I know we all share that fear every time we are in a huge traffic jam or face a forever long line at the grocery store. This fear appears at the end of an Arthur Brooks column berating a country that just elected Donald Trump for being unwilling to take risks. (Okay, it was a foolish risk, but you can't argue it wasn't a risk.)
Brooks tells us that the reluctance to take risks:
"Family formation, perhaps the ultimate personal leap of faith, looks to be another victim of this imprudent hesitation. Census Bureau demographers recently reported that while only a quarter of 24- to 29-year-olds were unmarried in the 1980s, almost half of that age group is unmarried today. And delaying the jump to adulthood has real social consequences. Last August, the Centers for Disease Control announced that the United States fertility rate had fallen to its lowest point since they began calculating it in 1909."
I don't see the problem here. Certainly, it is important that people feel they have sufficient security and support to have children if they want them. This means secure incomes, access to health care, and access to child care so that parents of young children have the ability to work. But if large numbers of young people still choose not to have kids, so what? Brooks may be worried about running out of people, but fans of arithmetic don't share this concern.
It's striking that just last month the New York Times ran a column warning that we were going to be running out of jobs because robots were taking all of them. It speaks to the unbelievably bad state of economics that the country's leading newspaper somehow thinks that the arguments that we are running out of people and that we are running out of jobs are both plausible. This would be comparable to a situation in the medical profession in which, depending on the doctor we see, we will find out that we are 50 pounds overweight and desperately need to go on a diet or 50 pounds underweight and need to start eating more.
If the medical profession routinely produced such diametrically opposed diagnoses most people would probably stop seeing doctors and save their money for something more useful. Unfortunately, we seem destined to waste an ever large share of our money paying the salaries of economists.