Monday, April 18, 2016

Neoliberal Global Population Pushers Rebuked Again - By Indonesia

One of the most irritating aspects of  Neoliberal market dogma posits that population growth is essential for future economics' growth. This simpleton proposition, for example,  was expressed in one Nov. 23, 2015 Wall Street Journal  article(p. A1, 'Population's Flagging Growth Undermines Global Economy')

The author, Greg Ip, had written:

"Previous generations fretted about the world having too many people. Today's problem is too few. This reflects two long-established trends: lengthening lifespans and declining fertility.

Simply put, companies are running out of workers, customers or both. In either case economic growth suffers"

Which is total, unadulterated balderdash that no serious, rational person should buy. In fact, I demolished Ip's bunkum in a blog post the same day. Why this is so difficult for guys like Ip to grasp, I have no idea. Maybe, at heart, they are so used to covering Ponzi schemes on Wall Street, they can't see one staring them in the face when it's global. Thus, the notion of undeveloped nations overpopulating to provide a vast labor surplus for developed ones (to support their elderly pensioners) is one such scheme - given that labor class will be looking to remain and received pensions too. So who will pay for them?

Thankfully, more and more sensible nations aren't buying this bull crap and recognize foolish economic prescriptions when they see them. One such case that has been in the news is Indonesia which according to a WSJ piece from December ('Indonesia Looks To Reduce Birth Rate') "seeks to rein in its population growth in the hope it will promote more sustainable economic development"

Well, it should - given a nation is blessed with only a finite store of resources - and simply can't expect to grab them from others if it can't control its own numbers and consumption. As the nation's President Joko Widodo pointed out (ibid.):

"Investment in family planning is an absolute necessity to sustain economic growth in every nation and every nation"

Which begs the question of how it is he could demonstrate more smarts than Ip. Well, maybe because he has to actually summon resources to keep a country running, as opposed to simply writing nonsense.

Joko's perceptions are also spot on given Indonesia is now the 4th most populous nation in the world and comes - as the WSJ article notes - "as China and Japan are striving to do the opposite address the threat aging populations poses to their economies".

Which again, is bunkum, given that in the OECD nations right now there are well over 230 m citizens unemployed thanks to a combination of reasons including corporate restructuring, automation - and offloading jobs to cheaper nations (as the TPP trade pact will do).  So rather than add to the world's population burden why not put these current unemployed back to work wherever needed? Make them 'citizen workers of the world' - since the whole market impetus is to globalization anyway.

Indonesia obviously sees a risk in adding to population the other nations fail to see, given that its current fertility rate is 2.3 per woman (down from 2.6) and it seeks to further lower that to 2.1 What do they see? Well, that the numbers of people added to supposedly support the aging demographic don't square with the greater consumption of resources needed to get them up to working age and sustain them. DUH!

Again, the solution - if one is needed  - would seem to be to allow already mature 'guest workers' in to do any jobs, if support of an elder pension class is required. (Or if higher production is via more human labor capital).  What is not needed is generating an average of 5 million more mouths to feed each year when those mouths will take decades to become labor ready - unless, of course, one opts for child labor.

In the U.S. the problem of low birth rates and the Neolibs carping to increase them, arrives from a different angle. That is, it is just too damned expensive for most people to raise a child (especially without full government assistance) to maturity.  As per a Denver Post Business story ('Discovering What It Costs To Raise A Child') from Jan. 3rd (p. 5K) we learn an "average middle class family will need $245, 340 over 18 years, for a child born in 2013"(From a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 'Cost of Raising A Child' report)

That chunk of moola ("a lot to jam into anyone's squeezed budget" - especially given wage stagnation) includes: "diapers, formula, child care, baby furnishings, new clothes every year, electronic computers, smart phones...and other gear and seemingly don't end when the young one finds a job".

Housing is the biggest expense, according to the report, an estimated 30 percent of the total cost. This is germane because in OECD nations while labor may not be as oversupplied as in Indonesia, resources for housing starts can be - leaving the most vulnerable marooned with exploding costs.  As per a WSJ piece ('Seniors Hit Hard by Hot Housing Market',  4/1, p. A3), in the San Mateo County, CA area alone while 54, 000 new jobs have been created, only 2,100 new housing units have been built to house the job holders. The ones left out must pay scalper rates for rent (often as much as $2,000/ month) and travel far into the boonies to get anyplace to live.  Seniors over 65 stuck in the rental market, since the 2007-08 housing collapse, are left with skyrocketing rents forcing them to ration groceries as well as meds. Has increased population helped San Mateo, or San Francisco (now experiencing one of the biggest explosions in housing-rental costs in the nation)?  Not at all. Rising population has only created more congestion, more problems.   As the WSJ piece puts it:

"Adding more housing can be a daunting task in suburbs where locals are wary of more residents and traffic"

The truth?  Increased populations only assist Neoliberal elites who can afford to live apart - in their gated enclaves- but who can profit handsomely by the vast surplus labor pools created. As investors, or even owners,  they can basically bid down wages and benefits to whatever lowball number they want, and if the peons.....errr  workers.....don't like it....they can tell them they will send the jobs to China.  Or, automate them.

Can't anyone see that when the Neolibs demand higher birth rates - for whatever reason - they are insisting on having their cake and eating it? They want their precious Pareto-based economic system of endless consumption supported indefinitely by the "Proles", but they don't want to raise the Proles' wages to assist that endeavor. Nor, if Neoliberals' main screeds are to be believed, do they want government to do it either, say via higher taxes on the wealthiest.

People need to grasp that by reproducing to appease a warped economic system they are merely perpetuating gross economic inequality by helping to sustain a vast pool of surplus labor. As Marx showed (and anyone with a brain can figure out- except perhaps the Catholic birth control dogmatists) surplus labor translates into lowest common denominator conditions and endless scarcity. It can never be  a recipe for upliftment, societal  improvement or even balancing the needs of an existing, aging populace.

This was also why Sir. Arthur C. Clarke branded Pope John Paul II one of the worst ever "enemies of humanity" after penning the encyclical 'Veritatis Splendor', which upheld the antiquated birth control position of the Church's Magisterium.

At least Indonesia has now figured this out.

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