Winter Games in a Wintering Nation

iceskates sports winterReports of terrorist threats, human rights abuses, and general economic incompetency have already marred the opening of the 2014 winter Olympics. These failings in Russia represent the face of the greatest myth propagated this past half-century: that low-fertility creates a successful society.

Population controllers lure countries into population control programs with the promise of nice things; they promise democracy, economic prosperity, and increased longevity.[1]Russia has incredibly low fertility—1.6 children per women—but the low fertility still hasn’t delivered the good-fortune which the population controllers promised.

Russia should be a population controller’s dream come true: it has had consistently low fertility, vast amounts of natural resources and a shrinking population—in fact, Russia has shrunk by 13 million people since the 1994 winter Olympics.*[2]

But instead of being the poster-child for the population control movement, Russia is instead a public health disaster.

  •  Russian women on average have 3 abortions for every 4 births, which is actually an improvement from their past; only since 2007 has the number of annual births in Russia outnumbered the number of annual abortions.[3]
  • Russia has dangerous patterns of alcohol consumption: the average Russian consumes 10-12 gallons of vodka per year (that’s a half cup of vodka per day).[4]
  • Suicide rates in Russia are 2-3 times higher than in the US or Europe: they have the second highest rate of male suicide in the world, and their female suicide rate is also among the top ten worst in the world.[5]
  • The average Russian lives only 70 years. Russian men fare even worse with an average life expectancy of a mere 64 years.[6]
  • Among countries with more than a million people, Russia has the highest divorce rate in the world.[7]

Russia remains a cold, desolate country which population controllers like to ignore because it remains a glaring exception to their claims.

Population controllers claim that low-fertility promotes economic equality: they claim that having lots of children keeps a woman in poverty.[8]  They say rich women have fewer children, and having few children keeps a woman in prosperity. By giving contraception to the poor, population controllers claim that they can reduce economic inequality. Nowhere does this claim seem more ludicrous than in Russia. The per capita income in Russia is only $17,500, but inequality is thriving; 35% of Russia’s wealth is owned by only 110 people.[9]

Population controllers claim that low-fertility promotes democracy: population controllers claim that “populations with excessive numbers of young people invite a higher risk of political violence and civil strife.[10] Yet Russia has had fertility below replacement level since 1965 and has endured an abundance of political and civil strife since the 1960’s.[11] Even now, Russia is not democratic, but strains under rampant electoral fraud and a repressed press.[12]

When people think of the political and economic situation in Russia, their first reaction is not: “How odd that Russia has struggled, since it has had such low-fertility!” but they do think of the many problems Russia struggled with in the past half century: changing regimes, wars, rampant corruption, and deep economic depression. This intuitive response to Russia’s problems stands in stark contrast to population control ideology, and it illuminates the reason why population controllers remain puzzled by Russia. It also highlights the flaws with their most basic assumptions about fertility: population statistics are not like other statistics. Population statistics are simply numbers representing unique, unrepeatable individuals in the aggregate, and these unique individuals have their own intellect, imagination, and free will.

It is this human free will and ingenuity that makes humanity the world’s most valuable resource. It is also the reason why even countries with healthy fertility struggle; sometimes humans make really bad policy decisions. But low fertility does not ensure prosperity, democracy, or equality. Only humans can choose to ensure prosperity, and Russia is running out of them.

* The 13 million decrease is a natural decrease, excluding immigration. Since 1994, there have been 13 million more deaths than births in Russia.

[1] Potts, Malcolm, et al. “Niger: Too little, too late.” International perspectives on sexual and reproductive health 37.2 (2011): 95-101.

[2] International Programs– Information Gateway. United States Census Bureau, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2014. <http://www.census.gov/population/international/data/idb/informationGateway.php>.

[3] United Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social StatisticsUnited Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014. <http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/dyb/dyb2011.htm>.

[4] Leon, David A., Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, and Martin McKee. “Alcohol and Russian mortality: a continuing crisis.” Addiction 104.10 (2009): 1630-1636.

[5] Pridemore, William Alex, Mitchell B. Chamlin, and Evgeny Andreev. “Reduction in male suicide mortality following the 2006 Russian alcohol policy: an interrupted time series analysis.” American journal of public health 103.11 (2013): 2021-2026.

[6] “Central Intelligence Agency.” The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2119.html#rp>.

[7] United Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social StatisticsUnited Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2014. <http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/dyb/dyb2011.htm>.

[8] Kremer, Michael, and Daniel L. Chen. “Income distribution dynamics with endogenous fertility.” Journal of Economic growth 7.3 (2002): 227-258.

[9] Synovitz, Ron. “Russia Has Highest Level Of Wealth Inequality.”RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. 10 Oct. 2013. <http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rferl.org%2Fcontent%2Frussia-billionaire-wealth-inequality%2F25132471.html&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNGSFIc288R8SgHNeEjqbDXv_mYPDQ>.

[10] Cincotta, Richard P. “How democracies grow up.” Foreign Policy 165 (2008): 80-82.

[11] United Nations. Department of Economic. World population prospects: The 2004 Revision: Volume I: comprehensive tables. No. 244-246. United Nations Publications, 2006.

[12] Fish, Steve M. Democracy Derailed in Russia. New York: Cambridge UP, 2005.

This article is courtesy of the Population Research Council.