Policy Makers - Like Generals - Are Busy Fighting The Last War

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Chris Hamilton via Econimica blog,

The Maginot Line formed France's main line of defense on its German facing border from Belgium in the North to Switzerland in the South.  It was constructed during the 1930s, with the trench-based warfare of World War One still firmly in the minds of the French generals.  The Maginot Line was an absolute success...as the Germans never seriously attempted to attack it's interconnected series of underground fortresses.  But the days of static warfare were over – in 1940, the Germans simply drove around the line through Holland and then Belgium.  Had the Germans replayed WWI and made a direct attack, the Maginot Line likely would have done its job.  But Hitler wasn't interested in a WWI re-do, so the fortifications were quickly rendered moot.  France, Europe, and the world would pay the price for generals fighting the last war rather than adjusting to the contemporary risks they faced.

In 2008, the economic generals at the various central banks likewise pulled out the playbook to refight the great depression... not realizing, this time was an entirely different opponent.  Federal governments and central bankers presumed doing what they had always done would again win the day.  Cut interest rates (this time to zero) to incent both public and private entities to refinance existing debt loads and undertake new, greater leverage.  This nearly free money would reduce debt service levels and the new loans would ignite a new wave of economic activity in the form of capital expenditures and small business creation.  Economic multipliers and velocity would ensure general prosperity with job and wage growth.  Instead, it's the "Maginot Line" all over again for our economic generals as economic activity grinds to a stall absent the illusory asset bubbles.

BTW - if you are not a fan of charts or visual representations...this is not the article for you and likely best to stop here.

What changed?

1- The Global Population of Young (Future Consumer Base) Ceased Growing...30 Years Ago.

For hundreds if not thousands of years, global population growth rose at an annual rate of about 0.2% to 0.4%.  Somewhere in the 19th century, the pace of population growth began rising significantly faster and headed to a global rate never seen before and likely never to be seen again.  The rate of population growth peaked around 1970 and has precipitously fallen off since.  However, despite the collapse in the rate of population growth, the total population has continued to rise due to the existing population living decades longer than the previous generation (chart below).

The worlds population ceased growing in about 1988...since that time the world is only growing older.  Below, global births per five year periods plus UN medium and low estimates.  The double peak from '85-->'90 and again '10-->'15 is clear and as for the future, the reality will be somewhere between the medium and low estimates, but flat to declining births will be the order of the day.

So it only figures, if you tracked the population of young (0-4yr/old total annual population...chart below) that they would essentially cease growing.  The population growth party was over...and it ended almost 30 years ago.

2- The Worlds Population is Still Growing Due to a Surge in the Elderly Living Longer and High African Birthrates Offsetting Global Depopulation of Young

If there was no increase in the global number of births or the population of young...how did the world grow so much?  The old living so much longer.  The chart below shows the two ends of the life spectrum...the global populations of 0-4yr/olds vs. the 75+yr/olds.  Both populations grew rapidly until '90...but since '90, the 75+ population has nearly doubled while the population of young isn't budging.  And by 2050, the population of elderly will surpass the population of young...undoing what was a 10:1 ratio in 1950.

Why is this a bad thing (economically)?  65+yr/olds consume at about 70% of the rate they did during their peak working years.  By the time they are 75+yrs/old their consumption drops to about 50% to 60% of what it was during peak working years.  They are credit averse, preparing for (or on) fixed incomes, and napping is one of their favorite activities and it doesn't cost a thing.

3- Global Depopulation of young (excluding Africa)

The chart below highlights global births per five year periods ex-Africa plus UN estimates for medium and low future births.  Again, the reality will likely split the UN estimates but a clear peak in the late '80's and huge deceleration of births since is undeniable.

The surging births in Africa plus medium and low UN future estimates.  But sadly, absent income, without savings, without access to credit, and the world awash in overcapacity as it is...this population growth in Africa has no avenue to export themselves to prosperity or greater consumption.  They are simply economically going to remain poor beyond belief and will not be capable of driving any significant economic activity.

Excluding Africa, births from the remainder of the world are collapsing since the late 1980's peak.  And according to the UN's best guestimates, births will only continue trending down world over (excluding Africa).  Fewer births means fewer consumers, declining need for housing, commodities, and nearly everything else as this smaller population works it way through from the bottom up (also known as deflation or depopulation).

What people struggle to understand is that our present system is all about growth and it is the population growth of .05% or 1% which drives economic activity magnitudes larger. This relatively small population growth % drives huge spending on infrastructure, home building, factories, supply chains, etc.  The differing impact of 1% or 0.1% population growth is felt far beyond a 1% or .1% economic growth...more like 10x's that impact.

But population growth isn't slowing across the board.  It is the huge population declines of the young among the combined wealthy 35 OECD nations (list of members HERE), China, Russia, & Brazil vs. the still growing but decelerating RoW (rest of the world...but really Africa).  So, the 0-4yr/old combined OECD, China, Russia, and Brazil population peaked in 1991 and has steadily declined since, now down over <-22%>.  The combined 0-4yr/old population growth among the relatively poor RoW was barely able to offset the declines of the relatively wealthy developed since '91 (chart below).

High fertility rates and population growth in Africa are solely offsetting the contracting populations of young across the remainder of the world.  The chart below highlights global fertility rates for 2016....where the global population growth is coming from.  In two words, Central Africa.

Those highlighted in yellow, orange, red, and magenta (indicating nations that, on average, have 3 to 6+ children per female) are almost entirely located in Africa.   Uganda, Somalia, Burundi all have birthrates near 6 children per female and the most populous African nation, Nigeria (approaching 200 million citizens), has a birthrate of 5.1.  Officially, 2.1 children per female is zero growth and the global fertility rate has fallen over 50% from it's 1964 peak of 5.1 to 2.4 as of 2016...and all indications point to further declines.

Declining populations of young across the world has been made up for by growing populations of young in Africa.  Something tells me, economically, this is not a good trade.

Below, GDP per capita or purchasing power parity (PPP).  Countries with low PPP in red (Central Africa), moderate in green, high in blue, and very high in magenta.  Most global commodities and exports cost the same worldwide...so those with high PPP's (and particularly those with relatively easy access to credit) can consume far more than those with low PPP's.  The bulk of nations highlighted in red (particularly in Africa) have PPP's below $2000 a year...(and as low as $400/yr).  Nations with annual PPP's of $2000 are generally in-line with the GDP per capita of Haiti...their consumptive capability is equivalent to about 5% of US GDP per capita.

How the worlds population is distributed, by global regions (chart below).  Africa represents about 15% of the worlds population but at least 100%+ of population growth.

Below, net 2016 fertility rates as per those regions.  Shortly, all regions will likely be negative...except Africa.

Below, world population excluding Africa...further broken down by the under 45 and over 45yr/old populations.

Global 0-44yr/old population, excluding Africa (chart below).  This is the child bearing population...as their total number shrinks compounded by collapsing birth rates, a far larger population decline could be in store than anticipated.

Global 45+yr/old population, excluding Africa.  This is how the world is growing...by growing older (chart below).

Global 0-44 vs 45+yr/old population change, per 5yr periods (chart below).  No, the world is coming to the rescue...if the world is seen through a lens excluding Africa, the 0-45yr/old population growth is essentially over.  The population capable of bearing children has chosen not to...and is now itself declining in size.  The global economy will never be the same.

2017 is the last sliver of light for the nations that collectively consume 70% of global oil and represent about 80% of all global import markets.  The combined 0-64yr/old population of the 35 OECD nations plus China, Russia, and Brazil grows just one million persons in 2017 or 0.1% (chart below).  After that, the declines begin, slowly at first but picking up speed to the downside every year.  What was an influx of up to 30 million new consumers annually with the income, savings, and access to credit will now be a declining consumer base for the rest of our lives.

The reason Japan and Germany were able to maintain their economies once their own internal 0-64yr/old consumer bases were declining was an emphasis on exports to a still growing export market.  Looking at the annual population growth of the 0-64yr/old importer nations (OECD, China, Russia, Brazil), the chart below highlights when, in turn, major nations / trading blocks 0-64yr/old populations turned negative.  We see that the final support for global consumption, China, turns negative this year.  As you see below, that pool of seemingly endless demand for import growth goes dry this year.

So, what about the US?  The data that represents the US economy, charted out with a minimum of opinion.  You decide what it means.

US Population growth & Makeup of that Growth -

The change, per five year periods, of the 0-44yr/old population vs. the 45+yr/old population (chart below).  The UN medium population growth estimate is included through 2050 (the 45+ estimate is a lock but the 0-44 is highly optimistic and slowing birthrates almost surely means there will be significantly less 0-44yr/old growth than indicated).

Total US Debt & US Full Time Jobs - The change, per period, of net full time job growth vs. total debt growth (private and public...chart below).

US Energy Consumption - Total consumption and fossil fuel consumption since 1950 in the chart below.

Consumption change, per period in the below chart.  Fairly self explanatory that growth of energy consumption ended and we are now contracting.  Whether a shift from industrial to service economy, whether through higher efficiency, or a hundred other possible explanations for why...the declines are not debatable.

Energy consumption, by type of energy (chart below).

Change in energy consumption, by type per period.

Mortgage rates vs. Mortgage debt - Interestingly, lower FFR's and mortgage rates did not incent more debt since 2007 (chart below).

Mortgage rates and mortgage debt, change per period (chart below).

From 1970 to 1981, as mortgage rates increased by 300%, mortgage debt increased by $1.2 trillion dollars (even unadjusted for inflation, this was a hug sum of money).  This was a 350% increase in outstanding mortgage debt while the cost of funding these loans rocketed higher.  However, since 2008, mortgage debt has fallen by a half trillion dollars despite a 50% decrease in rates.

Breakdown of America's Core

Finally, the cleanest and clearest point of breakdown was the end of population and employment growth among the 25-54yr/old population.  This is the bedrock and foundation upon which the nations economy resides.  As this group goes, eventually so goes America.

The change in each, by period.

Let's not be naïve and pretend the bill isn't coming...employed 25-54yr/olds, this ones on you.  America played credit card roulette and you lost.  America's federal debt split evenly among you is now $202,000...up from $100,000 in '07, $57,000 in '00, and $20,000 in 1980.  I hope you have been saving up because your real median household income is $57,000, slightly less than the $58,000 it was in 2000 and not much more than the $45,000 it was in 1980.

Unfortunately, we won't find more growth in our future...population growth continues to be meager (and this assumes current rates of immigration plus an upturn in birth rates (premised on economic recovery)...if current patterns persist or worsen, perhaps all growth is gone).


Helicopter money, inflation, reflation, etc. are all premised on the idea that the economic slowdown is a temporary feature and that if the business cycle can just be restarted, things will be like they "always were".  However, what I'm showing is things will never again be like they were...at least not in our lifetimes.  In fact, aggregate economic growth should no longer be the goal and attempts to maintain the current unsustainable status quo are only further harming us.

It's long overdue to acknowledge we face a future absent net growth and likely a future with fewer consumers, fewer homebuyers, fewer taxpayers, fewer employees.  We face a battle where higher productivity leads to ever more being done by ever fewer people...and it only follows that the declining population with even faster declines in employment will consume less.  If we aren't thoughtful, honest, and creative in how we adapt to this new reality...terrible consequences could await us.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
J S Bach's picture

Too many charts in this piece to comprehend.  Put me to sleep.


The_Gauntlet's picture
The_Gauntlet (not verified) J S Bach Jan 22, 2017 4:56 PM

Let me summarize it for you:

The last war will involve energy (IE, our support for the Saudis), because its the only thing the muzzies have worth a shit. 

We will be energy independent under TRUMP and the muzzies will be even more outraged and suicidial than usual. 

The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) The_Gauntlet Jan 22, 2017 5:27 PM

You forgot to include the growth of the intelligent robot population.  Robots spend money like crazy!


Uzda Farce's picture
Uzda Farce (not verified) J S Bach Jan 22, 2017 5:39 PM

"High fertility rates and population growth in Africa are offsetting the contracting populations of young across the remainder of the world..."

Europe will soon suffer the fate of South Africa unless something is done to change the equation.



LA_Goldbug's picture

This is the Glorious World they are looking forward to ,

"Carmaking giants and ride-sharing upstarts racing to put autonomous vehicles on the road are dead set on replacing drivers, and that includes truckers. Trucks without human hands at the wheel could be on American roads within a decade, say analysts and industry executives.

At risk is one of the most common jobs in many states, and one of the last remaining careers that offer middle-class pay to those without a college degree. There are 1.7 million truckers in America, and another 1.7 million drivers of taxis, buses and delivery vehicles. That compares with 4.1 million construction workers.

While factory jobs have gushed out of the country over the last decade, trucking has grown and pay has risen. Truckers make $42,500 per year on average, putting them firmly in the middle class."


Bye bye Middle class, welcome slavery.

Ignatius's picture

Can we create good jobs faster than technological advances destroy them?

And who is "we" and what do "they" want?

Stan Smith's picture

It comes down the fact that old people dont produce anything, dont spend anything relatively speaking, and almost all of their costs and spending revolve around health care.

All the numbers and graphs dont change that.    When demand lessens for everything because of it,  the shit show really begins.    I'd argue its already here.

Oh... and that doesnt even include the indebtedness being left behind.  

Restorative_Ally's picture

And indebtedness is often the ONLY thing they leave behind. 

Gone are the days when children or grandchildren could count on the wisdom of the aged to bestow upon them something of value that could benefit their family. Now days, the elderly take everything to their grave. The bank owns it all. Nope. Piss on the next generation is what I gather from many of the aging these days, both in deed and in speech. One only need loiter around the comment section here to find that to be the case. They strove deeply not to be like their fathers, and they weren't like them in any way. And the world was worse for it.

Infnordz's picture

Any pensioner who hasn't saved enough should prepare for increasing poverty and early death because Socialist Ponzi states will no longer support or care for all of them properly!

Debt is not the only cause of this, Jewish/Askenazi war against White populations in developed countries is too!

This is a direct consequence of the Jewish/Askenazi Left political warfare of Collectivism/Communism/Marxist-Socialism (Jewish Bankster created and funded), which became cultural warfare since WW2 (e.g. the Fabians and the Frankfurt School), against the White populations in developed countries, because we do eventually have enough of their destructive agitation and parasitism, and isolate, deport or cull them! The Alt-Right has arisen to fight the destructive (Jewish/Askenazi) Left, because the Old-Right and Fascism (destructive Corporatism/Socialism) has failed.

As for the population decline:

The Sexual Revolution and Socialist Spoilt Bitch Feminism, and their numerous harmful effects on males and females (*), including via feminised education, have caused women to stupidly waste many years on decadent hypergamy sex and often meaningless work until they are no longer young and are less attractive; then if they are lucky, an older man may 'settle' for them with fewer/no children, or they become lonely and unhappy Cat Women, who may multiply their stupidity by becoming feminist activists.

* see "Sexual Utopia in Power" by F. Roger Devlin and various Red Pill media.

A lot more women working, thus more spending power, and (costly) nursery places required when both parents work caused significant cost of living rises, this also limits the number of children most families can afford and significantly reduces the time parents can spend with their children.

Politicians' Socialist/Feminist laws/policies, banksters, and crony/pillage 'capitalism', including international outsourcing, has also cause people to become increasingly less well off and more in debt, so reduced the spare net revenue for families to pay for children, if at all!

Elco the Constitutionalist's picture
Elco the Constitutionalist (not verified) Jan 22, 2017 4:51 PM

What changed? Pure fiat begat finacialization and corporatism.

Global usury has transformed trickle up economics into something like a Hoover Vacuum.

Wealth creation has moved out of central bank control. Production moved to the 3rd world.

There is no long any social responsibility among the Oligopolies, because they are not bound by borders. Economics is a SOCIAL science. Reducing workers to numbers is ultimately destructive of all economies.

Central banks can't fix the problem, because they ARE the problem.

SallySnyd's picture

 Here is an article that explains why policy interventions will continue to fail in the future:




We are at the dawn of a new economic era.

VWAndy's picture

 Why would anyone think policymakers were on thier side?  They are selfserving tools.

Goldilocks's picture

Obama and the Merchants of Death
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWv9RRe23DA (18:54)

Published on Jan 20, 2017
On this edition of The Geopolitical Report, we look at Barack Obama’s legacy as a record breaking arms dealer. Obama has enabled Saudi Arabia to wage an illegal war in Yemen and has gifted the merchants of death with billions of dollars in new contracts with Taiwan and Vietnam. We also cover the Nye Commission and its investigation into the munitions industry after the First World War. Finally, we look at how the new Trump administration has promised to radically expand the US military and make the merchants of death billions more in profit from war and death.

bloofer's picture

Almost all of problems could be easily solved by getting rid all government subsidies, monopolies, regulations, and tax breaks for the big guys, in both business (including health care and education), and agriculture.

I strongly suspect that neither big business nor big ag could compete small businesses and small independent farmers without a LOT of help from the government.

We should also demand that Monsanto, corporate farms, and some food processors be prosecuted for poisoning the people. After those in charge have been executed for murder, their assets can be used to provide homesteads to would-be small farmers.

Get rid of the centrally planned economy consisting of a small number of huge, chosen corporations, which only came into being through government intrusion, as government picks the winners and shuts everyone else out of the market.

Then, instead of going hat in hand to beg some corporation for a job, people would be self-employed: Do people need food? I think I'll grow some. Do people need various other stuff? I think I will make it, or engage in trade to fill their needs.

Work is not something to be given. It should be understood that everyone has the right to engage in unimpeded productive work.


Uzda Farce's picture
Uzda Farce (not verified) bloofer Jan 22, 2017 5:59 PM

"Get rid of the centrally planned economy consisting of a small number of huge, chosen corporations..."

Good luck with that. The oligarchs behind the Rockefeller/CFR and its affiliates have been consolidating the "global governance" system for over a century, and all the chips are on their side of the table. It might take another world war to finish the job, but so what?


"The powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences."

-- Carroll Quigley, CFR historian, "Tragedy and Hope", 1966, pg 324

truthalwayswinsout's picture

This is the easiest thing in the world to fix but the problem is the people who get elected to office are not very bright.

All they have to do is take NASA public. The $600-$800 billion raised would be invested in new companies to commercialize space. It would create 2-3 million direct jobs, 10 million plus indirect jobs, pay off the national debt, bring gold back as a currency, and save the environment. That would be enough action to cover the next 10-15 years or robots.

But hey, there is not a spark of brightness and intelligence between anyone who has ever been in Washington DC.


War Machine's picture

fewer humans would not be a negative - it is only so because of the dominant system of fiat currency, fractional reserve debt-money creation by banks, and the unsound expectation of permanent and accelerating growth.

It is likely that the deliberately engineered 'migrant crisis' ( fwiw I'd like to see ZH do more on just how engineered) is in large part about getting more debt-serfs exchanging labor for fiat.

Although it has baked in an assault on native ethnic majorities, and increasing violence that may justify an EU DHS and Army and martial law.

Sweden deserves our study. It is a terrifying case study in the obdurate myopia and frankly stupidity of the Far Left.

ignore the knife, to see the hand/wrist: The 'muzzies' being sent are a weapon. You waste your time focusing too much on them (let alone conflating all muslims with the Wahhabist/Salafist variety which surely do represent a real threat... and yes there are perhaps hundreds of millions of them).

To stop the assault - find and stop the hidden hand.

Last of the Middle Class's picture

Don't ever make the presumption the Fed was fighting the last war. The fed was fighting for the survival of massive government and hugely inefficient corporations doing everything they could to move any sort of production overseas. They double downed on corporations moving jobs away from the US as well as providing visas for foreign workers to replace American workers. The whole cycle of money was intentionally small such the real velocity of money was nill with an intended consequence of keeping the rich wealthy and further decimating the middle class in America. If you had carved out the middle class, working people only, say 50 million people. You could have given each and every one of them $200,000.00 with the ten trillion that was spent. If that had happened the economy would look completely different from what it does today. Corporations would have had to deliver goods and services instead of inhaling Fed dollars with no idea of remaining competitive in a marketplace with the consumer absent. It was and is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on this planet and that's assuming all the moon shots were done in a basement somewhere. Trillions were given to those who had the place in life to steal it. Nothing more. And any attempt to legitimize that is an assault on everything that is good and decent and especially on truth.

QQQBall's picture

Well, if you opened the border to immigrants with high fertility rates, you might seek to stem the trend. Guessing I am not the first to come to that conclusion

ProsperD9's picture

So, there's a population problem but not enough people? Why not cut-out "abortions on demand" and stop promoting anti-family agendas like homosexuality, the feminization of men, and women pushed to work to support economies and not their families? But noooooo, it's too much to ask and the liberals can't live without destruction. 

jusman's picture

The charts present a good case for why tinkering will not achieve much.  Being a sci-fi fan since my youth, I think human civilisation is faced with having to undertake a MAJOR evolutionary shift, to split "work" from "living".  There are enough resources on this planet to provide everyone with a decent standard of living, but greed (like really, who needs a billion dollars? Wouldn't $100 million be enough to have a very comfortable priviledged life?) and power have biased the situation unfavorably for most.

So at some point, humanity will need to evolve to allow us to do what we love to do and are good at, whether it be growing things, producing art, organising communities, exploring, inventing, teaching, learning - and split all the things we love doing from the need to be paid for the activities so as to live, and to measure our success by how much money and stuff we have, and from how many lives we control.

Yes, I know, my glasses are a VERY deep shade of rose.  But I do believe this will need to pass if humans are to evolve to the next stage of our progression.

(Sorry ZH readers, was at a wake tonight for a father who was the last to go from a bunch of families from my parents' generation that came to Canada with nothing after the war and raised wonderful kids through a wonderful period when North America was the continent that hadn't been competely destroyed and so experienced the post war benefit of becoming the world's economic engine - those days are now over....)

jusman's picture

oops - should read "...and NOT to measure..."


kareninca's picture

"BTW - if you are not a fan of charts or visual representations...this is not the article for you and likely best to stop here."

No, that isn't right.  It is possible to read your articles without relying on your graphs/charts.  Which is a good thing, since the articles are great and the graphs are nearly incomprehensible (and I don't normally have a problem with charts/graphs).  What you should say to prospective readers is that if they don't like/understand the charts, just read the text.  And you might expand the text a little.

Ham-bone's picture

@ kareninca - thanks for reading and I know some (maybe most?) struggle with my charts.  Unfortunately, it's how I understand the #'s.  Funny, when I talk people through the charts they either really get it (or fall asleep).  Maybe I'll maybe some audio versions where I talk folks through the details.

kareninca's picture

You don't need to add an audio part.  Just add a little more text, and tell readers to just read the text if that is their preference.  Really you write very clearly, and more text is better.  It is okay if the text does not cover every single detail that the charts cover.  Back when you posted comments on ZH with your information, there were no charts at all and your comments were extremely informative.  I have to admit that if I hadn't read those comments back then, I would not have known to now (largely) ignore your charts and read the parts between them.  Thank you for the very interesting work.

MPJones's picture

Excellent article.

Robotics and other types of automation will help keep the older population in a consumption pattern. This trend will not create many new jobs, especially not for the stupid part of the population. Because the jobs that will emerge outside the limited low-end part of the service sector require highly qualified high quality individuals, immigration is not the solution to the depopulation issue - an individual with an IQ of 70 from Central Africa cannot replace a native individual with an IQ of 110, and unfortunately IQ is not additive among individuals so you can't just let in more immigrants to compensate for the reduction in brainpower. That is the most serious problem, not depopulation in itself.

This is the overriding reason for controlling immigration, especially from Africa and the Middle East, and for establishing tight border controls and strong defence systems. For each low-IQ immigrant allowed in, the quality of life of everybody else declines. I think the British government has realised this - and perhaps the new US government.

For this to work - and this is hugely important - governments must institute policies reducing the public (parasitic, non-wealth-creating) sector of their countries faster than the population decline in order to be able to deal with the debt bubble and pay down debt while the productive capacity to do so still exists. Thus public sector workers must (rather urgently) be transferred to wealth-creating functions and welfare states reduced to a sustainable level.

These are among the political guidelines that must be followed by the USA as well as by those of the European countries that wish to survive as civilised nations.

Additional supporting information: