The New Rules: America’s Demographic Edge in ‘Post-American’ World

The New Rules: America’s Demographic Edge in ‘Post-American’ World

A growing population had long been considered a prime determinant of national strength -- at least until the "population bomb" crowd commandeered the dialogue almost a half-century ago and declared such growth to be a threat to human existence. But since then, with globalization's rapid expansion encompassing the bulk of the developing world -- and specifically demographic behemoths India and China -- we've seen industrialization and urbanization work their usual magic on female fertility. As a result, humanity is now projected to top out as a species sometime mid-century and likely decline thereafter.

To the amazement of many from my generation, who grew up in real fear of "Soylent Green"-type scenarios of over-population, our primary demographic challenge going forward is to maintain a decent worker-to-retiree ratio as national populations age at an unprecedented speed -- with the "world-conquering" Chinese leading the way. Compared to both the "old" West and most of the rising East, America stands apart in its ability to remain fertile with a birth rate 50 percent higher than Germany, Russia and Japan, and well above China, the leading Asian "tigers" and Eastern Europe. Add in our world-class capacity to integrate immigrants -- we attract roughly half the developing world's flow to developed states -- and we're more than just an odd outlier.

As Joel Kotkin argues in his recent book, "The Next Hundred Million," America "should emerge by mid-century as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history" as we increase in size to 400 million citizens by 2050. In effect, Kotkin smashes the "post-American world" vision promulgated by Fareed Zakaria by downsizing its "declinist" diagnosis: For Kotkin, the future will not be post-American, but merely post-Caucasian. And that's a future to which America will readily adapt itself. Indeed, as global integration proceeds -- the "rise of the rest," in Zakaria's terminology -- America's centuries-long experiment in e pluribus unum ("out of many, one"), which already marked us as a national progenitor of modern-day globalization, will continue to be our greatest strength.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review