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Apocalyptic Thinking Is Wrong


“Let’s not teach our children that apocalyptic thinking is right thinking,” says Laurence Siegel. Apocalypticism “has always been wrong as a forecast, and it will continue to be wrong.”

Siegel is a business consultant and the director of research at the CFA Institute Research Foundation. In Fewer, Richer, Greener, he argues convincingly that humanity has spent two centuries rising from our natural state of abject poverty, and that most of the credit for that goes market institutions and democracy. Parsing current trends, Siegel foresees world population peaking and then stabilizing by the end of this century. (Hence the “fewer.”) He argues that economic growth will bring humanity much greater wealth and more adept technologies. (Hence the “richer.”) And thanks to increased urbanization and steadily improving material efficiency, he thinks our species will tred more lightly on many natural ecosystems. (Hence the “greener.”)

Let’s take a closer look at each of those three forecasts.

“High death rates are the cause of high birth rates,” explains Siegel. World population grew very slowly in the Malthusian past because, although people had lots of babies, more than half of them died before reaching adulthood. Modern sanitation and medicine and greater supplies of food meant falling death rates; that combined with still-high birth rates to produce a population explosion, with the number of people in the world rising from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.7 billion now.

The global total fertility rate—that is, the number of children each woman is likely to bear over her lifetime—has fallen from around 5 in 1960 to 2.42 now. The United Nations forecasts that world’s total fertility rate will eventually fall below the conventionally defined replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman; the U.N. says population will then stabilize around 11 billion, and Siegel basically agrees.

So humanity is demographically transitioning from its natural state of high birth and high death rates to a more recent stage of high birth and low death rates to the low birth and low death rates seen in much of the world now. About half of the world’s population currently lives in countries with below replacement fertility. The U.S.’s total fertility rate, for example, has dropped to a record low of 1.73 children per woman.

Why are more people around the world having fewer children? Incentives, explains Siegel. Rearing children in modern societies costs a lot, both in money and in foregone opportunities and pleasures. Given that about 99 percent of kids born in countries like the U.S. will make it to age 20, parents are choosing to spend more resources on fewer children, who will thereby be more likely to enjoy successful lives. “To put it just a little too crassly, in wealthy societies and increasingly in less wealthy ones, children have become a cost center (some would even say a luxury good), not a profit center,” Siegel observes.

Siegel’s projections of future population growth may in fact be excessively high. In a 2018 study, demographer Wolfgang Lutz and his colleagues at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis offer an alternative scenario projecting rapid economic growth, rising levels of educational attainment for both sexes, and technological advancement—all factors that tend to lower fertility. They expect that world population could peak at about 8.9 billion by 2060 and then decline to 7.8 billion by the end of the century.

In any case, these trends mean that there will be many more old people in the future. Having worked most of his life in finance, Siegel offers some good advice how to prepare for retirement. He recommends that one “save a predetermined percentage of one’s income escalating over time, until enough money has been accumulated to replace (when Social Security benefits are also included) 70% of the pay rate one has been earning just before retirement.” At retirement he suggests using 15 percent of your savings to buy a deferred life annuity that kicks in at age 85, thus making sure that you still have income once you’ve spent down your savings.

As world population exploded, so too did economic growth, resulting in what the University of Illinois at Chicago economist Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. Siegel cites urbanist Jane Jacobs’ trenchant observation: “Poverty has no causes. Only prosperity has causes.”

The economic historian Angus Maddison calculated that global per capita income in 1 A.D. was $467 per year (in 1990 dollars). By 1820, global per capita income had risen to nearly $1,200 per year. Over the next two centuries, per capita GDP in current U.S. dollars rose to $11,300—or, taking purchasing power into account, to nearly $18,000 per person.

Income, of course, is not equally distributed across the world. Some places—Somalia, Niger, Malawi—are sadly stuck in Malthusian traps where per capita incomes are still below that global average from 1 A.D. The good news is that economic growth has taken off in many poor countries in recent decades, so their incomes are rising to converge with those of already developed nations. Inequality between countries is falling, and the global rate of abject poverty (people living on less than $1.90 per day) has fallen from 42 in 1981 to 8.6 percent in 2018. By one measure, half of the world’s population is now middle-class or wealthier.

Siegel provides reams of solid data for similarly heartening global trends. Crop productivity, food availability, life expectancy, and education are increasing; violence is in decline.

So that explains fewer and richer. But is Siegel right that the world will be greener?

Economists have identified an inverted U-shaped relationship—the environmental Kuznets curve—in which environmental conditions initially deteriorate as economic growth takes off, then improve when citizens with rising incomes demand better environmental amenities. For example, research has found that rising incomes eventually lead to falling air and water pollution and the expansion of forests. Generally speaking, richer is cleaner.

These curves do not peak and turn downward by themselves. They do so with a mixture of private and government action, with the details differing from one country to another. In the U.S., the levels of six common air pollutants—soot, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide—have fallen by an average of 74 percent since 1970. Meanwhile, gross domestic product grew by 380 percent.

Siegel acknowledges that man-made climate change could pose significant problems for humanity as this century advances. But he notes that billions of relatively poor people face more immediate problems, including unsafe drinking water, uncertain food supplies, a dearth of educational opportunities, excessive local pollution, a lack of sanitation, and—importantly—no access to modern energy services. With respect to how best to prioritize between longer term environmental threats and fulfilling urgent needs, he writes, “There is no single answer. Economic growth will help—a lot.”

Siegel sees ecomodernism as the way forward to a greener world. “Intensifying many human activities—particularly farming, energy extraction, forestry, and settlement—so that they use less land and interfere less with the natural world is the key to decoupling human development from environmental impacts,” states An Ecomodernist Manifesto, a document written by 18 scientists and activists in 2015. “These socioeconomic and technological processes are central to economic modernization and environmental protection. Together they allow people to mitigate climate change, to spare nature, and to alleviate global poverty.”

Humanity may already be approaching peak farmland, as we grow ever more food on ever less land. Although Siegel doesn’t mention it, global tree cover has expanded between 1981 and 2016 by 7 percent. That’s a territory of about 865,000 square miles, more than three times the size of Texas.

In 1960, only one third of people lived in cities. This has now increased to 55 percent, making this the first time in history that more folks live in cities than in the countryside. By 2050, nearly 70 percent of people will be city dwellers. Compact cities are much more energy-efficient, in addition to providing people with much better access to economic opportunities, education, and medical care.

While energy efficiency and renewables will play significant roles in helping humanity to decouple from nature, Siegel is also clear-eyed about the need for greater supplies of energy to alleviate poverty through economic growth. His solution: modern nuclear power. “For most applications, nuclear power dominates both fossil fuels and renewables in almost every aspect: efficiency, safety, reliability, carbon neutrality, fuel abundance, and eventually, price,” he argues.

If we can maintain and spread the institutions—free markets, the rule of law, property rights, free speech, and democratic governance—that underpin the Great Enrichment, Siegel’s forecast of fewer, richer, and greener will come to pass.

“Life has improved tremendously in the last 250 years; this book argues that it will continue to improve in almost every dimension; health, wealth, longevity, nutrition, literacy, peace, freedom, and so forth,” he writes. “Without overlooking the many obstacles on the path of progress, my aim is to reinforce and help restore people’s faith in the future—and help them understand why optimism is amply justified.”


87 Comments on "Apocalyptic Thinking Is Wrong"

  1. MASTERMIND on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 4:49 pm 

    Michael Moore: ‘White People Have Not Changed…You Should Be Afraid Of Them’

    “Two-thirds of all white guys voted for Trump,” he said. “That means anytime you see three white guys walking at you, down the street toward you, two of them voted for Trump. You need to move over to the other sidewalk because these are not good people that are walking toward you. You should be afraid of them.” -Rolling Stone Dec 2019

  2. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:07 pm 

    Michael Moore: ‘White People Have Not Changed…You Should Be Afraid Of Them’

    “Two-thirds of all white guys voted for Trump,” he said. “That means anytime you see three white guys walking at you, down the street toward you, two of them voted for Trump. You need to move over to the other sidewalk because these are not good people that are walking toward you. You should be afraid of them.” -Rolling Stone Dec 2019

    The two-legged pudding aka Michael Moore is entirely correct.

    If you intend to wipe out an entire demographic, don’t be surprised if said demographic someday will hit back, hard. Even defenseless “Indians” fought back. Whitey in contrast is far from defenseless.

    The point of no return has long been passed. The country and empire are toast.

  3. MASTERMIND on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:07 pm 

    ‘I don’t believe in violence, but…’: Trump’s most rabid supporters warn of ‘civil war’ if he loses in 2020

  4. I AM THE MOB on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:10 pm 

    ‘Nothing Less Than a Civil War’: These White Voters on the Far Right See Doom Without Trump – NYT 12/28/19

  5. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:14 pm 

    Forbes believes that Trump’s Nord Stream 2 sanctions are “for the Buehne” only and in end-effect meaningless:


  6. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:18 pm 

    “I don’t believe in violence, but…’: Trump’s most rabid supporters warn of ‘civil war’ if he loses in 2020”

    These Trump supporters probably don’t have a clue how much foreign support they can expect if the shtf. Around the globe, everybody and his mother have enough of Washington.

  7. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:23 pm 

    Mobby’s NYTimes article is behind a paywall, but here is (probably) a free copy:

  8. MASTERMIND on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:28 pm 

    They look as if they could maybe overthrow a Dunkin Doughnut factory; in fact, looks like they already have.

  9. MASTERMIND on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:30 pm 

    NYT loves to print this crap from these morons. A Civil war ? Lol. These fat a** nitwits couldn’t lift themselves off the couch with a crane. Oh yeah, Civil War.

  10. I AM THE MOB on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:33 pm 

    Meal Team Six, ready and waiting.

    What’s the combat radius of a mobility scooter?

  11. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 5:41 pm 

    “They look as if they could maybe overthrow a Dunkin Doughnut factory; in fact, looks like they already have.”

    As the (vulgar intended) Dutch saying goes: you gotta learn it on an old bike.

  12. MASTERMIND on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 7:22 pm 

    43% of Muslim population has a favorable view of Al-Qaeda

    I hope they keep breeding like rabbits and when the white man becomes a minority. I hope they make him to a wear a burka.

  13. Duncan Idaho on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 8:44 pm 

    “Two-thirds of all white guys voted for Trump”
    And the Fat Boy still lost the popular vote by 3 million votes.
    Our election system is quite the democratic solution.

  14. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 11:39 pm 

    “ I hope they keep breeding like rabbits and when the white man becomes a minority. I hope they make him to a wear a burka.”

    Mobby is dangerously exposing his true intentions. Mass immigration as promoted by international jewry has never had any other purpose than destroying European civilization.

    The incredible luck for Europe is that the destruction of the US is proceeding much faster than that of Europe. The kike is destroying the only weapon he has left. Let him. It is fascinating to see that the Americans here won’t lift a finger against their tormenter. They have factored in their own demise at the hands of the kike. The Anglo-Zionist problem the white race had is solving itself. Good! When the first shots will be fired in the US…

    …multicult will be over for good in Europe and Ursula von der Leyen’s quietly introduced “protection of the European way of life” will commence in earnest.

    “Protecting the European way of life’ from migrants is a gift to the far right”

    Ursula has 7 blond children and hence is invested in the future of Europe, much unlike that Merkel c*nt. Ursula now leads Europe.

    So mobby, now give your anglo whitey a hard time and let the WW3 fun begin, that will lead to the complete erasure of Anglo-Zionism from the page of time.

  15. Cloggie on Sat, 28th Dec 2019 11:56 pm 

    “Grooming ‘epidemic’ as almost 19,000 children identified as sexual exploitation victims in England”

    Ethnic warfare by muslims against English children exploded with a factor of 6 over the last 5 years. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

    It is high time we let out our “inner Schweinhund”. Last time it was mobby’s tribe we had fun with. Now the muzzies are next. And the remnants of mobby’s tribe. But first patiently wait until the ZOG-system begins to crack. Peace is almost over. Let’s give war a chance. Come on Chinaman, this is your chance for eternal glory! The Lonely Continent is waiting like an unprotected Brigitte Bardot (in her best years).lol

  16. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 12:11 am 

    “Special relationship” latest:

    “How can I make sure I avoid the Boeing 737 Max?”

    If it’s a Boeing,
    I’m not going!

    Mass immigration from the third world has consequences. You can thank Mobster’s tribe for that whopper.

  17. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 12:40 am 

    2020 could be the year when flying will decrease, world-wide. Reason: not Greta Thunberg but Boeing:

    “Der Boeing-Effekt”

    Hundreds of brand-new B737-Max are parked outside Seattle, the former flagship plane of Boeing. Boeing is forced to halt production.

    Ryanair ordered 135 and is now forced to bury expansion plans.

    The fear is that IF B737 Max returns to the skies, massive numbers of passengers will go on strike against the “death plane”.

    One of the two leading aircraft producers is in heavy weather with huge repercussions for flying in general.

    For the environment it is good news. And good for the fight against “over-tourism”.

  18. MASTERMIND on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 4:42 am 

    It always starts with the Jew but never ends with them.

  19. KikeBurna on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 10:10 am 

    The fat stupid yanks are blind to the jew filth that dominates their politics. The British are spending a fortune on trying to brainwash the indigenous people to like the Muslim immigrants.
    None of this is sustainable

  20. Greta Thurnberg on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 10:11 am 

    Jews will burn !

  21. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 2:55 pm 

    Haha, writing the truth is now “anti-semitic”:

    Star of David painted on a synagoge. Oh and the letters “9.11” added.


  22. Cloggie on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 4:09 pm 

    Greta, I am afraid I am going to have to report you to the board moderator for, what he calls ‘neutering’. Dont ask.

    empire dave, Greta herself has taken time out from saving the world from the nasty capitalist climate changers to deliver a message I find deeply hurtful and offensive.

    Please take care of her for me would you?

  23. JuanP on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 5:15 pm 

    Clog, I got neuterrred REAL good and that is why I troll.

  24. Davy on Sun, 29th Dec 2019 5:26 pm 

    We thought you said you got a vasectomy JuanP?

    You can’t be neutered if you got a vasectomy.


  25. Sissyfuss on Tue, 31st Dec 2019 1:17 pm 

    Apocalyptic thinking will always be wrong right up to the moment the Apocalypse does away with you.

  26. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Jan 2020 7:55 am 

    Food for thought for mobby:

    “Europeans Lead in Every Field, Jewish Brilliance a Myth, Einstein Over-Rated, Hyped by Jewish PR”

  27. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 1:08 am 

    How dare you clogg attack the great Einstein.

    He was the greatest mind ever. Only a jew could be so gifted. Like all Jews.

    This is why they run the world. The world needs its best and brightest.

  28. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 2:00 am 

    Albert Einstein teaching at Lincoln, the United State’s first Historical Black University, 1946

    What a noble genius. The smartest man the world has ever seen.

  29. Cloggie on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 3:58 am 

    “What a noble genius.”

    Sure. He attended the US power brokers to the fact that a nuclear bomb was possible. What a noble man!

    The nuclear weapon, the most satanic weapon ever invented. This monster weapon was almost entirely invented by the most monstrous, satanic race that ever existed.

    This kike was anything but noble:

    “Albert Einstein: the great scientist who was a flawed human being”

    “Albert Einstein teaching at Lincoln, the United State’s first Historical Black University, 1946”

    Every jew is working day and night to get whitey destroyed through mass third world immigration, affirmative action. In jewish hands the negro and muslim are weapons intended to destroys us.

    But now it is over.

    After Brexit, the Anglo water carriers of the jew are in total geopolitical isolation and at the mercy of Eurasia. And since we are living in a universe where smaller animals are eaten by larger ones, this doesn’t bode well for the Anglos. On top of that, the US is on the verge of falling apart over race. Anglosphere could be over by next Christmas. Australia and New Zealand gobbled up by China, Scotland and Norther Ireland (Wales? London?) back in the EU through secession and North-America balkanizing.

    Bye-bye jews. No suckers available anymore to do their satanic bidding.

    “‘This isn’t the Britain we fought for,’ say the ‘unknown warriors’ of WWII”

    Yes it is exactly what you fought for, you British suckers!

    “How dare you Cloggmeister, sir, attack the great Einstein.”

    You seriously think we don’t dare to attack you?

    “Holocaust”, you said?

  30. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 5:48 am 

    Most Germans say Erdoğan has negative influence on world security – opinion poll

  31. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 5:51 am 

    Violence broke out between police officers and members of the far-left scene in Germany on New Year’s Eve.

  32. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 6:02 am 

    John Bolton said he hoped the assassination of Qassem Suleimani was “the first step to regime change in Tehran”.

    IT’S HAPPENING! First IRAQ Oil now Iran!

    Asia and Europe are going to have to get on their knees soon.

    Where is Putin? Not a peep. Just like when we hit Syria and pulled his bitch cord.


  33. Cloggie on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 7:52 am 

    “Where is Putin? Not a peep. Just like when we hit Syria and pulled his bitch cord.”

    How delusional can you be?! Putin kicked US ass in Syria, the US is about to be thrown out of Iraq too.

  34. I AM THE MOB on Fri, 3rd Jan 2020 10:16 am 

    ‘World War III’ trends on Twitter NeoCons hawks rejoice at Trump decision to assassinate Iranian military leader

  35. lindan on Mon, 13th Jan 2020 10:18 pm 

    Very Nice Article. Enjoyed reading It, really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective.

  36. I AM THE MOB on Mon, 13th Jan 2020 10:36 pm 

    You are welcome lindan. My REAL GREEN adaptation articles are widely respected here and often quoted. Glad you enjoyed them. Unlike all the extremist nutters here who cannot see the obvious truth of my words, you are clearly the kind of intelligent poster we need a lot more of around here.

  37. I AM THE MOB on Tue, 14th Jan 2020 1:01 am 

    BTW lindan. What country are you from my freind? And are you a liberal, or a conservative? Not that any of that dumb stuff really matters all that much to me or anything.

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