Dean BakerDean Baker, like any great thinker, has certain ideas that he pushes. (More on that later today.) One of those ideas is that an aging population is not bad for retirement programs. The common refrain from people, who are not nearly as smart and knowledgeable as Baker, is that fewer workers for each retiree will bankrupt the system. Baker notes that this is not true because the effects of productivity gains swamp the effects of an aging population.

Today, he wrote, Ross Douthat Thinks Sub-Saharan Africa Is the Richest Region on Earth. This is a typically sarcastic title from Baker—I've come to think that I have never in my life known anyone as sarcastic as this man. What he is doing is making fun of Douthat, "Douthat seems to believe that we face some terrible fate if the population of the United States stagnates or even declines."

Dean Baker then goes on to discuss why a falling US population would be a good thing. He notes that a 20% decrease in our population would decrease our carbon footprint by 20%—without doing anything! And if there is one thing you can say about the United States, it is that we are good at doing nothing.

The main thing is that Ross Douthat, like most commentators—especially on the right—is worrying about a nonexistent problem. Baker shows this by presenting a graph that charts the funding effects on Social Security of an aging population as well as productivity growth.

Social Security Funding Effects

Now that Dean Baker has drawn a picture, maybe people like Douthat will finally get it.

Update (3 December 2012 1:27 pm)

Matt Yglesias takes Douthat to task for "condemning the 'decadence' of people responding to the situation that actually exists." It is a fun read and shows that Douthat is wrong even if you accept his claim that we need more babies.