The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century

By W. W. Rostow | Go to book overview

Conclusion

The conclusions of this chapter can be summarized in nonstatistical terms to dramatize two things: First, the numbers in any projective exercise of this kind are approximate, despite their apparent firmness; second, this chapter contains some critically important conclusions that the availability of numbers may conceal.

What is clear is that the combination of population growth and the spread of industrialization once takeoff begins will change the shape of the world. If the earth can carry a doubling of population in the next half century without a general catastrophe, we shall have two countries, with populations of about 1.5 billion each, that are essentially industrialized: India and China. This is, for each country, about five times the estimated peak population level of the United States. They should each command by the middle of the next century all the then-available industrial and agricultural techniques. Much the same can be said of the other major countries of Asia and Latin America. Historically, it is such up-and-coming countries that have been gripped by "dreams of glory": Germany (twice), Japan, and Russia. As W. Arthur Lewis wrote:

If there is any connection between dreams of glory and the stage of economic development, it is found in the "middle" stages of economic growth. The richest countries tend to be peaceful, enjoying what they have and envying none; and the poorest countries are too lethargic and disorganized for war. It is the up and coming country, which has risen a cut above its neighbours, which often develops aggressive aspirations, wishing to make for itself a place in the sun. Growing competition with the older and richer countries for markets and for raw materials may urge in the same direction. The countries which are dangerous to world peace are more often those which think they have a great future ahead of them than those which are able to glorify their great past. 20

Thus, the period from now until 2050 will be a period not only of maximum strain on resources but also one in which new industrial powers will enter the world arena. This is the reason why the United States has potentially such an important role to play as "the critical margin," a role considered in Chapter 7. That role will not be to confront the new powers but to seek their cooperation in building a world at peace, under law. With modern weapons of mass destruction available to many nations, that is the best option available to all of the

-45-

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The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the 21st Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • One - The Framework 3
  • Two - Population and the Stages of Growth 45
  • Three - Technology and Investment 47
  • Introduction 47
  • Conclusion 77
  • Four - Relative Prices 79
  • Five - Cycles 97
  • Six - The Limits to Growth 119
  • Seven - The Role of the United States in the Post-Cold War World 139
  • Eight - The Critical Margin and America's Inner Cities 157
  • Nine - Conclusions 181
  • Appendix A - A Historical Analogy 187
  • Appendix B - The Demography of the People's Republic of China 195
  • Notes 203
  • Index 221
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