From a recent Hacker News comment by me that was both popular and controversial, in response to the declining fertility levels, declining interest in family, and projected downturn in Asia -
I have a theory that I haven't found expounded before. It came from a combination of travel through 60+ countries, living and working and interacting with local people on a pretty intimate level sometimes, and study of lots of history.
It's going to be controversial and maybe even shocking, so brace yourself for a moment before reacting please.
I think peaceful societies self-destruct.
With a few notable exceptions that require a geography suitable to isolationism, long term peace has historically been achieved through your country or one of your ally's having military supremacy over the rest of your neighbors.
Obviously, diplomacy can keep the peace for long periods of time, even human lifetimes, but eventually incidents happen when there's a hothead in one government, and then that's when the military supremacy determines whether you get attacked or not.
Anyways, I've found the more a country renounces war and gets further away from it, the more birth rates go down. You get an explosion of commerce and art for ~30 to ~70 years, and then the society self-destructs.
No longer forced to confront mortality and with no externally unifying cause, people start living for luxury, pleasure, and consumption. They stop having children. Birth rates fall off.
Eventually, this destroys a country's economy, the military supremacy fades, and one of their neighbors comes in and cleans house, and the cycle begins anew.
This has happened many times through history. It's happening in Japan right now. If I became an advisor to anyone in the Japanese government, I'd advocate two things as chief priorities - (1) exceedingly good relations with China, and (2) re-militarize.
Then join the next war they can on America's or China's side. Combined with some standard messages of nationalism/strength/growth/unity, birth rates would almost certainly increase.
I think we are already fighting WWIII. It is not (always) of the conventional or visible kind. This war is being fought for the last market share of resources. Someone once said that war is always about resources. I live in Africa so we see this war being fought daily. I agree with the hypothesis that peace eventually brings self-destruction. Conflict brings out the best in humanity. We are not a peaceful nice species.
"No longer forced to confront mortality and with no externally unifying cause, people start living for luxury, pleasure, and consumption. They stop having children. Birth rates fall off."
True for almost all eras but how about our current era where military supremacy could be down to certain technologies? It doesn't have to be people-powered nearly as much as before.
It might be a bit more complicated than that. The fertility rates are sometimes higher among:
a) groups of people that have lower IQ/sense and that simply don't give a damn about future. And it doesn't matter, that they are poor. The just go for their instincts.
b) groups of people that live according to traditional patriarchal system (muslims etc)
c) groups of people that are living without fear of future - the Economy is booming / government is spending money for houses/flats for new families etc. (Czech Republic during socialism, maybe USA after WWII etc.)
I live in capitalistic country. And I am pretty sure, that we are here not that much stressed about work / career as people in Japan. I love to work, but until I'll have enough money in savings, until I'll have my house / flat, until I'll be sure, that my future wife wont just one day start bitching (which is problem with lot of nwdays lads), leave me for some jerk and take the kids with herself... the situation is just to unstable to have kids.
And yet, one must be somehow grown up, to freely choose the option to have kids.
When there will be unlimited stability, peace and love(!)... there, I guess, could be lots of kids in such a society. But... unfortunately... such a society can't ever exist, as long as people rule themselves.
But anyway... maybe by simply generating fear of war might be the fer. rates brought up, because the instinct to multiply might get louder. Hence maybe my text above was just waste of time.
Also, why did you leave out Europe, Arabic countries and Russia (which by the way is thinking of a new union with former USSR republics, that would be interesting)?
God, I hope there will be no "next war", at least not between countries - it'll suck more than ever - the fights are not what they used to be before WW2 - one nuke (or even a slightly bigger conventional bomb) destroys a city, people fight with assault rifles that can kill you from a distance before you realize what happened, and I have no doubt armies will just attach machine guns to automatic platforms and leave them to kill anyone/anything who gets close ("close" is up to a kilometer currently - yes, they're already that accurate on a good day).
An economic war, a cold war, a new space war or anything else that does not require people fighting directly - I agree, that would help progress (and birth rates), even though it'll kind of suck. But I really hope we'll be able to get by simply with competition (in starting new businesses, inventing new things, etc.), even though it sounds naive.
Happy new year!
I am hoping you would share your resources for your reading on Japanese history. Book titles and/or urls would be very helpful.
I got that a week ago, and I kind of sat there staring at the email. Japanese history is some of the most confusing to start to learn, because different elements of Japanese history and culture all play on and influence each other. I could run you through the military history of Japan from The Battle of Okehazama to Sekigahara to the Boshin War, from there into Dai Nippon Tekoku Era, from there into defeat and the Occupation under McArthur, and then we could do a little post-war history.
I first got into soccer (football for the non-Americans) when I started playing Fifa 10 on the Wii. In that game, I would always play with Chelsea F.C. Being so much higher rated than the others teams, I could actually beat teams with them. And, my favorite player on the team was Didier Drogba, a man amongst men on the Wii screen. Since then, Drogba has moved to the Turkish club Galatasaray while I have become an artificial Liverpool F.C. fan.
Little did I know that in 2007, Didier Drogba was responsible for stopping a 5-year Civil War in his home country of Ivory Coast (or Côte d'Ivoire if you're fancy / politically correct). I've heard numerous stories about athletes being humanitarians and helping causes, but I had never heard of such an accomplishment. And for that, all I have to say is Kudos. Kudos to you, Drogba, for using your talent for such a noble cause. Al Jazeera's segment on him is one of five they had on soccer heroes. While I have not familiarized myself with the other four stories, I plan on doing so soon. This blog post, however, is mainly a praise to all of the celebrity figures out there trying their best to help others. Politics is often influenced by money, and it results in tension among different groups of people. In the Ivory Coast's instance, there was a 3-sided Civil War. With the help of the whole Ivory Coast National Soccer Team, Drogba sent out a plea to the politicians to set aside their differences and unite as a country. Eventually they were able to settle and end the five year war that had plagued the war.
(Note: A Second Ivorian Civil War emerged in 2010 but, with the help of the United Nations, was brought to an end in 2011.)
This is the thing I love about sports: it's able to unite groups of people and make them set aside their differences. Whether it's a national soccer team in the World Cup or a high school football team in the school playoffs (I just read Friday Night Lights), the bonding that is created between fans of the same is unparalleled. Fueled with the momentum of victories and achievements of the team, the result is awe-inspiring. Drogba and the Ivorian National Team used their qualification to the 2006 World Cup as the event that inspired the ceasefire.
The respect that word-class athletes gain from others is among the top in the world. Dennis Rodman's tour of North Korea and apparent friendship with Kim Jong-Un has been extremely controversial, but it shows the extent to which superstars are worshipped. It shows that they are able to use their influence to make the world a significantly better place. If North Korea is offering diplomatic peace through Dennis Rodman, why should we not at least follow up on it?