The Curse of Gaian Economics strikes again

Never let it be said that there\’s not an economic concept that our Gaian Economist cannot misunderstand.

In a peasant community, each new birth represents a mouth that needs feeding from a limited land resource; in contrast, in an economy where livelihoods are based around the labour-market, each birth represents a potential labourer whose time can be sold.

No love, no. You have it  the wrong way around.

In agrarian economies children quickly become extra labour. It is in urban environments that birth rates drop dramatically as children become a cost for many more years to the household.

And we can see this: birth rates in agrarian societies are much higher than they are in either urban or wage labour ones.

It\’s no wonder some of the Green economic ideas (and yes, our lady economist here is an advisor to Caroline Lucas on such matters) are so barkingly mad when they\’re based on such obviously false premises really.

5 thoughts on “The Curse of Gaian Economics strikes again”

  1. “birth rates in agrarian societies are much higher than they are in either urban or wage labour ones.”

    Hm, but this could still be correlation, yes? Agrarian societies in the modern world tend to be among the poorer, more beset with traditional morality and with poor access to contraception.

    I think you’d be on firmer ground simply citing the historical process rather than the modern statistics. Ie that the world’s population quite clearly exploded once agriculture arrived, and any way you slice it you will end up concluding that agriculture triggers a population spiral (the spiral, in fact, that ultimately got us to the industrialised world). They want to argue with the essential truth of that, they can take it up with the whole of academic archaeology.

  2. So Much For Subtlety

    I hate to suggest that any Green may be on to something, but that depends on the agrarian society. France introduced Chinese-style equal land shares with the Revolution – and the farming population stopped having children. If your land is going to be divided into tiny parcels, it is better not to have too many children. Although, oddly, it had no impact on China itself.

    Polynesian societies, agrarian on small islands, usually evolved some way to keep the population down. Killing children for instance.

    Tibet used to practice multiple husbands which is almost certainly something to do with population pressure.

    Nor does it follow that children in urban areas are just a cost. Children in urban areas with child welfare laws perhaps.

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