First of all, wishing to live on a planet with less people doesn’t necessarily make one a misanthrope. I like people; I just don’t like too many people. I would never be in favor of killing anyone to reduce the population. Nor, would I wish for a war, or pandemic, or other catastrophic event to occur to precipitate the same result. I very much like some of my family, a few of my neighbors, and a couple of other people and I’m not unhappy that they were born. Some of [del]you[/del] those other bozos out there, however? Well, let’s just say, I wouldn’t be sad if the Pill were invented a number of years earlier and prophylactics didn’t break so easily (yes, it’s a problem for us abundantly endowed fellows).
I don’t buy that population reduction is seen as being beneficial by only a few fringe environmentalists. Indeed, there are a bunch of eco-nutters out there, but there are also a lot of well-credentialed scientists out there who believe there are devastating processes taking place now on our planet as a result of overpopulation and its stress on resources and accumulating pollution.
Tell me, why do you hate bees and frogs and Giant Bluefin Tuna? What did they ever do to you? Pretty soon, you’ll go to a seafood restaurant and there won’t be anything on the menu but jellyfish (yeah, those jellyfish are out there in the ocean f**king like Kardashians and reproducing like rabbits! Unfortunately, no other sea life is doing the same; they need Viagra or something).
As far as the OP, remember that we’re not talking absolutes here. Not all of a particular age group will die in this pandemic hypothetical; less than 15%. And the distribution is predominantly one age group, not exclusively. Also, it’s understood that a pandemic mortality rate would never have equal distribution around the globe, but, for the sake of simplicity, it’s ok to propose that in a hypothetical.
The 1-20year time period is pretty obvious. The oldsters must go. They gotta shuffle off their mortal coil. That will have the least adverse effect on the economy as well as social structure and emotional trauma. It is also too short a time period to reap any benefit from ecological benefit from an overall decrease in population which some people, like me, think is important in the big picture.
The 20+ and 40+ year time periods are more interesting to consider, though harder to discuss without battling an appeal to emotion (e.g. it’s hard not to feel shunned if people perceive you as a person who may, when faced with a Sophie’s Choice dilemma, choose to off wide grinning, little-league Billy and sweet, girl scouting Sally instead of wrinkled, snaggle-toothed Maude and crotchety, get off my lawn, Fred. But, remember this is simply a thought experiment considering the potential consequences to society of multiple outcomes for a pandemic—not a call to action plan to control population. Divorce emotion from the debate.
In very general terms, here’s what I think would happen, in a stream of consciousness kind of way (because it’s easier to illustrate), with the U.S. and similar nations playing out 3 of the possibilities:
Predominantly old people die: the first few years would be sad because the old people, though living a good portion of normal life span, didn’t get to go all the way to the finish line. Not much of an economic hit at all. The elderly do produce some (e.g. helping care for grandkids while the parents work, etc.), but this would be outweighed by the savings with Medicare and social security. By year 20+, the effects of an elderly die-off would be minimal, both good and bad. One potentially very bad consequence would be: after 20 years of relative economic boom from not having to fund much Medicare/social security, the next generation (today’s working class) will explode on the senior citizen scene and will rely on today’s kids to fund their social benefits—it’s hard to learn how to tighten your belts after having the generation before you (your parents) not have to wear any belt at all.
***Predominately healthy working age people die: *** This would indeed be very catastrophic for the first 20 or less years…but, it wouldn’t be the end of the road for society. Strong nations have historically rebounded from population shrinkage by war and pestilence, and those that couldn’t…perhaps, like biological evolution, weeding out weak nations by selection may be healthiest for the whole herd of humanity. And, I believe the tired adage, *“what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” *is appropriate in this instance. If 15% of working-aged people disappeared, we’d have to come up with a good strategy and effective tactics, fast. More elderly would have to care for children. Perhaps kibitzes would return to the mainstream. Robotics would need to be ramped up. Laissez faire capitalism may need to be remolded. Whatever happens, I’m confident that what results on the other side will be better than what we have now.
Then, 20 years hence, as the very small working population ages into doddering old fools, today’s kids who age into the wage-earners, will have the advantage of not having to fund the senior citizens Medicare and SS. But, that’s only fair: they had to be raised by their grandparents, not their dead parents (which, if you think about it, would be kind of disgusting). Instead of growing up doing cool things like going fishing with dad or hitting the mall with mom, they had to help Grandpa soak his dentures in Polident® and trim Grandma’s corns and calluses…and incise and curettage the abscesses on her back.
Predominately kids die: This would certainly be the saddest scenario for the first 20 years, and lie somewhere between adults and the elderly dying with regard to deleterious economic effect. But 40 years hence, I believe this would yield the best scenario for society in general. I wish not to be accused of being a baby killer, so I won’t elaborate.
The thing is, our population is expanding by ~200,000 per day. That’s not sustainable. Oh, it may be sustainable for a long while in some countries, but not forever. Then, when you have, as we have in America, an economic system tied to a growing population (i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, SS, etc.), something, someday will have to give. Why shift the entire burden onto future generations? I propose that, right now, half the population must limit their procreation allowance to 2 kids; the other half must become gay.