Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The ticking population bomb

The primary focus of this blog is on the rapid aging and low fertility in much of the world. Had this blog been written forty or even twenty years ago, it is likely that the focus would be completely different. Back then, people like Paul Ehrlich wrote books like the Population Bomb, arguing that the rapidly expanding population would quickly exhaust the world's limited resources leading to mass starvation and the deaths of literally billions of people. Things have changed in the forty years since The Population Bomb was published. The world's resources are still limited, and the global population is projected to peak at 9 billion, which is still a very high number but much less than was feared back then. Ehrlich's projections turned out to be very wrong on a global scale. And yet... There are places where the population bomb is still ticking and hasn't been defused. In fact, it seems likely to detonate at any moment.

One such place is Yemen. Yemen is among the poorest of Arab countries and unlike its neighbors Saudi-Arabia and Oman it has very limited supplies of oil and gas. In fact, Yemen is not a bad template for what Saudi-Arabia might have looked like without any oil. It is not a pretty sight. Originally a collection of tribal fiefdoms united as a British protectorate, Yemen in the post-colonial era has been defined by periodic wars, most recently in 1994. Even today, Yemen has a weak state with limited control over its territory and power dispersed between various clans and tribes. To add some spice to the mix, it has also been a recruitment center and shelter for Jihadists of various stripes.

Yemen has experienced extremely rapid population growth over the last century. The total fertility rate was stable somewhere between 8-9 for the better part of the 20th century and only started to decline slowly in 90's. According to UN estimates, it still at a high level of about 5.3. The result is of course entirely predictable. From a relatively small population of 4.5 million in 1950 it now has about 25 million people, which the UN expects to double again to more than 50 million by 2050. Yemen has an extraordinarily young population with a median age of about 18 years and almost two thirds of the population younger than 25.


Such a young population would be a challenge for far more functional states than Yemen. With a stagnant economy and a state so weak it's barely existant outside cities, Yemen can't provide jobs and education for its young. The unemployment rate is estimated (and it's probably a very rough estimate) to be aroundd 35%. The education system can't keep up with the exploding population and it is estimated that around 2/3 of women are illiterate and more than two million children do not attend school.

To top it all of, Yemen is one of the most arid places on Earth. The average Yemeni has access to around 155 cubic metres of renewable water resources per year - 10% of the average for the Middle East and 2% of the world average. If the population really doubles, those numbers would be halved. Since rain is woefully insufficient, Yemen is rapidly depleting its groundwaters. The aquifer under the capital Sana'a is expected to be depleted by 2025. In richer countries, water shortages can be solved either by imports or desalination, but Yemen's neigbors have no spare water to share, long-distance transport of water is infeasible on a large enough scale and Yemen can't afford desalination. The problems could be somewhat alleviated if the Yemeni government was able to reign in cultivation of the water-hungry narcotic khat crop, but it has so far shown little inclination or capacity to do so and even if they did it might just delay the inevitable.

Thus, Yemen is incapable of dealing either with the speed of population growth or the current population level, which is beyond the long-term carrying capacity of the land. Unskilled Yemenis are not welcomed as immigrants many places, and I find it extraordinarily hard to see how this can possibly end well. The world will be at least as concerned about Yemen a few years from now as it is about Pakistan and Afghanistan today. And unlike Afghanistan or Somalia, Yemen sits right next-door to the world's largest energy reserves.... Suffice it to say that as serious as the aging problems the developed world faces are, there are worse demographic problems to have.

51 comments:

KingM said...

Scary stuff. And yet the world is unlikely to say, sorry, most of you will have to starve. Instead, it's pretty much assured that a good chunk of the Middle East's population (and Europe's, and...) will be descended from present day Yemenis.

The best thing, of course, would be to tie aid to a radical family planning regime, but this would never happen. The combination of Western guilt and Islamic tribalism will practically guarantee it.

yogi said...

I guess that's why the Saudis built a security wall between them and Yemen.

Maybe Yemenites will go for sea piracy now, as a major source of income?

Geographically the country is positioned very well for that.

J said...

Yemen may become like neighboring Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea.

Nobody said...


Thus, Yemen is incapable of dealing either with the speed of population growth or the current population level, which is beyond the long-term carrying capacity of the land. Unskilled Yemenis are not welcomed as immigrants many places, and I find it extraordinarily hard to see how this can possibly end well.


You don't have to strain yourself in any way on this account. I can assure you that it's not going to end well.

Aslak said...

KingM: Frankly, my guess is that the Saudi regime would rather see Yemenis starve than allow a mass exodus of Yemenis beyond the already significant illegal immigration they're seeing today but we'll have to see and guess. You're likely to see the UN step in with emergency aid, but I don' think that will be sufficient, especially if security continues to deteriorate. Look at Somalia, if security is bad enough even aid organizations won't go. Some will undoubtedly move to the West, but most refugees always end up in neighboring countries. It's simply too hard to get to Europe for any true mass migration there.

Yogi, I didn't know about the Saudi barrier until now. It's perhaps not surprising. Piracy does seem likely if the Yemeni state whithers away given the easy availability of guns in Yemen. Of course, the Gulf of Aden is already heavily patrolled because of the Somalis so I'm not sure how feasible it really is.

J and Nobody, I'm afraid you're both right.

(Interesting fact: As far as I can tell, 3 of 4 commenters so far are Israeli. Huh.)

Nobody said...

You haven't seen the situation on some Middle Eastern blogs. You come to an Arab blog and see comments sections with 4-5 comments. Suddenly you see one post with dozens of comments posted. You immediately know that here there were two Israelis arguing between themselves about something

:D :D

Nobody said...

By the way, I did a couple of posts about Iran's demographics recently. Here is one of them, if you are interested:

Flashdance RELOADED (NationMaster Remix)

Aslak said...

I was reading that just now actually, I thought it was a good overview (with a certain Israeli slant to it of course). Randy also had a very good post here on DM about Iran some time ago.
http://demographymatters.blogspot.com/2009/07/brief-look-at-iranian-demographics.html

For the reasons you mentioned, the next 10-15 years will be critical for Iran. With a bulge of people in their 20's and a stagnant economy, the political regime should be increasingly vulnerable. At least they have a functional state and they've managed to rein in population growth, so they've got that going for them, unlike Yemen.

Nobody said...

I actually expect things to start quieting down in Iran from this perspective as the bulk of the youth bulge has already entered the labor market and the pace of new entries will be slowing down with the labor market catching up with the demographic transition. I would expect more protests and discontent but for other reasons.

But for Syria and Yemen, the next 20 years are of course critical. Regarding Yemen, I think you can already take a rubber and start erasing this country from the map. About Syria I am less certain, but I find it hard to believe that their story will have a happy end.

Aslak said...

I don't think Iran will quiet down just yet - the instability will likely last for some time. Even ten years from now Iranians will still be a young people.

As for Syria, it'll be interesting to follow. The regime there is far more repressive than in Iran so they might be able to quell any unrest. I might be wrong about this, but as far as I know there hasn't been any sign of rebellion in Syria since the Hama massacre.

Nobody said...

This is true. But I have the impression that youth bulges tend to go off during transition periods when birth rates start falling. To get a social explosion the style of Iran you need young people, a lot of young people. And you need them unmarried or at least without many children, so they have enough spare time for demonstrating and throwing rocks at police

Nobody said...

I mean this is a situation to be soon produced in Syria if its fertility keeps collapsing

kensington and chelsea said...

I suppose they could emigrate to Saudi Arabia if they Saudis let them.

Aslak said...

Nobody, youth helps but not necessarily. Look at Eastern European population pyramids in 1990 for instance. Sometimes these things take time.

I was talking about the future situation in Syria as well. I just meant that if they stay as repressive as they were then, the youth bulge might not actually do anything. After all, a youth bulge is not a guarantee of unrest, it just increases the probability of it.

k&c: there's the rub, the Saudis have been working very hard to limit Yemeni immigration. Even with the oil, the Saudi economy is struggling to provide for the needs of its own. They really don't want a large influx from Yemenis who generally have no skills that are useful to the Saudis.

snakeoilbaron said...

While I don't see Yemen's demographics significantly affecting the populations of Eurasia, it will be a source of instability and terror; especially with a government which feels that human rights are for sissies.

KingM makes an important point about the world's reaction to the population expansion. The UN has long been paying the West Bank and Gaza to stay poor and keep their fertility rates high in the name of "compassion" and in the unspoken hope that they will out breed the Jews and overwhelm them with poor, desperate and suitibly indoctrinated young Arabs. Like most things the UN tries this has, at best, been a temporary success as fertility rates there are starting to fall. If the "international community" sees Yemen as a convenient source of jihadis they could use the false flag of compassion to also provide free food to keep them poor, dependant and with nothing to do but breed and go on jihad.

Lirun said...

this post is like taking nodoze pills.. not good for late at night..

maybe we (in israel) can do a secret deal on a few desalination plants..

Nobody said...

Aslak said...

Nobody, youth helps but not necessarily. Look at Eastern European population pyramids in 1990 for instance. Sometimes these things take time.

I was talking about the future situation in Syria as well. I just meant that if they stay as repressive as they were then, the youth bulge might not actually do anything. After all, a youth bulge is not a guarantee of unrest, it just increases the probability of it.


It depends on how much they help in your view. When one has 40% of the population comprised of youth bulges, in my view they help a lot. If one really wants to make them helpful, one can also try to become a net oil importer, which Syria has achieved this year. Global warming is another thing as Syrian GDP is 20% agriculture. The combination of all these and some other factors makes Syria exactly as you defined it - interesting to follow

:D :D

Anonymous said...

Yemen is on the container route between Europe and China. Problem until now was to few people to man the factories. That is being solved so i expect great things about Yemen.

Nobody said...

There seem to be some difference of opinion here, as I don't expect any Yemen in the future at all

:D :D

Anonymous said...

You're right. The sun will go super nova

Aslak said...

Snakeoilbaron, I'm not sure debating this is worth it, but your second paragraph reeks of conspiracy theories. You can criticize UNRWA for a lot of things, but they have also been running fairly succesful family planning programs. And I'm not sure who in the international community it is you think want more jihadis.

Nobody: I think we essentially agree, but nothing is inevitable and the Assads are survivors. We'll just have to see.

Anon: I'm not sure where you get the idea from that Yemen hasn't had enough people to man container ports. Yemen does have an excellen strategic position, but that doesn't mean Yemen will be able to take advantage of it. Lack of people has never been the problem. The problem is rather chronic insecurity, an uneducated work force and weak and thoroughly corrupt institutions. None of that has changed. I don't see Yemen turning into Singapore any day soon. I've actually tried, but it's really hard to find any reason at all to be optimistic about Yemen.

Nobody said...

anon

It can certainly happen long before any supernova. In fact, it has probably already happened. By all accounts the government does not control more than 25%-30% of the country's territory and even inside cities in the South it seems to be challenged by some kind of secessionist movement. Add to this the Shiite insurgency around Sa'ada.

The only thing that can save Yemen is a massive intervention by the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs who can orchestrate some kind of Marshal plan for Yemen to try to pull it out of the abyss. But right now there is no sign that anything like this is going to happen. Anyway, Yemen is probably now already the most populous country in the region. It's no easy burden to carry one one's shoulders for anybody.

Nobody said...

@Aslak

I think this is of the kind of stuff you are interested in: The best of all possible worlds?

Aslak said...

Yes it is. Thanks for the link. I posted a quick comment ther, because I think the premise of the article is a little bit misleading.

Aslak said...

On the other hand, the idea in the article might have some merit. I'll have to chew it over a little bit and maybe I'll put up a post on it next week.

Nobody said...

Aslak

Given that you have Israeli readership, maybe you can post more on one particular subject that's of interest to us. I am sure you are aware of a theory that reasons that fundamentalist populations will outbreed secular populations at some point in the future. In fact, the same Economist has recently started posting more in the sense that religion is back, it's not going away and in one of their scientific sections they have even covered a research that was exploring the possibility that religion may be some kind of advantage from evolutionary point of view.

I understand that there is a certain trend in the US re fundamentalist Christian groups. Here in Israel we are simply living through it right now. It would be nice to see you posting more on this subject, in particular, re general demographic trends within the Jewish ultra orthodox and similar populations.

Renee said...

While religious people in the U.S. do have more children how many of their children actually stay religious? Being Catholic myself and in discussion with other mothers, we deal with this on varying degrees. Basically we limit secular media, but it has to be replaced with something positive. We acknowledge it is out there, and role model behavior on how to deal with it. Ultimately one's child has to make faith their own. Much like you can force your kid to eat broccoli or you can over time make him realize it's not so bad.

Cice(rone) said...

Wow, Nobody is also here.

But, Renee, I think that the percentage of children staying religious is very high. The people emigrated to the USA were more religious than the people that stayed here in Europe. So if there would be no relationship between parents and children in religious things at all, then Europe and the USA would be equally religious.


We simply couldn't whitness that religious outbreed secular people because the difference in fertility rates on a broad scale isn't very old. I can only speak for Germany. In the 1950s and 60s, there were only very few secular or atheist people, mainly because the society forced them to stay in church. After the late 60s, there had been some sort of 'cleansing' in church. Those people who were forced by society to stay in church now left it. Also people who are only a very bit religious left church because they wanted to save money. Now the only churches who are growing are free evangelical churches.

Also, the shift of the reason of getting children isn't very old either. In the old times, when children were an economic topic, less religious people and more religious people had the same number of children. Until the 60s, also workers, who were more secular, had more people than the average. That changed after the 60s.

And what are 40 years in demography?

Anonymous said...

Renee: At the moment religious people still have higher fertility than non-religious but my theory is that this will not hold and that religious people will in the future have lower fertility than non-believers. My theory is that religious do not have large families because they are religious but because they are backwards so their ideal family size is that from 50 years ago. The religious people in 100 years will still be backwards but then their ideal family size will be that of 2059 instead of 2109. Why will they have smaller fertility?
More than 1 in 7 kids is made on a Sunday.

About birth control. Non issue as you can't raise 10 kids for the modern world without raising them for the gutter so any close to mainstream religious group needs to allow birth control and than you have to explain why they will get 4 instead of 2 kids.



ps. IIRC the most religious parts of Italy have the lowest fertility.

Anonymous said...

Cice

The US was less religious than large parts of Europe in the 1950's, now only some parts of the East can compete.

what your saying may be very country specific because in my country non-religious people had significantly fewer children than the religious but that could be because they were red or rich. (public housing was controlled by the zuilen)


"Until the 60s, also workers, who were more secular,had more people than the average."

I think this is a German class effect and not a religious effect.

Anonymous said...

Nobody,

Semantics. You are talking about Yemen, the state, i about the land area.

About the economist article. Standard "why i stopped reading them" fair.

First TFR was depressed in 1975 because of demographic transition.
Second HDI is made up of three components: life expectancy, which increased because of advances in medical science, improved hygiene, improved housing stock and few smokers; average income per person, this is the kind of number that will be massaged so it shows an improvement over thirty years(not arguing that it happened but that it would happen if it wasn't); and level of education which is not only a lagging indicator but also has to deal with schooling inflation.
This will lead that a country will have a lower HDI in 1975 when it undergoes the demographic transition and its lower TFR

Randy said...

If I may interject ...

From my understanding the religious people in Israel live a life separate from that to more secular Jews, indeed that Israel as a whole has multiple sectors as defined by language and ethnicity that don't interact that much. If it really _is_ true that Orthodox fertility will remain high while fertility among more secular Jews and Arabs will remain lower for a longer time period, absent immigration the religious sector will take over. If.

As for the possibility of religious people outcompeting relatively or very non-religious people, I'm skeptical of the idea if only because a secular--or secularized--lifestyle is very attractive. In less than forty years, for instance, Spain changed from a conservative authoritarian state dominated by Catholic mores to one where same-sex marriage was generally popular.

Religiosity, note, should be distinguished from liberalism/conservativsm: in Québec, common-law relationships are almost as accepted as ones rooted in civil marriage, but the need to establish a permanent household remains pretty much as common as before the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. I'd even argue that, with its own mass media and cultural influence, even religious conservatives haven't been able to necessarily enforce the movement's nominal beliefs and behaviour structure. Een fundamentalists. My favourite story in this regard dealt with women following a terrorist movement who felt outraged and personally insulted by his statement that women should stay at home and not be suicide bombers. Secularism gets _everywhere_.

Hey, I'd even argue that same-sex marriage is a conservative impulse, certainly compared to a subculture characterized by substantial multipartner sexual behaviour in the 1970s and an interest in exploring non-marriage relationships.

J said...

It is most interesting that we Israelis (I mean Israeli Jews) occupy such a large place in internet debates, specially on intellectual type of sites. It reminds me of the phony anecdote of the Himalaya sherpa asking an Israeli trekker: How many Israelis are? 5 million? It cannot be true. I personally know of 20 million that already climbed this mountain.

Regarding religious people in Israel living a life separate from that to more secular Jews, that is relative. Israel is such a small and densely populated and intense and hot (33 Celsius this morning in Tel Aviv) place that you cannot isolate yourself. You see each other, you smell each other, you cannot but hear them, you have them in your soup looking at you. Enjoy.

Edward Hugh said...

Hi J,

"It is most interesting that we Israelis (I mean Israeli Jews) occupy such a large place in internet debates,"


Yes, and indeed the last time this happened on a blog I participate in was on my China blog, when, hey, gues what, Nobody was arguing the toss with another Israeli, and in the end posted this:

"By the way, the situation on this blog starts looking like something I am seeing on Arab blogs all the time. You come to a blog and hardly see any comments besides a comment here, a comment there. Suddenly a post comes with an explosion of dozens of comments. You immediately know - this is a couple of Israelis debating something."

Anyway, welcome everyone. Glad you are enjoying the debate.

Nobody said...

Randy

Interesting points. I liked in particular this one:

Hey, I'd even argue that same-sex marriage is a conservative impulse, certainly compared to a subculture characterized by substantial multipartner sexual behaviour in the 1970s and an interest in exploring non-marriage relationships.

Add to this love/pride parades that usually go beyond just demonstrating to demand equal rights, making the impression that the impulse of 1970s is also live and kicking.

Nobody said...

Hi Eduard

Yes. It was me and another Israeli guy debating the historic legacy of of the Communist Party.

Nobody said...

Regarding the religious vs secular thing. Some arguments made on this thread are rely on the experience of the last few centuries. However, the situation may have changed. On one hand secular populations around the world tend to easily succumb to low fertility trend, while on the other the impression is that religion has learned to survive in the new environment. As a natter of fact I see quite a lot of religious people doing science and technology here in Israel.

I am not into demographic determinism myself, however I am wondering if we are not missing something by projecting the past experience onto the present and the future. The pendulum may be swinging back. That's why I asked Aslak if he can check the data on this thing.

Nobody said...

J said...

Regarding religious people in Israel living a life separate from that to more secular Jews, that is relative. Israel is such a small and densely populated and intense and hot (33 Celsius this morning in Tel Aviv) place that you cannot isolate yourself. You see each other, you smell each other, you cannot but hear them, you have them in your soup looking at you. Enjoy.


The problem is that I checked and there seems to be no significant difference in the ultra orthodox TFR between Israel, USA and Britain. One can say that the ultras can't really practice isolation in Israel for the lack of space and other reasons. However, this seems to make no difference

Aslak said...

Nobody: I'll be busy doing other things over the next few days but I'll have a look at it next week and see if I have something useful to say about it. It's certainly an interesting topic though -there are a lot of Christian parallels to the ultra-orthodox, and here I'm thinking primarily about the various Anabaptist sects, which I think in many ways is a better parallel than Evangelical Christians. (although obviously there are also important differences).I think the question is whether that model is sustainable once you achieve a certain demographic mass and how adaptable it is.

Aslak said...

Randy, overall I think I agree with you. But I think the Israeli case might be special because of the particularities of the ultra-orthodox. In terms of isolation and at least partial rejection of the rest of the world they are as I mentioned above not really comparable to "normal" conservative religious groups. Imagine a Canada with 7 million Hutterites and Mennonites if you will. Since the Israeli case is so unique, we don't really know how things will play out. Clearly, the ultra-orthodox will have to make some adjustments but we don't really know how and there really is no previous case one can look to for examples.

Nobody said...

Aslak said...
Randy, overall I think I agree with you. But I think the Israeli case might be special because of the particularities of the ultra-orthodox. In terms of isolation and at least partial rejection of the rest of the world they are as I mentioned above not really comparable to "normal" conservative religious groups.


There can be no denying that we are directly responsible for this mess and its consequences. Of all developed nations we are the one that can least afford any multiculturalism and other lunacies due to our problematic ethnic and sectarian composition. We seem to be getting away with mistakes re the Arab sector but with the ultra orthodox the only thing we can do now is study their fertility patterns across the Western world to see if salvation may still happen of its own accord.

Randy said...

"Add to this love/pride parades that usually go beyond just demonstrating to demand equal rights, making the impression that the impulse of 1970s is also live and kicking."

In Canada, since equal rights--parenting, civil-rights, marriage, et cetera--have been achieved nationwide, despite efforts in Toronto at least to position Pride as an event geared towards an international market, in the main it's a local equivalent to Carnival that draws in tourist bucks.

But Israel multicultural? The populaton is, but the state doesn't support many interactions between different population sectors. My favourite example of this--a bit close to home to me, I admit--is the impossibility of civil marriage in Israel, barring intermarriage (and by analogy other relationships) between individuals of different sectarian backgrounds unless one converts or both leave the country to get hitched. I find that very problematic--my parents, one Roman Catholic and the other Protestant, would have been kept apart had PEI had a like law, never mind the same-sex marriage bit--and emblematic of a society that isn't really interested in accomodating its diversity.

Nobody said...

Multiculturalism has little to do with supporting interactions between various groups but rather with allowing them to maintain their culture and way of life even if it conflicts with the general orientation of the state. Muslim schools in some European countries are an example of this. In Israel the state both tolerates polygamy in its Arab sector and a separate system of education in the ultra orthodox communities.

Neither the state has so much to do with the absence of civil marriages since these are imposed on the society by ultra orthodox parties who abuse Israel's coalition politics. It's another example of multiculturalism getting out of control and forcing itself on the secularly oriented part of the society. Actually Israel recognizes civil marriages and in fact it recognizes same sex marriages too if concluded abroad. The problem of Israel is the inability of the secular sector to create a strong united coalition that will move into the Arab and ultra orthodox sectors to put them in order.

Randy said...

"Actually Israel recognizes civil marriages and in fact it recognizes same sex marriages too if concluded abroad."

I definitely recognize that--have, on my blog. It's just that forcing a same-sex couple or a different-religion couple to leave the country if they're to get married says something pretty definite about what the polity thinks people should be doing. Lebanon's the same way, juridicially at least.

More later.

Nobody said...

Sorry mate, but this one does not pass either. You are trying to implicate Israel as a state in a sort of sectarian apartheid and yet it's a well known fact that on issues related to the rights of sexual minorities, whether it comes to same sex marriages or gay parades, the ultra orthodox and Arabs join ranks in opposition. It may conflict with your liberal world view, but the fact remains that the problem is not with the polity as such but with what the minorities think people should be doing. The ultras have recently got very nationalist and would gladly kick the Arabs out on any other day, but on these issues the two are cooperating with each other.

Nobody said...

Never mind that there can be no comparison between Israel and Lebanon. Tel Aviv is a world wide destination of gay tourists while in Beirut they hardly have any openly gay places.

Renee said...

Anon,

I guess I'm a little hurt with your bigotry, let's call it that because of the tone of your words. I'm not backwards, I just believe fertility or children aren't a bad thing. I can make that decision with my husband without third parties telling us, what is ideal. This is one of the reasons why I love Natural Family Planning (no it's not the rhythm method www.tcoyf.com is secular website of its teaching), the Catholic Church encourages that men are equally aware of its understanding. It's our bodies we don't need third parties or governments telling us what is ideal, understanding our bodies thought helps us discern how we may be open to children. We can think for ourselves.

Our children may not have the material consumption this world has to offer, like a TV in their room or a new car for their 16th birthday. We do fine with one TV and we live live an area in which destinations are walkable and public transit is apart of the infrastructure.

Cars and malls take space, people don't. One doesn't need a new 3500 sq ft home or what in season from Abercrombie & Finch not 'to be in the gutter'. In fact we're role model environmentalists.

I really do enjoy demography matter blog though, we can discuss family size and its impact with distorting peoples choices WITHOUT condescending language.

I have a concern that women and men having established educations and also the ability to establish healthy relationships in which children may be raised in. The problem fertility and educational structures are at odds. Do we need to extend high school to 18 years of age? Why not starting at 6th grade have shorter summer vacations and have school year round and graduate at 16 instead?

In my area (Lowell Massachusetts) technical schools now have waiting lists, compared to the traditional four year liberal arts community high school. Young adults want to have a viable skill by they are 18, not have to wait until two/four college or even a graduate school. College could offer 'fast tracks'. Even graduate schools are trying to move things along, I've seen law schools offer a 24 month program instead of the traditional three year.

Several years ago I was listening to Gubernatorial Candidate Deval Patrick, who was elected governor in Massachusetts in 2006. Now I don't agree with him on a lot of issues, but he made a clear point regarding education, why is our education system based on the farming harvest schedule?

Randy said...

@ Nobody:

"It may conflict with your liberal world view, but the fact remains that the problem is not with the polity as such but with what the minorities think people should be doing."

Sure. The problem seems to be that the majority doesn't care enough to override these minorities.

Am I saying that Israel's a land with sectarian apartheid?

No. Am I saying that Israel's marriage laws are fundamentally unjust and discriminate against vulnerable minorities? Yes.

Canada's marriage laws did the same until quite recently, I can assure you. A strong minority of Canadians was opposed to same-sex marriage, so I'm inclined to believe that if the majority of Israelis are interested, change is equally possible in Israel.

As for Lebanon, while I would say that it's one of the most open places in the Middle East--not necessarily saying much--Lebanese, like Israelis, make a habit of traveling to Cyprus in order to get their civil marriages.

http://www.beirut-online.net/portal/article.php?id=5263

@ Renee:

It ultimately comes down to what people want. Some partners are content with one or no children, others with two or more. The search for the external determinants for these differences interests us all.

Renee said...

Randy,

I don't want to think that because someone may have none or one child are someone not good 'Catholics'. I have friends for multiple reasons who don't have more then two or less, and it isn't they are more forward in thinking or even about birth control. many couples experience 'secondary infertility', having one or two but unable to have a third. It's private situation between wife and husband dealing with tough emotional issues.

Nobody said...

Am I saying that Israel's a land with sectarian apartheid?

No. Am I saying that Israel's marriage laws are fundamentally unjust and discriminate against vulnerable minorities? Yes.


You said: It's just that forcing a same-sex couple or a different-religion couple to leave the country if they're to get married says something pretty definite about what the polity thinks people should be doing.

As if it's a kind of the Soviet Union or something. Now when you started talking about what the majority wants, it started making more sense. However, comparison with other countries are difficult to make since Israel's democracy is much more representational than most other Western countries. In Israel any group that gets slightly more than 2% of the votes nationwide gets 2 seats in the Knesset and so minorities are very proportionally represented in the political system and have more leverage than their counterparts elsewhere.

As to Lebanon being one of the most open places in the Middle East, this is correct as long as you remember that it's the Middle East.

yogi said...

As to why Israelis flood comment threads on the net:

Speaking for myself, I find it nearly impossible to have a rational, educated debate on Hebrew sites.

Most discussions, especially among the educated , boil down to "are you for us or against us".

Facts, data, numbers - are irrelevant, only ideology matters. (and of course,the ruling postmodernist elites do not believe in "facts").I guess this is the result of our political communist heritage.

Exchanging ideas rationally on the internet is one way to escape this atmosphere and also actually learn about the world (our media really suck at informing the population. But on the flip side there is no lack of half naked women...)