It is Obvious

Chris Rick has got altogether too much to say

Dig for victory!

Posted by chrisrick13 on November 20, 2013

It is obvious: our course was set a long time ago

TFR is an interesting number.  It is the total fertility rate.  Like most numbers although the idea is simple it proves slippery when you try a description.  It is the average number of children that women are producing for a given population.  It involves fractions so is not calculated on a single person basis!  There is more to this definition but I can leave it there.

If most women live until they stop producing babies and allowing that there are slightly more boys born than girls then a TFR of 2.05 keeps the population stable as you might expect.  Look at somewhere that has poor public health and fighting and the TFR has to be a lot higher to keep the population from shrinking.

Western Europe and the USA has a TFR below 2 which means that the population ought to be shrinking for both…but it is not.  This is somewhat accounted for by us living longer.  A lot of baby-boomers from the 60s and 70s are still around when they should have faded away already.  But they will fade.  In the same way that we had a boom we are going to have a bust.  Gordon Brown would be proud of it.

But these changes work on a ‘generation’ as the basic unit.  Change is slow on a 20-year basis compared to nearly all the cycles that interest us.  Thinking of the need to double population to double GDP we are going to have trouble keeping population stable over the next 20 years.  There is no need to build another London as there won’t be people to put in it.  The government, whoever it is, only needs to hang on a little longer and we will have all the houses we need and at prices that the next generation can afford.  This is another factor that prevents the economy of the UK reaching 2% GDP growth.  Without that growth we will enter a debt default cycle sooner or later.

So I note that the Chinese are rowing back from their 1-child policy.  They have a TFR of 1.6.  There are a lot of them but they are too old and a change in the policy will only see a significant effect in…a generation.  They are going to invest heavily in improving efficiency of production so that they can get their GDP up to where it needs to be.  It is all very well if one worker can run a production line and turn out a thousand cars an hour, there have to be people buying those cars at the rate of a thousand an hour.  GDP is as much about consumption as it is about production.  I suppose that you could feed the cars into an automatic recycling plant run by 1 worker but that only puts wealth in the hands of 2 workers.  I think the Chinese intend to sell to us.  If they manage it then they will drive us into the ground sooner than we are managing on our own.

So my wife has done her bit (with my help) to keep the economy going by having 3 children.  Have you done your bit for your country?

It is obvious: our course was set a long time ago but even with the iceberg in sight nobody seems capable of yanking on the wheel

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