Here is a memorable little essay by a Canadian economics professor demonstrating that behind even very sophisticated economic systems lie the brute facts of demographics. It begins this way:
As you get older, your productivity will, eventually, decline. If you live long enough, you will reach a point when you can no longer provide for yourself.
You cannot bake bread when you are young, bury it in the ground, and then dig it up and consume it when you are old. In your golden years, you must rely on someone younger and fitter to bake bread for you.
In every society, the old have some claim on the resources of the young. Only the nature of the claim varies.
From this, in syllogistic fashion, the author unpacks some implications for modern political economies.
Tax-financed supports for the elderly are also vulnerable to demographics. Yes, taxes can be raised to provide bread for large numbers of elderly folks, but there is a limit to how much revenue can be raised from a given tax base. Eventually bread rations may have to be cut.
Accumulating assets — burying gold in the ground — doesn't protect one from demographic forces either. If you're a member of a large generation, then everyone else will be digging up their gold and trying to exchange it for bread at the same time as you are. The price of gold will fall, the price of bread will rise. (Substitute housing for gold if you wish).
I would drill even deeper into this and ask: what is at back of demographics? The answer is human reproduction, what George Gilder in his brave and brilliant book Men and Marriage called the sexual constitution. From there it is a very simple trace of logic to the realization that human sexuality can never, ever, be a purely "private" matter. It is, always and inevitably, a matter of absolutely vital public importance.
It is a mark of the degradation of our civilization’s sexual constitution that most folks accept without critique the popular reduction of “sexuality” to the momentary pleasure of the act. The irrevocable connection of this act to such momentous matters as human procreation and the perpetuation of society has been obscured by an extraordinary collection of deceit, impudence, fraud and hucksterism.
Western society has now spent many years involved in various experiments where the culling of younger generations comprises the true (though concealed) content of a vast propagandistic effort of reducing procreation to that momentary pleasure. We have embarked, under false pretenses, on a revolution in the human sexual constitution.
At last we are beginning to suffer the demographic consequences. Our prosperity suffers; our political economy groans under pressure from the revolution. The claims of the old upon the resources of the young must be extracted from ever-smaller cohorts of the young, millions of them having been snuffed out before birth and millions more contracepted into oblivion. The difficulties entailed in this straitening are in evidence across the Western world, most spectacularly in Europe.
At base the crisis is spiritual, but its consequences ramify into virtually all areas of life.