According to Henry Ford, “History is bunk!” He was wrong. A good knowledge of history is useful for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most important is the insight it provides into human nature. Think of it as a vast psychology experiment carried out over a period of several millennia. It’s also a great help for putting things in perspective. Among these is the ongoing hysteria over Japan’s low birthrate. Instapundit just linked one of the many articles on the subject, and others may be found here, here, here, and here.
According to one article Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, issued a “dire warning” that the problem must be solved “now or never.” He announced that a new government agency would be set up to deal with the issue in April. His aide, Masako Mori, chimed in, “If we go on like this, the country will disappear.” According to another article, “Japan’s population crisis nears point of no return,” and is “…following the worst-case scenario.”
I posted an article about the absurdity of this alarmism a few years ago. Allow me to quote at length. Noting the prevalence of similar articles on the subject at the time I wrote,
The amazing thing about these repetitious articles is their utter lack of any historical context. It turns out that Japan’s population has been a “ticking time bomb” for well over a century. However, back in the day it was ticking in a different direction. For example, according to an article that appeared in the April 1904 issue of the British Edinburgh Review, discussing the conflict in the Far East that would soon culminate in the Russo-Japanese war,
“In 1872 the population of Japan amounted to only 33,110,793; in 1900 it was 44,805,937, already too great for her territory.”
A few decades later the “time bomb” was still ticking in drive instead of reverse. As noted in an article at the website of Australia’s Pacific War Historical Society,
“Between 1918 and 1930, Japan’s population had expanded dramatically and outstripped the capacity of the nation’s resources to support it. To sustain its population blow-out, substantial food imports were essential, but foreign tariffs imposed on its exports of manufactured goods limited the capacity of Japan to pay for its food imports. Japan had tried to deal with its population problem by encouraging emigration of Japanese to countries such as the United States, but had met resistance from Americans who feared the loss of unskilled jobs to cheap immigrant labour.”
This time, of course, the “time bomb” led to Japan’s disastrous decision to attack the United States. Even after the war there was much wringing of hands about its rapid forward progress. For example, from an article that appeared in the December 1950 issue of the American Mercury,
“Our exceedingly efficient Public Health and Welfare Division has succeeded in driving down Japan’s death rate from 29.2 per thousand in 1945 to only 10.9 per thousand in 1949. The birthrate, meanwhile, was rising to 32.8. Thus, with our help, Japan’s population is now increasing at the rate of 1,800,000 per year. Every morning there are 5,000 more Japanese than yesterday… How can we say that we have helped Japan when Japan is less self-sufficient today than she has ever been.”
Which is exactly the reason I pointed out that Japan should be overjoyed about her declining birthrate. Japan is self-sufficient with the population of something over 30 million she had back in 1872. The need for substantial food imports and fear of starvation was one of the main reasons she plunged into disastrous wars when her population was half what it is today. Now, with a population of over 125 million, she’d better hope for world stability, continuing production of large surpluses of food in other countries, and the ability to pay for it into the indefinite future. This is what I’m talking about when I refer to historical perspective.
Of course, the idea that the Japanese will become extinct is absurd. Birth rates can and do change drastically in periods of decades. One must hope that, for her sake, the population will be much lower than it is today by the time births again catch up with deaths. Another, somewhat more plausible, reason given for the claim that Japan faces a “ticking time bomb” is her imagined inability to support her aged citizens “in the style to which they have become accustomed” without a rapid increase in the number of taxpayers. The “quick and easy” solution to this “dire” situation proposed in virtually all these articles is a massive increase in immigration by culturally and/or racially alien foreigners.
I really can’t imagine anything more disastrous for the Japanese people. If they follow this sage advice, they will eventually cease to be a nation at all. Instead, as has already happened in the western “liberal democracies,” the country will lose its national character and become yet another mere geographical entity inhabited by mutually hostile tribes. Nations have suffered calamities a great deal more dire than a decline in the living standards of the aged, such as the black death and many similar plagues, famine, civil war, and even decapitation by fanatical Communists as happened to Russia and Cambodia. In spite of this they have retained their national character. As we have seen, both recently and in the distant past, this has not always been true in cases of massive invasion, whether hostile or not, by alien foreigners.
This begs the question of why so many people, both inside and outside of Japan, seem to seriously believe that massive immigration is a great idea. Of course, much has been written about the nefarious conspiracies of our ruling elites, and their promotion of Woke propaganda advocating such things as the brotherhood of all mankind, equalism, the elimination of national borders, and the liquidation of nations in general, all for supposedly selfish ends. I doubt that this is the only reason, or even a major reason, for the current dominance of Woke ideology. Its fanatical adherents, like the Communists of old, aren’t just all dupes of elite propaganda. Rather, their ideology makes a strong appeal to the moral nature of our species. In this case, as in so many others, that nature has become self-destructive outside of the environment in which it evolved.
In the case of Japan and that of many other current and former nations, it is self-destructive because coherent nation states have been the sources and drivers of virtually all human technological, scientific, and social progress. What, then, can explain this persistent desire to eliminate them? Perhaps the World Wars of the 20th century had something to do with it. Witnessing the carnage, many intelligent people came to the conclusion that it was all because of nationalism, and if national borders were eliminated, warfare would be at an end.
They were wrong. World Wars I and II were certainly wars between nations that perceived each other as outgroups. However, the ubiquitous human tendency to classify others as ingroup or outgroup won’t disappear along with national boundaries. It will simply find a potentially even more destructive outlet elsewhere. Indeed, it already has. Nationalism didn’t drive the murder of a quarter to a third of Cambodia’s population or the decapitation of Russia by fanatical Communists. It was not the reason for Civil War in the United States and many other countries. It was not the driver behind the religious fanaticism that has taken tens of millions of lives over the years. Elimination of nations won’t put a stop to such disasters. It will merely direct them elsewhere. We will never put a stop to them unless we finally learn to understand ourselves, and the innate, emotional traits that are the ultimate cause of all our behavior.
As for Japan, one must hope that her people will not become yet another victim of massive immigration, in reality just good, old-fashioned colonialism by another name, as a “solution” to her problems. I doubt that her population will shrink back to the 30 million of the 19th century, but she would be much better off if it did. Such a population is sustainable, not to mention a great deal more environmentally sound, than one of 125 million on such a small archipelago. In an age of high tech and nuclear weapons, Japan would potentially be a great deal stronger, not weaker, with a smaller population, in spite of her hostile neighbors.
Let her take a close look at the example of the “liberal democracies” of the West and consider whether that’s really the future she wants for her own people. I lack any standing to tell the Japanese people what they “ought” to do. However, such a future looks singularly unattractive to me.
I note in passing that I don’t mean to suggest that you, dear reader, have fewer children. Quite the opposite! If there is any danger of your overpopulating the planet in the process, I will let you know in due time.