The other European problem that nobody wants to talk about
We woke up Wednesday to the terrible news from Paris. To say the least, this is a terrorist attack by well-prepared terrorists who will kill you if they have an opportunity. I'll let some of our other able contributors write about it.
Europe has another problem, as Arthur C Brooks reminded us today:
According to the United States Census Bureau’s International Database, nearly one in five Western Europeans was 65 years old or older in 2014. This is hard enough to endure, given the countries’ early retirement ages and pay-as-you-go pension systems. But by 2030, this will have risen to one in four. If history is any guide, aging electorates will direct larger and larger portions of gross domestic product to retirement benefits — and invest less in opportunity for future generations.
Next, look at fertility. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the last time the countries of the European Union were reproducing at replacement levels (that is, slightly more than two children per woman) was the mid-1970s. In 2014, the average number of children per woman was about 1.6. That’s up a hair from the nadir in 2001, but has been falling again for more than half a decade. Imagine a world where many people have no sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts or uncles. That’s where Europe is heading in the coming decades. On the bright side, at least there will be fewer Christmas presents to buy.
Yes, Pope Francis spoke bluntly but honestly about Europe's problems. You can't have much of a future if most of your population is old and collecting retirement benefits. There has to be a natural balance in the distribution of your population.
The other problem with these birth rates is that there won't be anyone around who values the traditions that made Europe famous. This is further complicated by the reality that many of the immigrants have no connection to or even much interest in integration.
A few years ago, Oldsmobile promoted a new car model saying that "This is not your father's Oldsmobile." It may have been a good marketing pitch aimed at younger audiences.
Today, we can say that this is not your dad's Europe – a blunt reminder that Europe is aging and won't be a factor in the 21st century dominated by the U.S. and China. You can't play if you can't field a team, and that's Europe's 21st-century problem!