Good News About Our Ageing Population

Asia Confidential's picture

A week doesn't go by without hearing about the problems which will be created by the world's rapidly ageing population. Much of the focus is on how fewer people will mean lower future economic growth. The likes of Harry Dent have popularised the idea but it's also been given intellectual heft by thousands of demographic consultants.

There's no doubt that the world is getting older. Many will be surprised to learn that even Asia has serious issues on this front. For instance, fertility rates in South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore are below those of European countries such as Italy and Germany, which are most commonly associated with demographic problems.

The post today though will look at the silver linings associated with ageing demographics. Older populations don't necessarily equate to lower economic growth. Boosting productivity is the key to offsetting declining working-age populations. Without it, there will indeed be much lower growth but we're hopeful that the seriousness of the issue will prompt real solutions to address productivity.

Also, having fewer people in future may end up being the best thing that could have happened to us. There's considerable evidence that we're now living in a resource-constrained world. One where we may soon face a food crisis as agricultural inventories dip to decade lows thanks to lower crop yields and increased demand from Asia. Fewer people should mean reduced resource consumption and may actually save us from not having enough food to feed the planet.

For investors, ageing demographics and resource constraints do mean the odds favour slower economic growth in the decades ahead. Yet these issues will also create some tremendous investment opportunities in areas such as biotechnology, robotics, agriculture, and renewable energy.

Yes, we're rapidly ageing
I'm not going to detail how the world is rapidly ageing as it's been done ad nauseam. Suffice to say that many don't quite comprehend how quickly the process is taking place.

For instance, many government agencies predict peak world population of around 8 billion by 2050. What's more interesting is that much of the population growth will occur in Africa. Ex-Africa, the world's population could peak around 6.5 billion as early as 2040. Below is the optimistic case as outlined by the U.N..

World population and projection, 1950-2100

Let's put that into context. I'm 38 years of age. Within my lifetime, I'm likely to witness a declining global population. Moreover, I may be reaching retirement age when the world population, ex-Africa, starts to fall. Unless, of course, our governments lift the retirement age to 80, which can't be ruled out!

The key driver to slowing population growth is declining fertility rates. And the causes of these falling rates include advances in birth control and improved education of women.

The numbers on fertility rates are staggering. It's no surprise that many developed countries now have fertility rates well below so-called replacement rates, with Europe featuring prominently.

Low birth rates in western world

What's less known is that Asia faces a similar predicament to the West. China's birth rate has declined from 6 in the 1960s to 1.5 today. South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong all have birth rates among the lowest in the developed world. Even below the likes of Italy!

Falling populations in Asia

Africa and parts of the Middle East are the primary areas where fertility rates are well above replacement rates. Greater populations are the last thing that many of these areas need though.

Africa, Mid East fertility rates

Ageing doesn't equal lower growth
There's a widespread assumption that an ageing demographic profile invariably leads to lower economic growth. Japan is often held up as proof of this.

The assumption has several flaws:

  1. Historical experience suggests that you can have strong, above-trend economic growth in places where populations are ageing. Venice in the 11th century and the Dutch Republic in the 14th century are prime examples.
  2. Modern-day experience also pokes some holes in the theory. If population alone led to stronger economic growth, then Africa today should be shooting the lights out. Only it isn't.
  3. The underlying flaw is that population growth is only one-half of the GDP equation. GDP growth equals population growth plus productivity growth. You can have zero population growth and still be growing GDP via productivity enhancements.

Of course, ageing demographics make it more likely that a country will have slower economic growth. To explain this further, let's look at a concrete example in China.

South China Morning Post columnist, Tom Holland, had a good article on this over the past week.  He explained the maths behind why China GDP growth should soon slow sharply to 6% or below.

He first used an an analogy to explain GDP growth:

"If you run a sausage factory, there are three ways that you can increase the output of sausages. You can employ more staff to make them. You can invest in new sausage-making-machinery.

Or you can use the staff and machines that you already have more efficiently."

The first two factors are easy to measure but the third isn't, and it's referred to by economists as Total Factor Productivity, or TFP.

China has some big issues. Its working-age population peaked in 2012. That means it has less people to make the proverbial sausages.

It also has had a big drop-off in TFP in recent years. The country's GDP growth has been held up by greater investment in physical capital. Or investment in new sausage-making machines, using Mr Holland's analogy.

China TFP

The problem is that the working-age population is set to decline further. And China wants to reduce investment in favour of consumption as the government has recognised that it's been too reliant on the former. Consequently, investment could easily decline by one-third in future.

It means China will need a big lift in TFP for GDP growth to be maintained at current levels. That seems improbable.

People forecasting 5% GDP growth in China in the near future are often referred to as extreme bears. But the maths suggest that it's a pretty realistic scenario.

In sum, an ageing population doesn't directly correlate to slowing economic growth. But it makes it more likely.

Add resource constraints and there's an issue 
In my view, the other key issue in coming decades which receives much less attention is that of an increasingly resource-constrained world. It's the combination of this and ageing demographics which makes for increased odds for a slower growth world.

Two weeks ago, I did a post reviewing a book called Life After Growth, discussing resources constraints. It received more comments than any other piece that I've ever done. There were lots of strong opinions, vested interests and plenty of believers in technology overcoming any future obstacles.

I won't repeat the previous post but simply point out that there's considerable evidence of resources being much harder to find and more costly. And in some cases, we're just running out.

In the case of oil for example, U.S. production from conventional sources peaked in the early 1980s. Since then, growth of unconventional sources has resulted in very modest growth in total oil production. Unconventional oil primarily means offshore drilling, which is much more costly. Not surprisingly, higher oil costs have resulted in elevated oil prices.

Conventional oil declines

Yes, there's all kinds of work into producing more oil via unconventional means. Tar sands and share oil are examples. The problem is that both of these are tremendously expensive and energy inefficient. In 20 years time, both may well be considered the Kodaks of the energy world (technology bypassed by better quality, low cost means).

The likes of solar and wind power do offer some hope, though both are still too costly to compete with hydrocarbons, but that should change over the next few decades.

Regarding constrained resources, I'd also point to metal ore grades, which are rapidly declining in most cases. Take gold and copper as examples.

gold ore grades

Copper grade

Declining grades mean they're much harder to find and much more costly to bring to production.

Lastly, let's look at agriculture, where perhaps the most acute shortages are present. The common assumption is that we have a lot of land available for agriculture. That's true. But the issue is that the amount of prime agricultural land is declining.

That's resulting in reduced crop yield growth. Thus, crop yield growth has dropped from 3.5% per annum in the late 1960s to 1.25% now. The latter figure is still ok, of course. The issue is that it's closing in on global population growth of 1%. Further falls in crops yields do not bode well!

You may ask what these resource constraints have to do with future economic growth. Well, as explained in my book review, cheap energy has been the principal driver for economic growth since 1750. If the era of cheap energy is over, then growth may be impacted too.

And, no, technology is highly unlikely to save the day. Via the comments to my aforementioned book review, I was amazed by the number of people who had faith in technology to fix our energy issues and ultimately boost economic output. There's little doubt that we live in an age of technological optimism.

But here are a few things that should trouble these optimists:

  • Over the past two decades in the U.S., economic growth has slowed markedly from previous decades despite technological progress. Sorry but Apple and Twitter don't move the dial on economic productivity, with the latter reducing productivity if my experience is anything to go by.
  • Technological improvements weren't able to stop conventional oil production from peaking. Despite trillions of dollars in spending.
  • Technology wasn't able to prevent mining ore grades from deteriorating.
  • And technology wasn't able to stop crop yields from sharply declining.

The faith in technology to solve problems from ageing demographics and resources constraints seems to be contrary to much of recent experience. That doesn't mean it can't happen but I wouldn't bet on it.

The upside of ageing
Right, the outlook appears fairly gloomy thus far. Where's the bright side in all of this, you may ask? In my view, there are a couple of key silver linings to a world rapidly getting older:

  1. Over the next decade or two, the issue will reach a critical stage where politicians and policy makers will be forced to provide solid solutions to boost productivity and economic growth. Without these solutions, growth could fall to levels no one will like. In other words, a crisis is more likely to result in concrete action. Of course, skeptics will point to the 2008 credit crisis and the distinct lack of reform since as reason to doubt that real change will take place. And I've got a lot of sympathy for that view. However, the seriousness of the ageing and resource constraint issues may end up dwarfing that of the recent credit crisis and I remain hopeful that will force change. And by change, I mean long-term investments in innovation, education and technology in order to lift economic productivity.
  2. Fewer people on the planet post-2050 may not be the disaster that many economists make it to be. In fact, it could be the best thing that could have happened. It may reduce resource consumption and alleviate some of the important concerns around food availability in future.

If we do get ground-breaking reform and a declining global population, then we may end up in a boring, slow growth world. But that mightn't be a bad thing given the economic volatility of recent times. And more importantly, we'd have a much more sustainable growth model.

Investor takeaways
The key takeaways for investors from all of this are:

  • You should prepare for a slower growth world. Ageing demographics and resource constraints make it more likely than not.
  • Parts of the the world's fastest growing region, Asia, appear particularly vulnerable. That's because favourable demographics and cheap resource extraction have provided significant tailwinds to economic growth of late. And those trends are set to reverse.
  • Investment returns may be lower than in previous decades. Given this and the ageing demographics, yields/dividends on assets should take on greater importance. In other words, the current search for yield may not be cyclical, but generational.
  • You'd think the search for yield would create a natural demand for the safety of bonds, but given current pitifully low bond yields, that may not be the case.
  • That could create sustained, long-term demand for the likes of commercial and industrial property. Residential property in most countries offers much lower yields than these other property segments and therefore won't be as attractive.
  • Yield in appreciating currencies will be important. Particularly given the current determination of central bankers to debauch their currencies. We prefer Asian currencies over the West given sounder balance sheets. On a long-term basis, we like the Chinese yuan (though not on short-term basis), as well as the Singapore and New Zealand dollars.
  • Specifically on stocks, you should not only consider those with sustainable, strong yields but also look at how the potential for elevated resource prices may impact companies in your portfolio.
  • There will also be significant investment opportunities in areas which provide solutions to some of problems of ageing demographics and resource constraints. Robotics to improve work productivity, for example. Biotech to help us live (and work) longer. Healthcare technology which helps mitigate rising healthcare spending. And in agriculture and renewable energy as resources constraints become more urgent.

AC Speed Read

- There's much doom and gloom commentary on the world's ageing demographics, popularised by the likes of Harry Dent.

- But there are important silver linings not often mentioned: an older world doesn't have to result in slower economic growth if we can boost productivity and a declining population in future decades could put us on a more sustainable path in a resource-constrained world.

- The twin themes of ageing and resource constraints do mean though that the odds still favour lower economic growth in coming decades and investors should prepare their portfolios accordingly.

- But these themes will also provide some tremendous investment opportunities in the likes of biotechnology, agriculture, renewable energy and robotics.

This post was originally published at Asia Confidential:

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Cheduba's picture

“Technological improvements weren't able to stop conventional oil production from peaking despite trillions of dollars in spending.  Technology wasn't able to prevent mining ore grades from deteriorating.  And technology wasn't able to stop crop yields from sharply declining.

The faith in technology to solve problems from ageing demographics and resources constraints seems to be contrary to much of recent experience. That doesn't mean it can't happen but I wouldn't bet on it.”

This misses the point.  It is the fiat price of oil, commodities, and food that is spiking terribly.  After the 2008 market crash, gas almost got down to $1 per gallon!  Copper went down to almost $1 per pound from its highs of $4 per pound!  Prices were plummeting until the Federal Reserve cranked up its printing presses in March 2009 and began QE, showing how wildly manipulated these prices are by HFT.

I have no doubt technology will save us once the fiat price of everything returns to normalcy from their current insane levels.  The elites thrive on memes of artificial scarcity and there have been predictions of mass starvation for several centuries that never took place.  Just look at advances in aeroponics and smart dust sensors for determining localized conditions like temperature and humidity – now you can use any empty building as a place to grow food!

Azannoth's picture

This reminds me of a joke

"If we only could supply all Africans with Mosquito nets, we would avoid the deaths of millions of Mosquitoes needlessly dying of AIDS"

I mean seriously all the wars famine genocide and the Africans are still breading like Rabbits on Speed, if they can afford to have 8 children each than they probably don't need all those Billions of dollars in Aid each Year, just saying.

zippy_uk's picture

Well - I am positive about the future. Here are my reasons:


1. Doom and gloom studies about the Future are always based on what we know and can do now, but never on

what is known and doable in the future - which is of course is ALWAYS greater.

2. 65 as a retirement age is based on a life times work for people working in heavy manual jobs. Those

jobs don't really exist any more due to machines - so people can work longer if needed. Most work is done

using phones, tablets and computers - thinking work not manual labor.

3. We waste so much food and materials - we literally through away our entire economy every day, week and year.

However technology is coming on stream to reuse this waste - itself a huge problem. I predict we will be mining

refuse tips in the next 10-20 years as a valuable resource.

4. The economy makes efficincy gains every year - it becomes to increasingly easier to do the same or better,

with less for less cost and materials.

5. Where bad governments to stiffle economies with bad and repressive policies, it is increasingly difficult to stop

the global economy from invading these countries via technology. You can login and trade (whatever) increasingly

from any point on the planet with low tech and cheap mobile technology.

6. Space exploration is on the verge of becoming exteremely cheap. This has the potential to open up the universe

where resources are infinate.

7. Treatments for old age diseases and cancer are nearing break throughs. I expect these to be cured in the next 10-20 years.

8. Gene therapy is making progress - we will be able to design our genetic disease in the coming decades

9. The rate of knowledge gain is accerating with more and more universities and students growing every year. So doe the reseach.

10. Global poverty, though still huge - is being beaten. Demographics helps with this.

11. Global population will peak in the next two decades and this is baked in the cake due to reducing birth rates.

12. An aging population is generally a wiser population

13. An aging population commits less crime


So I think Doom and Gloom is not required.

teslaberry's picture

I will rebut zippy uk
just for fun....

the future is always better. false. ; the dark ages lasted hundreds of years after rome. they may have been better for the gothic tribes, but not the people who were once roman loyalists living in western and central europe. 


65 year olds don't learn how to programm and get programming jobs. show me 1. 


waste. many people talk about the future of waste being recycled for everything. there are limits. no soecity exists without waste. even every ant-hill has a garbage zone the ants naturally carve out into marginal portions of their nest , depositing garbage there. don't imagine a society without garbage or waste being the answer. such a society will simply implode into ruin. waste is itself the margin of error by which systems take in energy , decrease their entropy (creating order) and then output the energy that is left over from the input. if the human body creates waste ( shit ) , and has been honed over many millions of years, how presumptuous to think our social systems can operate without any waste in the future. 


'efficiency' is just the same old tired answer of technology improvements solving everything. how does bitcoin or electronic gold solve the problem of an overleveraged economy? do you really think our new payment technologies will simply 'replace' the old ones without a hyperleveraged protection raquet called the too big too fail banking system simply turning over and  quietly defaulting? in 2008, they threatened our government with martial law in congress should they not get their bailout money. do you think the giant banks will simply walk away from controlling the debt bubble we call the national debt, and the private debt of americans WITOHUT a word? do you think the Chinese would simply allow the u.s. military to go unchallegned when funding stops? Do you think the Europeans will import our goods when the euro dies because it is wholly dependent on the dollars stability ?

if the banks loose the ability to print through the next crisis, everything goes haywire. there are many stakeholders in the current status quo corruption. do you think technology can simply solve that like a magic wand???? a disruptive technology to that system , should it come to exist, which i dont' think it can, would be co-opted. if it cannot be co-opted, it will be destroyed. if it cannot be destroyed, the technology will 'win'. and that means brinigng about massive chaos for the united states in particualrly and the west at large. I don't see that as anything but 'doom and gloom' but with a new spin!. not a bad spin but just as doom and gloom as status quo. perhaps more violent!


5)  I will agree with you. the new world order will actually improve the lives of the world by killing many people and dissolving smaller governments. i urge you not to be myopic though, genocide and culture cide of robust and hostile tribes will be part of the required approach. it's not all fun and games taking over the world!. sign me up though!


6) space. bitch, please. i love space always have. i could tutor you on the current state of moon colonization technology. but bitch. space has got nothing to do with doom and gloom. or the lack of it. leave space the fuck alone.

7) treatements for diseases of aging are 1) simply going to lead to new diseases of aging being more common and proliferating 2) best applied to young people as a prophylactic preventitive measure to delay aging. the body almost always responds to prophylactic measures better than 'cures'. and thus, in a resource constrained world anti-aging treatment triage dictates the young get to live longer, and the old get to die. death is natural. there is no doom and gloom about it. wanting to live forever is doom and gloom. not only that, treatments for aging are hyperexpensive and draining the medicare system. the old are sucking the life out of a healthcare system no longer able to sustain treatment for the young. that IS gloomy. if older people just accept that their death is the answer for the younger generation  the older people will be happier and so to will younger people. if they struggle agianst this fact of nature, the young will suffer more and resent the old more, tearing apart the generational fabric of respect.

there is  a tao of love and hate between the rising and the setting generation. there is a dynamic tension in nature between old lions and young lions. old elephants an dyounger wons. old and young humans. such is the natural state of affairs. nothing gloomy about it. if you accept it.


8) gene therapy , just another repeat of the above ideas. 

9) RATE OF GAIN OF KNOWLEDGE. just a repeat of the above ideas. more techKNOWLEDGY doens't solve the problem of wisdom. it does not solve the problem of finding BALANCE in a dynamic set of societies we call the world. 


10) globa poverty being an observer of global poverty, i will say that on one hand this is your BEST ARGUMENT, but has least to do with you. global poverty will end with or without imperial countries as a result of socieities pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, or as a result of those societieis being totally destroyed by war and famine. 

the native americans were mostly killed. what's left of them is still poor, but there are less natives so very few of them are poor compared to the past. now they make money with casinoes. so they are less poor. white man has destroyed their way of life. this will happen with global poverty in many nations as subsistence farming is replaced by industrialization and corproate farming. i for one am a technology worshiper . say what you will about capitalism creating farming problems, but machinese with highly energy dense fuel generally create MUCH more food and MUCH mroe liesure time for everyone involved. 


11) global population is unpredictable. it has not stopped growing in 5000 years and yet you say it will peak. ok. maybe. maybe not. makes no difference if it peaks now or in 200 years to your gloom and doom outleook for the next 15 years.

12) aging = wiser? you could have fooled me with this post. aging could also mean more stubborn. or more set in the ways of the past, in a changing world requiring new solutions.

13) better technology and drones will allow older people to commit more crime with remote controlled crimebots. so don't you worry!









Radical Marijuana's picture

Yeah, teslaberry, I second your response to zippy_uk.

I especially agreed with this paragraph:

"if the banks loose the ability to print through the next crisis, everything goes haywire. there are many stakeholders in the current status quo corruption. do you think technology can simply solve that like a magic wand???? a disruptive technology to that system , should it come to exist, which i dont' think it can, would be co-opted. if it cannot be co-opted, it will be destroyed. if it cannot be destroyed, the technology will 'win'. and that means brinigng about massive chaos for the united states in particualrly and the west at large. I don't see that as anything but 'doom and gloom' but with a new spin!. not a bad spin but just as doom and gloom as status quo. perhaps more violent!"

I agreed with zippy_uk THAT THERE ARE AN ABUNDANCE OF POSSIBLE CREATIVE ALTERNATIVES. Those creative alternatives are much harder to predict than the destructive events. However, there continues to be awesome advances around the world, with regard to every possible creative alternative. HOWEVER, INTEGRATING POSSIBLE CREATIVE ALTERNATIVES INTO AN OPERATIONAL ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM IS THE PROBLEM!

The necessary keystone to any system of alternatives must necessarily be the alternative death controls. There could be no viable alternative systems without operating alternative monetary systems, (not based on runway social insanity, in the form of the privatized money-as-debt that dominates everything at present.) However, any such alternative debt controls would have to be backed up with alternative death controls, in order to actually work.

The most important problems in the future are the same as the most important problems in the past, which are how to operate the human murder systems. That problem has become trillions of times worse after the development of weapons of mass destruction. There are theoretically possible alternatives regarding how to operate better death controls, which would then make possible some of the rest of the creative alternatives to be integrated into better systems of human, industrial and natural ecologies.

However, without successful creative alternatives in the combined money/murder systems, then the runaway social insanities driven by the current systems are automatically going to get worse, faster ... There is NO "Good News About Our Ageing Population" unless there was some series of political miracles which made better murder systems possible, in order that better money systems became possible, because, without those, none of the other creative alternatives can amount to anything more than thrashing around inside the currently crazy systems, driving their own madness towards self-destruction, at an exponentially accelerating rate, because we are still STUCK in the social pyramid systems, which have pumped up their lies, backed by violence, to become globalized electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs.

TheReplacement's picture

You put a lot of faith in machines and technology.

You have a lot of faith that mankind as a breed can switch from manual labor to mental labor. 

You have a lot of faith that youth with no jobs and no prospects in general will be happy to let old people keep working and living the high life while the youngers just degernate. 

LOL, I am so glad I am neither.  The old and young are going to eat each other alive. 

Greshams Law's picture

OK, now I get it. People are fungible. The lack of young educated and productive South Koreans will be made up for by the surplus of Africans and Middle Easterners. Whew. I thought we had a problem.

Radical Marijuana's picture

"The optimistic case as outlined by the U.N." is probably grossly optimistic, due to the realities of hitting all the walls of real limits at an exponentially accelerating rate. This article mentions that, but then grossly underplays how significant is the actual degree of evil deliberate ignorance that dominates everything we are collectively doing. The U.N. was made by professional liars and immaculate hypocrites, (of the bankster supported kind.) The U.N. is another classic example of how promoting impossible ideals actually makes the opposite happen in the real world.

I am not now aware of the details of the decreasing average reproduction rates in Asian countries, however, the AVERAGE levels in North America and Europe are grossly misleading, since certain groups within those areas are still on exponential growth curves. Europe is heading towards being overrun by Muslims, while North America is tending towards being overrun by Hispanics, while other traditional populations in those places are quietly committing suicide by not reproducing at replacement rates. To summarize the situation in an over-simplified way: Women that have less than two children are committing suicide. Women that have more than two children are declaring war on their neighbors. Overall, the poor are declaring war on the rich, while the rich are committing suicide. Thus, the averages are very misleading.

Meanwhile, the richest of the rich are preparing for more genocidal wars, along with democidal martial law. Human ecology necessarily has its death controls as its central features. However, the history of the human murder systems were that success in warfare was based on deceits, and thousands of years of that has resulted in human ecology being more deeply buried under bullshit than can be dug out of by most people, especially when the majority of people are still proud of their absurd moralities, while the language that is used to talk about that is mostly more Bizarro Mirror World stuff, where everything is spoken about backwards, by professional liars and immaculate hypocrites.

For instance, almost everything that we call "birth controls" are really forms of death controls. Therefore, family planning should be done within the overall context of militarism, and negotiations between different organized crime gangs that dominate the world. However, instead "family planning" is discussed through the disassociated nonsense of the language of "human rights," which is deliberately not integrated into any overall comprehension of more objectively real human ecology. Obviously, none of that kind of rational scientific view of the human animal is remotely possible, since almost everything is instead based on a long, long history of operating our real human ecology through murder systems, whose success was based on the maximum possible deceits, while that made and maintained financial accounting systems based on the maximum possible frauds. In that context, this kind of article is relatively deficient, although it does address the real issues more forthrightly than articles like that typically did in the past, which I suppose is a sign of times, that the problems are starting to become so obvious, that they can not longer be merely ignored. (Like how the mainstream moron economists, and financial reporters in the mass media, are being pushed out of their comfort zones, of previously being able to be more deliberately ignorant, by the runaway facts forcing them more to pay attention and address those facts, in slightly more direct way than they ever used to do.)

The basic problem is the social pyramid system of Neolithic Civilization, which as conquered the whole world. That system operates through a small minority specializing in being dishonest and violent, in order to control the large majority who are kept ignorant and afraid. After thousands of years of that system being able to grow at an exponential rate, and expand to strip-mine the natural resources of the whole planet, to sustain its continued exponential rate, we are now rushing, at an exponential rate, towards not being able to continue to sustain more exponential growth, because the planet has already been strip-mined, and so, we have high-graded ourselves to hell.

The ways that the ruling classes have really prepared for that is to ramp up their debt slavery, backed by wars based on deceits, systems, primarily through false flag attacks, to enable the spiral of more deceitful wars to be driven on and on, while domestically, the same excuses were used to prepare to impose democidal martial law. The ruling classes have covertly being preparing to deal with the approaching real limits in their real ways, while the vast majority of Zombie Sheeple have not been preparing, in their typical Zombie Sheeple fashion.


As we reach the real limits to growth, those work through the social systems in convoluted and crazy ways, which tend to amplify the distortions and implicit contradictions built into the nature of Neolithic Civilizations' social pyramid systems. In fact, by definition, the real limits to growth MUST be dealt with through different death controls. However, since our actual death controls operate through the maximum deceits, and almost everyone believes in utter bullshit about that, and wants to continue to believe in the same old-fashioned bullshit about that, our responses to those real problems are driving social insanities, more than driving any other saner responses. Furthermore, since the deceitful human ecology is surrounded by fraudulent financial accounting systems, there is practically no way whatsoever for more objective scientific facts about human ecology, industrial ecology, and natural ecology, to emerge as saner, rational debates, to enable any better sets of social solutions to these rapidly running away problems.

There are lots of fragmented "solutions" ... such as work through all the reasons why many women end up, on average, not reproducing at a replacement level, in many countries, while others are still reproducing at utterly unsustainable exponential rates. However, those "solutions" are so tangled up with bullshit that there does not appear any possible ways for the current civilization to untangle them. In that context, this article was another relatively mainstream moron, who, like many others, are gradually being forced to face emergent facts that those kinds of people used to get away with deliberately ignoring not that long ago, WHO CONTINUES TO PROVIDE INVESTMENT ADVICE THAT PRESUMES THINGS ARE ACTUALLY NOT TRILLIONS OF TIMES WORSE, AND CIVILIZATION ACTUALLY NOT AS TOTALLY INSANE, AS THE REAL SITUATION ACTUALLY IS!

The real solutions to running into real limits MUST necessarily be, by definition, the result of death controls. The declining birth rates (amongst some cultural groups, in some places, while NOT in others) is one of the mad ways that those death controls are working through the lives of individual human beings, who are stuck inside of the current social and political systems, in ways where the collective evil deliberate ignorance could not be overstated, since the basic structure of social pyramid systems are based on ruling classes who are covertly dishonest, and back that up with violence, in order to control large numbers of lower class people, who have adapted to thousands of years of that kind of history by becoming Zombie Sheeple, who barely understand how anything surrounding and supporting them really works, and do not want to understand.

This article correctly points out that:

"The key driver to slowing population growth is declining fertility rates. And the causes of these falling rates include advances in birth control and improved education of women."

However, to an utterly negligible degree does that "improved education of women" include them understanding the banksters' fraudulent financial accounting systems, or the history how that was made and maintained. Therefore, so far, that "improved education of women" has NOT come within light years of being adequate to actually operate better overall human ecologies, within industrial and natural ecologies. Instead, the actual REAL effect of that, so far, has been the overall averages that the richer and better educated women are those who are most collectively committing social suicide, by failing to reproduce at replacement rates, while the poorer and less educated women continue reproducing at beyond replacement rates. WITHOUT SOME SERIES OF POLITICAL MIRACLES, WHEREBY THE IMPROVED EDUCATION OF WOMEN BECAME MORE THOROUGHLY SCIENTIFIC, AND HOLISTICALLY INTEGRATED, THEN THE ACTUAL EFFECTS WILL PROBABLY CONTINUE MANIFESTING EVEN GREATER CRAZY CONTRADICTIONS.

Hitting real limits to growth would be bad enough, as an objective problem, that we might be able to adapt to. However, since our whole society is dominated by entrenched systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, while the ruling classes like it that way, and thereby become relatively more wealthy and powerful within those systems, by continuing to be the best professional liars and immaculate hypocrites about what they are really doing, while those they rule over have been systematically reduced to bullshit consumers, who do not want to understand their own realities, the actual ways that we are going to run into the real limits to the growth of strip-mining the planet are going to become far, far more insane than we can currently comprehend.

There is NOT going to be any sane "investment planning" for that future. Rather, there are going to be driven real, radical, revolutions, which will manifest through the psychotic breakdowns of the current systems, which operate through the intertwining systems of the lies and violence of the ruling classes, and the ignorance and fear of those they rule over. That is how we are going to cope with reaching the real limits to the exponential growth of strip-mining the planet, i.e., in ways which will become too insane for us to be able to now imagine how insane those will become. ... UNLESS THERE WAS SOME SERIES OF POLITICAL MIRACLES, WHICH, BY DEFINITION, ARE EXTREMELY UNLIKELY.

Global Observer's picture

No, there are going to be no miracles and investment planning for the future is completely meaningless. What is the effect of saying so on a mainstream medium? It will only advance the inevitable total collapse of the system. Who benefits from such a collapse today rather than tomorrow? No one. So they will continue to pretend that everything can be managed, until the day of collapse.

It is not a bad outcome. Out of the collapse may come a better culture than the current culture of lies, deceit, murder and plunder.

Radical Marijuana's picture

"Who benefits from such a collapse today rather than tomorrow? No one...."

Well, Global Observer, certainly nobody alive today. However, a theoretical argument may be made that people who are not yet born might benefit later from an earlier collapse today. However, of course, I too personally benefit from postponing the collapses in to crazy chaos as long as possible.

All of my efforts are directed towards attempts to mitigate such collapses, and perhaps to catalyze such collapses, so that there was a better chance of emerging on the other side with a new culture which was less insane "than the current culture of lies, deceit, murder and plunder."

However, as an objective fact, the society around me is becoming more insane, not less insane, and therefore, I do NOT see much "Good News About Our Ageing Population," and I especially do not see any "Good News" about my own old age prospects (without some miracles.)



As Bruce Cockburn wrote years ago, waiting for a miracle.

It was a thankless task, given that deniers 'etc' would bash, politicians would give lip service, and people would go on with their daily lives. It was not good news but they delivered it in such a way as to underscore the RADICAL TRUTH of the situation but offer up some optimism. And now that 'we' have grown accustomed to this, it is predictable that the Assessment Report #5 (AR5) will be largely viewed the same way by the same camps. What is lost on all parties, not on the ones who actually WORK to produce these reports, is that the reasons for optimism have all but drained away. Working Group 1 published last September, but essentially nobody will pay attention to WG's 2, 3, and 4. Because we don't. We will see. 

On the heels of AR5 comes Paris 2015. 2014 is cast to the wind. The miracle, in Bizzarro Mirror World, is the potential catastrophe before Paris. If it should transpire then the "extremely unlikely" may occur. The odds are against it but here's the rub: What was incomprehensible happening sooner than late 21st Century is now easily believable to happen before 2020. But here's the crux of the matter: if the Arctic Ice doesn't collapse in the next two summers, it's concievable it will collapse before 2020 but the time frame is now so tight that NeoLithic Civilization will be unable to respond because UNFCCC's are the only mechanism we have to respond, and they are almost wholly dependant on IPCC Assessment Reports, which only gain validity from a process that takes about three years to produce. AR6 will not be ready until UNFCCC Conference Of Parties 2020. After almost 30 years of trying, the IPCC won't be taking the blame.

And then the insanity will really take hold. It will be what you describe RM. And as it devolves, there will be a brief period of sanity with true death controls. Then silence.

The World will turn

And the stars look down

Radical Marijuana's picture

"What was incomprehensible happening sooner than late 21st Century is now easily believable to happen before 2020."

The synergistic effects of all the problems are adding on top of each other!

The systems that privatize the profits, while socializing the losses, feed back through the funding of the political processes, so that only the short-term private profit matters, while the longer term losses get deliberately disregarded and discounted.

The latest little example is how fracking rigs in Wyoming have been abandoned by bankrupt companies. That little example multiplies with many, many others, which all compound upon each other, at a rate where the consequences of the exponential growth of everything that human beings wanted, also drives the side-effects, of the deliberately disregarded and discounted evil consequences, to also accumulate at an exponential rate.


From a general energy systems point of view, using the oxygen in the air to burn oil was just as vital as the oil to burn. However, within the economic system, ONLY THE OIL WAS WORTH MONEY, WHILE THE AIR WAS WORTH NOTHING. From a general energy systems point of view, that was an insane attitude, which enabled taking for granted, while steadily destroying, what was actually more important than the short-term benefits gained from burning the oil. However, since human beings operated through fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting systems, since money was actually measurement backed by murder, the short-term triumphs of being able to back up lies with violence, in order to privatize the profits, overwhelmed any concerns for the longer term consequences.

All over the world, traditional cultures which had evolved for thousands of years to have some ways to operate relatively sustainably within their local natural environment were conquered by the Neolithic style of civilizations, which placed a premium on privatizing the planet, while that was collectively killing the planet, as each increment of making a $killing made those doing that more wealthy and powerful, within their human social pyramid systems.

Humans blamed for climate change becomes very problematic inside that political context, where, to whatever degree there are real problems, the "solutions" proposed tend to exacerbate the social pyramid systems, not mitigate those. Although we may be getting a temporary break from natural systems at the present time, the overall trajectory is still towards runaway climate changes, which could utterly overwhelm any of the optimism about the future expressed in this article above.

Yet, anyway, MEAN BUSINESS, I too feel some philosophical consolations when I look up at the stars looking down.

logicalman's picture

3 Guys - A mathematician, a physicist and an economist, washed up on a desert island with nothing wlse, but tinned food.

The question is, how to open the cans.

The mathematician grabs a stick and starts drawing out calculations in the sand - but he can't come up with a solution.

Physicist grabs the stick - does some calculations, but still no open cans.

Economists says 'First, let us assume we have a can opener'

Peanut Butter Engineer's picture

Me engineer find a flat rock and rub the top side of tin can til it's open approximate 15 runs and I get to eat whatever In the can, rest of u can just starve now... I don't share.

kurt's picture


so where does the stick end up?

are we there yet's picture

Making graphs of the distant future based on the selected scientists of different variables I like is so much fun.

new guy's picture

I would like to put in a request for TPTB to increase someone else's productivity for a change. I am quite happy with my level of productivity. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

Dr. Sandi's picture

Sorry, I'll have to deal with your request later. It's time for my power nap.

logicalman's picture

The earth could happily sustain 1 billion, pretty much until the sun gets out of order.

If you are looking at a sustainable situation, do the math.

The population is the ultimate illustration of the Ponzi scheme of central banking - you need more people to work to pay off interest. The only reason women were encouraged to go into the 'workforce' was to increase the number of people being taxed.

Please don't give me a hard time on this one. Men are not better than women, and vice versa, but we are different (some may have noticed) and evolution gave us different roles in life - equally valid ones.

This crap can't go on forever.

Dr. Sandi's picture

Long term, there WILL be sustainability across this old planet.

Some of us won't like what happens to get us there. Many more of us will no longer be here to care.

logicalman's picture

I'm one of the aging 'boomers'

Never played the game - No debt, no car, no credit card, no TV, no cell phone.

I'm 59 and can still cycle 25 miles in 2 hours on a mountain bike. I quite often do 50 miles in a day - I do at least 10 miles every day.

I think I can reasonably say that I haven't done much to contribute to the madness.

Modern 'society' sucks.... the life out of anyone that lets it.

We'll all be going for the 'dirt nap' one day, so enjoy each day (ethically).

Glad I'm not at the beginning of my life in this insane asylum, that's for sure.

Anusocracy's picture

I would think that you are looking at aging wrong.

My motto is outlive the bastards.

zhanglini's picture

Ageing is ok, as long as we are not aging...

Comte d'herblay's picture

Fact:  Most of The vast square mileage of the United States is:   EMPTY. 

Crowding, density, and similar issues that arise when human beans are jammed together like murder, crime of all kinds, can easily be solved and will be simply by spreading out, filling up a fifth of our land mass, will into the 3000s. 


Graph's picture

EMPTY....of ingredients for life, to paraphrase commercial pitch.

Dr. Sandi's picture

Who needs water when you have 10 acres of your own prime desert.

willwork4food's picture

Yes, there's a LOT of land. The problem is how to (economically) get the people out in the country to jobs in the city, or wherever there's an abundance of paid work. Funny how the assholes in the US power structures destroyed trains.

Europe laughs at us.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Increasing population for the individual means less water, less food, less space, fewer material goods, higher costs, more crowding, more medocrity, and environmental catastrophe.  For the Government it means more power and more munchkins to control.

Your choice.


drstrangelove73's picture

The author's faith in government and political leaders'ability to 'solve'the hypothetical problems the author advances is touching,but grotesquely naive.

Dr Benway's picture

Ah but you don't understand. The financial and demographic cliff we face is actually a good thing, according to the genius blogger Asia Confidential, because it will force government to take greatly needed actions to fix everything!

This is the mantra of the stock shill: bad news is good. And magic robots will save us! No need to worry who will provide everything, we can consume more than we produce forever.

MrVincent's picture

This article is making the rounds on many of the financial blogs. It doesn't account for the 120 trillion in unfunded liabilities in America alone.

Dr Benway's picture

I was just going to post the same thing. Underfunded pension schemes, like any ponzi, do not work well when new suckers for the scheme dry up.

And this is but one of the multitude of absolute idiocies in the article. In fact, this article is so stupid it literally gives me a headache. Shit like this is why I very rarely read main stream financial "journalism", I just can't take it.

mumbo_jumbo's picture


LOL i didn't even bother reading it, the first couple of paragraphs were so full of holes i thought, why bother with the rest

LawsofPhysics's picture

Correct.  In addition the authors do not understand exponential equations.  We already went past 7+ billion people.  In fact, we are on track for 14+ billion by 2020.

WWIII is now inevitable.

presk_eel_pundit's picture

Author also states "Let's put that into context. I'm 38 years of age. Within my lifetime, I'm likely to witness a declining global population." What he doesn't say is that he'll also see a doubling of the population since he was born.

jeff montanye's picture

doubling since he was born, yes.  doubling in the next seven years, as the post above yours indicates, no.

DR's picture

There will not be enough growth to support the 200 trillion+ of financial assets. Someone is going to take a loss in the future-make sure it isn't you. This should be the overriding  investment direction....

LawsofPhysics's picture

Correct, focus less on a return "on" capital and more on the return "of" capital.

LMAOLORI's picture



Quick breakdown Old People Create Jobs this is a reasonable assumption. The U.S. isn't the only nation with a large number getting older China is also seeing an aging population they are supposed to have the world's most aged society by 2030.

FieldingMellish's picture

Still hoping for growth, eh? Well... keeping hoping.

mumbo_jumbo's picture

the real question is who are the older people going to sell their assets to for higher prices?  when there are less people working less hours for less pay....i'd like to see his math for that one.

logicalman's picture


Make 'em really suffer.

Don't ever let 'em get fucked ever again.

4 wheel drift's picture

And fuck economists.


how about three times over.....  these voodoo fuckers are simply promoting priests for the shit the politicians sell the voters....

the real problem is that in this scenario where less resources will be used...  (i doubt it)  and less productivity....  (because the new 'workers' have been accustomed to get $sit from the gov. (free $hit army) -so the mind set is ... why work ?  the gov. will 'subsidize me in exchange for my vote) the net result

will be deflation and higher taxes to those who have PRODUCTIVE business.....   and of course the politicians will eventually run out of people (with money) to tax....


the real problem is that ethics have been destroyed and today, doing the unconstitutional not only is easy.....   criminality is te new normal...  all one has to do is have enough power (or friends in power) to tell the populi and/or the possible prosecutors to go fly a kite.....

fuck this shit

Dr Benway's picture

You are right. The financial system no longer improves the functioning of the real productive economy, but rather acts as a massive and expanding dead weight. A tax, if you will, on the real economy.

In Australia, the ballooning financial sector now constitutes a third of the market, choking any remaining real enterprise. We are staring at a scenario where no one does any real work producing anything, everyone can just work in finance and real estate, shuffling numbers. Add to this lower labor participation, and the load of the tiny minority that is expected to produce for everyone becomes staggering.

But as long as the morons, including the article author, have solid control over the media and minds of the populace, there is no chance this will change. I hold moron shills personally responsible for the shithole we are in. And why the fuck is this shit on ZH?

Anusocracy's picture

The Lucky Country's luck is running out?

Hope not. I have a great fondness for Australia, having seen 20,000 kilometers of your roadside on a bicycle.

Dr Benway's picture

I love this country too. That's why it's so painful to see it devolve into a scam.

Cartel building, rent seeking, inflating bubbles - this is the focus of the entire Australian economy, on every level, including the individual.

The rort blob has encroached on all free enterprise and productive use of capital.