The End of an Experiment ? BOOKS OF THE DAY
By R. F. HARROD IT is probable that there is no subject about which the majority of educated men and women are so profoundly ignorant and the prey of such serious misconceptions as that of Population. Yet it is clearly one of very great moment for the future of civilisation and the human race. The three booki under review are authoritative and reliable ; and their appearance is therefore most welcome.
The chief cause of the misconceptions referred to is the extremely large time-lag which occurs before changes in the factors which ultimately determine the course of populations take effect. This large lag is due to the fact that the visible movement 'of population, namely the relation of the number of births to the number of deaths per annum, is greatly affected by the age composition of the pOpulation ; and the faOtors destined ultimately. to determine the size of the population often affect the age composition in such a way as to mask those ultimate effects. For instance, in Great Britain at present births still somewhat exceed deaths"; but the potential mothers of Great Britain are now only having enough children to replace three-quarters of present popula: tion. The reason why the visible balance of births and deaths does not reveal this fact is that at present, owing to past history, an abnormally large proportion of our women is of the child-bearing age and an abnrirmally small proportion of the population is of the age when death is most likely, very old or very young. Thus it may truthfully be said that our present generation is only reproducing three-quarters of itself ; the same is roughly true of north-west Europe as a whole. French mothers are, contrary to general belief, doing better by the future, but still are not replacing themselves. It appears at present that all white races, with the possible exception of the Russians, are rapidly moving to the position, in which What is true of north-west Europe now will be true of them also.
To Dr. Kuczynski we are already indebted for an admirable technique for measuring the actual extent to which a given population is replacing itself. In the present work, he gives a brief outline of the most salient facts, in terms which all may understand. His pen moves with a remark- ably graceful ease and lucidity in this topic, so full of pitfalls and puzzles for the mind not trained to it. He disposes also of a number of sophisms by which people seek to console themselves. He might have added that it is idle to hope that a removal of economic distress will mend matters, since the great fall in the birth-rate has occurred among peoples enjoying a higher economic standard than ever in their past history.
Mr. Glass surveys the rather meagre attempts that have been made in Italy, Gerinany, France and Belgium to stimulate population—the bachelor's tax and other deVices in Italy, marriage loans, &e., and above all propaganda in Germany and family endowment in France and Belgium. The Italian devices have not succeeded in preventing a strong continued decline in the birth-rate ; the Italian population is still replacing itself but will not continue to do so much longer if the present trend continues. Germany has succeeded in producing some revival, but not more perhaps than might be expected as a reaction from the preceding years of extreme depression, and in a form which raises suspicion that the revival will only be temporary. The German population is still not replacing itself. The further results of their experiment must be awaited with
Population Movements. By R. R. Kuczynski. (Clarendon Press, 1936: Pp. 121. 5s.). The Struggle for Population. By D. V. Glass. (Clarendon Press, 1936. Pp. x.+148. 7s. Oct.). World Population. By A. M. Carr-Saunders. (Clarendon Press, 1936. Pp. xvi.-F 336. 12s. 6d.) great interest. In France and Belgium the birth-rates have continued to fall, but insufficient time for a verdict has elapsed since the family e,ndowments were universalised. Despite brave words in Italy and Germany, all these experi- ments are on far too niggardly a scale for us to expect much from them.
From Professor Carr-Saunders, a great authority on population questions, we have a treatise. He surveys sources of information and the present and past trends of world population. He also has a number of masterly chapters on migration. In his view the only substantial remedy for present 'mal-distribution would be a reopening of the doors by the United States and the British Dominions, Dr. Kuczynski and Mr. Glass are inclined to confine them- selves to facts and computations based upon them. Professor Carr-Saunders allows himself somewhat larger scope in dealing with probable trends. He thinks it likely that the time may soon come when among white people no more children will be born than are desired before conception. And that in the modern world may mean a far more rapid crumbling away even than that in Great Britain at present ; we may reach a state in which each generation only reproduces half of itself. Rehabilitation is hardly likely to come without a revival of the desire for children. Everyone who lays claim to a feeling of civic responsibility, should, if he has no time for more, at least read. Professor Carr-Saunders' chapter entitled " The Small Family Problem " (ch. xvii.).
In possession of the facts provided by these authors, the reader is driven to wider reflexions. He may think of the heroic struggles of man lasting over many thousands of years, of his grim determination, patience, perseverance, ardours and endurances that we can barely conceive • for ourselves. Is this great experiment to fizzle out, just as we have reached the threshold of comforts, refinements and knowledge un- dreamt of ? Vast stretches of time lie before us, not- infinite perhaps, but sufficient to enjoy the legacy bequeathed to us by poor, primitive man, plodding on through pre-historic ages. Have we become too squeamish to take up that legacy ? The reader may think of current sayings of the market-place. " Such terrible conditions in the slums, parents and children all living in one room, so bad for the morals." But we have got beyond that now, for the most part. It is rather, " you should only have children, if you can afford to give them a good education and do properly by them." Future genera- tions will not agree with this view. What they need is- a sufficiency of fecund human organisms. We may be confident that to posterity, if only there is a posterity, the analphabet and the product of our Public School education will seem as like as two peas. The reader may think of those who prattle abOut another war being the end of civilisation. But the toll taken by the direst modern war is trifling com- pared with that taken by, our present ideology regarding children. It is to ourselves, not the future, that war is the more irksome. Are these sayings of the market-place, like other such sayings, merely cant born of selfishness ?
The reader may think of the blind, meaningless processes of nature, the gyrations of electrons, nebulae undergoing their pointless transformations- in the great emptiness of space. Man seemed so different, with his consciousness, his purpose, his power to bring things to order, his rapidly increasing knowledge. But.perhaps man is not so very different, and his insubordination a mere flash in the pan. The giant in the heyday of his achievement becomes wearied and turns over to his long sleep. It is too much bother. These squalling brats make too much noise. Then the ants may have a brief sway. Afterwards the glaciers will continue to grind on their courses.