China has no national pension system at all. By 2025, there will be about a 1-to-1 ratio between senior citizen and worker. Many elderly people will have no surviving son to care for them. Not as healthy as the average pensioner in the West and therefore not as able to do the heavy work China still needs done, China's senior citizens will be forced to take low-paying, part-time positions to survive.

The biblical Creation account does not mention Adam and Eve by name until Genesis 2. However, in Genesis 1:28, God issues His first command to the unnamed "male and female," by extension a command to every human. There He tells them to "be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth." Multiply means to "increase," to reproduce at a greater-than-replacement birthrate, which is about 2.3%. Modern man has refused to multiply, and the consequence is self-inflicted genocide. As the parents die, they are not replaced with an equal number of children. Society slowly dies as well. Here is a fine example of the inexorable effect of man's refusal to obey God: death.

Asia is not alone in this sin of disobedience. America's overall birthrate is 2.0, just below the 2.1 birthrates of Catholic Spain and Italy (and the U.S. rate is actually inflated due to the higher birthrate of immigrants). Poland has a birthrate of 1.3; Britain, 1.6; France, 1.9; and Sweden, 1.5. Of European nations, the Czech Republic scores the lowest birthrate at 1.1, less than half the replacement value. Such is the testimony of materialistic man: He has so much stuff, but is too selfish to share it with his offspring. He will lose it all.

The ironies indeed pile up. In spite of modern medicine, in spite of affluence, life expectancies in Asia have reversed the lengthening trend they displayed through much of the 1900s. Consider just the last half of that century, when Asian life expectancy at birth increased by about 25 to 30 years.

Today, the prospect of lengthening life expectancies appear more fantasy than possibility. "[A]ll five former Soviet Central Asian republics began the year 2000 with distinctly lower life expectancies that they enjoyed in 1990—all this in peacetime and in the absence of any obvious political catastrophe." In the old Soviet Union, it is even worse.

Modern Russia has given the lie to the . . . presumption that literate, industrialized societies cannot suffer long-term health declines during times of peace. According to Moscow's official calculations, the country's life expectancy was lower in 2001 that it had been in 1961-62. . . . In absolute arithmetic terms, the Russian mortality crisis qualifies as a catastrophe of historic proportions. . . . According to UNPD estimates, male life expectancy is lower today for the Russian Federation than for the world's less developed regions. . . . It is hard to see how Russia can hope to develop a First World economy on the backs of a work force with a Third World health profile, and a Third World health profile is almost certainly Russia's lot for the foreseeable demographic future.

The problem is not easily fixed. You cannot just give penicillin to solve cardiovascular disease and alcoholism, the current scourges of Russian men who have smoked and drunk for years. It is now time to pay the piper.

Eberstadt adds HIV/AIDS to the mixture of death. As many as 6-11% of the Russian people may be HIV positive by 2010. That would "knock 16 years off Russia's prospective 2025 life expectancy, pushing it into essentially sub-Saharan coordinates."

AIDS is also a growing problem in India and China, where the current rate of HIV-positive infection is 3 to 4% and 1.3 to 2% respectively. This rate will knock about 4 years off life expectancies. If the pandemic grows to an infection rate of 3.5% in China and 5% in India, "life expectancy progress over the coming generation could be cancelled altogether."

Eberstadt concludes his comments about AIDS with a brief assessment of its economic effects. HIV/AIDS is as expensive to treat as it is "lingering and debilitating." It characteristically hits people in their prime producing years. Businesses will not invest in heavily impacted HIV/AIDS areas. For all these reasons, not to mention the fact that the level of HIV/AIDS incidence will inevitability have military ramifications, the sinful acts promoting this STD will have vast economic significance. Illicit intercourse is not a private matter. It is a matter of public concern. Sin is public, not private.