It’s little known today, but a major driver of Henry Ford’s interest in machines was an aversion to work. And horses. Born into a farming family in Michigan, Ford’s migration away from “the land” was rooted in a desire to avoid the dawn-to-dusk toil that defined life for an overwhelming majority in the 19th century.
So, while Ford is most known for having democratized access to the automobile, it’s less known that Ford Motor Company also mass-produced tractors. 650,000 in 1927 alone. In his words, “What a waste it is for a human being to spend hours and hours behind a slowly moving team of horses in the same time a tractor could do six times as much work."
Ford’s intimate knowledge of how machines multiply human productivity while reducing time on the job came to mind while reading Washington Post columnist Max Boot’s recent assertion that “Russia is in a demographic death spiral.” Who is the source of Boot’s pessimism, or optimism? It’s none other than American Enterprise Institute fellow Nicholas Eberstadt.
Eberstadt is the leader of a strain of conservatives thoroughly convinced that the main crisis awaiting us is a consequence of people in more developed countries choosing to have fewer kids. Eberstadt is to “demographic death spiral” what Michael Mann is to “catastrophic global warming.” Both have flocks to feed, and feed them they do with narratives that actual market signals formed by actual information thoroughly reject.
The global warmist in Mann promotes an endless picture of the world’s coastal cities literally going under water, all because the people in the well-to-do parts of the world now avail themselves of cars, air conditioners, and other mechanized advances that make living so pleasurable today. The only problem with Mann’s preaching about the hell that awaits us is that human migratory patterns and pesky market prices disagree. At present something north of 45% of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, and the previous number is expected to grow.
In concert with this migration to coastal cities allegedly set to go under water is a rather evident surge in the price of real estate. Yes, you read that right. In the global locales that Mann and his warming crowd claim will be washed away, the cost of dwellings on what’s set to be washed away grows and grows.
It makes you wonder…about Mann. Smart as he surely is, he can’t possibly know more than the markets. And if you doubt the latter, he surely can’t have anywhere close to the combined knowledge of half of the world’s population.
Which brings us back to Boot. Under the sway of Eberstadt, he’s convinced that Russia’s birthrate of “only 1.5 children per woman” has it as previously mentioned “in a demographic death spiral.” Except that people are not static creatures. They’re instead dynamic parts of an increasingly global whole.
The 1.5 Russian children per women being born today are entering a world in which every good and service produced within it is a beautiful consequence of intensely sophisticated global cooperation. To use but one of countless examples, Boeing airplanes are comprised of millions of intricate parts manufactured around the world. And that only tells part of the story.
To see why, think back to Ford and his fascination with machines. He yet again understood that machines multiply human effort. A man working today can do the work of hundreds and realistically thousands of men born when Ford was. Throw in technology that increasingly thinks for us, and it’s easy to see that the babies being born today will be the productive equivalent of tens of thousands born when Ford was in 1863.
Yet Boot think’s Russia days are numbered because of “1.5 children per woman”? How much time did it take for him to read the “fascinating report” written by Eberstadt in which the “demographic death spiral” was bruited as a negative factor for so many developed countries, and by extension, the world?
The good news for Boot is that age 53, he’s got time to make up for time wasted on a pessimistic assessment of the future that is mocked by markets (watch investment flows, including a surge of investment into low-birthrate countries like the U.S. and South Korea), machines, and simple common sense. What’s true for Boot is happily true for Eberstadt too, age 67. Indeed, with machines increasingly thinking for us, it’s only a matter of time before man aided by machines unlocks the secrets to ever longer life.
It’s all a reminder that contra the pessimists, the only threat to people who populate the “closed economy” that is the world is a lack of freedom. Everything else will be taken care of by the very market forces that presently look disdainfully at catastrophic fear-mongering promoted by the dominant ideologies.