* * *
Let's jump right into the economic doom and gloom! Just in case we all want to drink ourselves stupid tonight, here's some perfect excuses:
China is going to set up a rare earth metal cartel, like OPEC but for rare earth metals. Call it O-REM-EC or something; the idea is to control the world price of rare earth metals by making sure the supply is limited. Everyone who mines and smelts rare earths gets a piece of the pie, and the organization determines how much will be produced in a particular year, thus artificially limiting supply and keeping the prices artificially high.
Y'know, the way OPEC does with oil.
We're all told that China is going to overtake the US as the biggest economy in the world, but the realities of economics are starting to rear their heads.
Anyone who's given the Fungus more than a cursory read over the past year will know what's wrong with the notion that China's going to surpass the US. The short form is that you can take all those stories about China, change "China" to "Japan", and compare them to the dire predictions about Japan, from the 1980s; and you'll find that they match pretty well.
Vox Day's economic predictions for 2011. They don't look good.
* * *
But Japan has its own problems. The short form is, Japan's society has too many disincentives for having babies.
Look: just one problem is that the Japanese are highly conscious of status. You have to spend money to get the symbols, which means you have to work your ass off; and that makes little time for having and raising children.
Another problem is the relative shallowness of Japan's modern culture. The traditional Japanese culture is deep and meaningful, but following its tenets makes for hard work. It's a hell of a lot easier to have a couple of sex friends than it is to get married and raise a family. It's also more fun to be able to spend your entire paycheck on making yourself comfortable.
Besides all that? It's not really discussed much, but Japan is highly socialist. Everything is hideously expensive there because of all the taxation required to support their socialist programs.
Food is expensive there. A pack of cup ramen costing $0.50 here costs nearly a dollar in Japan. Not only is food expensive because of taxation, but because Japan is so highly protectionist of its agricultural industy--their tariffs on imported foodstuffs are insane.
Real estate is expensive. It's not as bad as it was in the 1980s during the Bubble, but "better" isn't "good", and if you live in the city, like as not you'll end up paying $1,000 per month to rent an apartment which might be the size of a typical American hotel room if you're lucky.
The collapse of traditional values is probably the main reason. Abortion-on-demand isn't helping; and the Japanese have little cultural impetus against abortion to begin with: if the average Japanese person has any religious beliefs at all, they're Shinto or Buddhist, and neither of those places a premium on human life, nor do they place any restrictions on sexuality. (Yes, Buddhism teaches that life is sacred--but all life, cat, dog, fish, whatever--and the Japanese are omnivores, just like the rest of us. It's a small leap from "kill the fish so I have dinner" to "kill the fetus so I don't have to have a baby right now".) Modern Japanese society has few "moral guardrails" in place.
...so their birth rate has fallen beneath the replacement rate, which means their population will decline. This ends up meaning one of two things will happen in Japan:
1) The Japanese government will outlaw abortion-on-demand and put other programs in place to force a birth rate above the replacement rate.
2) Someone else will move in and take over, by outbreeding native Japanese if nothing else. Japan as we know it now will cease to exist.
Please note that #2 is taking place in the US and Europe as we speak.
* * *
Michelle Malkin comments about Big Labor manufacturing NYC's "Snowpocalypse".
* * *
Today's XKCD is good: