The life span of human adults in preindustrial societies worldwide averaged 25 to 30 years, with record life expectancies noticed in some countries as Sweden and Sardinia, and some peculiar habitats as the abbeys of Christendom. In Sardinia, men and women have the same life expectancy and centenarians are not uncommon. The reason for this longevity is unknown.
Liberalism, this fantastic tool for human progress, allowed the development of an industrial civilization that is a magnitude more evolved than anything directed economies ever achieved. The modern Western State goes out of its way to keep the newly born children alive and provide the families with the means of sustenance deemed necessary for their raising. In addition, the improvements in health care have considerably prolonged the lives of the elderly. Before 1950, most of the gain in life expectancy was due to reduction in death rate at young age. In the second half of the 20th century, the length of people’s lives rose. World life expectancy more than doubled over the past three centuries from roughly 25 years to about 65 for men and 70 for women. In 1840, Swedish women lived a world-record 45 years. Today, the longest expectation of life is 85 years, for Japanese women. Record life expectancy has also risen for men, with a gap between male and female levels growing from 2 to 6 years 2. In postindustrial societies, female life expectancy has risen for 160 years at a steady pace of almost 3 months per year and there is no reason to think that this constancy will come to an abrupt end.
In modern times, few in the West have dared to propose a severe control of the natality. Natality measures are an enormous and successful scandal. Avocation of a demographic inflation, always reassuring to sovereign Nation-states, works with astonishing success. It requires more moral courage to stop procreation than to oppose war. It is considered moral and legitimate to favor natality and immoral to restrict it. To this is added the belief that an overpopulation is necessary to secure the brains needed for social or technological progress, although it is the contrary that is true: when the struggle for life is arduous, no resources or time can be diverted from the struggle.
Overpopulation is, contrary to Malthusian’ belief, not a reason for return to savagery. Human beings are not rats, and congregations of humans do not lead, per se, to a savage behavior. The number of homicides is not directly correlated to the density of the population. However, population excess has a severe diminishing impact on development, and political leaders have a tendency to reduce the number of people they have the pretension to take in charge.
With the development of technology, the number of men who could be diverted from essential economic tasks augmented regularly. The volume of armed forces consequently augmented. Every progress in machinism and rationalization of the means of production liberate people who may be killed without paralyzing the country. Respect for personality, which was once the essential characteristic of European mentality, made room for the perception of human societies as a passive multitude. The permanent overabundance of mentally stunted people induced the belief that the living are interchangeable and that the dead are replaceable. Napoleon engaged 600,000 French soldiers in the Russian campaign, of which 580,000 did not make it back home. Their epitaph by Napoleon was “a night in Paris will make me forget all this”.
Technological progress allowed the advent of conscription, first installed by France during the Revolution. With the modern inflation of soldiers who cost less to maintain than do unemployed and are available in seemingly unending numbers as said by Hitler, the concept of total war made its way. Hitler poured immense numbers of young people in a war that he thought would last only a few months. Most of these young soldiers, well prepared for combat in the “Hitlerjugend”, offered early victories to the tyrant but were eventually killed in combat. The operation Barbarossa, i.e. invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941, opposed 4.5 million Soviet soldiers to 3 million German soldiers. Without adequate air cover, which had been downed by spitfires over the Channel a year earlier and not adequately replaced because of Germany’s missile project, the battle was a hecatomb for the young Germans. They were the cause of the army’s early successes but their early death was the cause of the army’s collapse when the war dragged on for years.
In year 2002, the nationalist Indian government envisioned with serenity the use of atomic weapons of mass destruction to maintain the status quo in its disputed Kashmir province: it figured that the killing of 100 million Indians by nuclear weapons would still leave 900 millions of them left to conquer a Pakistan whose bombed population of 100 million would have dwindled to zero!
Today, about 10% of the world population uses up about 65% of the world’s resources. Only an additional 10% of the world population will be allowed to rise its standard of living to the same level. If more than 10% of the deprived population claims improved standards of living, this will only be possible at the expenses of the West and Japan, whose living standards will have to decline. By 2020, about 1.2 billion people (20% of the world’s population) will enter their childbearing years. Some 90% of those entering reproductive age will be in the developing world. Since hardly any investment is currently made in the development of new forms of contraception, one may expect a major problem to burst open in a few decades from now.