From Eberstadt's perspective, entitlements create not only an enormous fiscal challenge but also a culture of dependency that undermines the foundations of the American ethos of enterprise.
With the death of Kim Jong Il, the system of dynastic succession in North Korea seems an anachronistic anomaly. But there is additional cause for alarm with this transition. When Kim took over 13 years ago, he'd spent more than a decade preparing. Today his son, however, is taking the reins with barely any experience at all.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been gripped by a devastating population crisis. The country's demographic decline will undermine the Kremlin's plans for economic and military modernization -- and could make Moscow more dangerous in the international arena.
Global demographics in the twenty-first century will be defined by steep declines in fertility rates. Many countries will see their populations shrink and age. But relatively high fertility rates and immigration levels in the United States, however, may mean that it will emerge with a stronger hand.
An annotated Foreign Affairs syllabus on North Korean politics.
The population of western Europe is aging steadily, and the region's birthrate is well below the replacement level, but Europe's elderly are exceptionally healthy. That means they could be more productive for longer than their predecessors were. If western European governments learn to tap this potential, healthy aging could become the region's next great economic asset.
In the decades ahead, the center of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic is set to shift from Africa to Eurasia. The death toll in that region's three pivotal countries--Russia, India, and China--could be staggering. This will assuredly be a humanitarian tragedy, but it will be much more than that. The disease will alter the economic potential of the region's major states and the global balance of power. Moscow, New Delhi, and Beijing could take steps to mitigate the disaster--but so far they have not.
Pacific powers would like Korea to reunify slowly, but the North is soon likely to implode, its economy deteriorating as its weapons of mass destruction accumulate. Rapid reunification would spur economic growth, as in Germany, and reduce regional tensions. South Korea's liberalization of its own economy and strengthening of its civic institutions will prepare it to assist the North. China and Russia may not go along, but Western governments should stop coddling Pyongyang. America should underwrite a united Korea's security, and Japan its finances.
The Cold War has not ended on the Korean peninsula. U.S. policymakers must prepare now for a pending unification that - given the isolated, declining but perhaps nuclear-armed North Korean regime - promises to be both more complicated and dangerous than Germany's happy drama of two years ago.
It is not so much a question of how population growth threatens world security, so much as of how fertility differentials between rich and poor countries will threaten the developed world, by producing resource scarcities and irresistible migration pressures. The fastest-growing Third World areas are those least likely to share Western values, and could produce "a fractious, contentious and inhumane international order" rather more dangerous than the Cold War. Rather than pursue pro-natalist policies to bring Western birth rates up to close the gap, the West should consider ways to improve the export of Western values.