May 19, 2023
What is pro-natalism? How fast are birth rates falling around the world? How long will it take for us to really feel the effects of population collapse? What are the primary drivers of population collapse? How does the current difficulty of raising children compare to other periods in history? What roles do various religions and philosophies play in population dynamics? What are some non-coercive ways to encourage population growth? What constitutes an intergenerationally durable culture?
Simone and Malcolm Collins are a husband-wife team driving the pronatalist movement, which seeks to bring attention to the risks of a hard landing on demographic collapse. In addition to running the Pronatalist Foundation, the Collins Institute, and a collection of private equity companies, they enjoy writing, having so far published five bestselling books (The Pragmatist's Guide series). To hear more from them, check out their podcast (on Substack, YouTube, or whenever you listen to podcasts), follow them on Twitter at @SimoneHCollins, or check out their books:
JOSH: Hello, and welcome to Clearer Thinking with Spencer Greenberg, the podcast about ideas that matter. I'm Josh Castle, the producer of the podcast, and I'm so glad you've joined us today. In this episode, Spencer speaks with Malcolm and Simone Collins about pro-natalism, modernity and encouraging diverse futures.
SPENCER: Malcolm and Simone, welcome.
MALCOLM: Hello, it is so great to be here with you.
SIMONE: We love chatting with you, Spencer.
SPENCER: Oh, thanks. Well, I'm really happy to have you both on. And this time you're coming out at the same time, which should make for an interesting dynamic. Let's start with a topic that I know you're both very passionate about: pro-natalism. So tell us what is pro-natalism, and why do you care so much about it?
MALCOLM: I think everybody knows that birth rates are falling. And they've heard passingly that Elon Musk has complained about this or said this is something we should pay attention to. But I think the dominant narratives right now vastly undersell the scale of the problem and how quickly it is happening. And this can be found in many of the solutions that people propose to it. So, most people know that the US is under repopulation, and has been for a while. That means that we are not having enough kids to replace the existing population. So under 2.1 kids per woman causes that situation. And then you will hear solutions like, "Oh, well, you know, we have a lot of immigrants from Latin America. So that should fix the problem." The problem, of course, being that all central South America and the Caribbean combined fell below repopulation rate in, I think, 2019. Many of the countries we think of as being major in places with huge populations, like China, are expected, but some estimate, to get half their population within 45 years. And their fertility rate is falling; this last year, 13% year over year. India is likely to fall below repopulation rate this year. Over half of the world's population lives in a country that's below repopulation rate. And it doesn't appear that there's a floor as population declines. No country has really flipped the script yet. And if you look at countries in more advanced states, like Korea — which is where I started caring about this — for every 100 Koreans, there is either, if you use 0.7 or 0.8 number, 4.3 great grandkids or like 6.4 great grandkids. And we are today where Korea was in the 90s. So, this problem is really looming on the horizon. And we're looking at like a 94, 93% population collapse. And people think, "Oh, well, at least religious communities are immune to this." But it looks like in the US, Mormons may be below repopulation rate already, or they'll be there in five years. And even places that people think of as being traditionally high birth rate areas, like Iran for example — well, at least Muslims have a high population rate — Iran between the 1980s and 2010 fell from 6.5 births per woman to 2.5 births per woman, almost below repopulation rate, and at a rate faster than even China's birth rate fell during the one child policy.
SPENCER: So where does this leave us with the world as a whole? If we look at the entire world, are we projected to have a shrinking population?
SIMONE: Yeah. So over the very long run, we are projected to have a shrinking population. That is not our primary concern. As pro-natalists, we aren't saying that we need to have the entire world population grow as a never ending pyramid scheme. We aren't necessarily running contrary to environmentalists who are concerned about the burdens that the human population places on environmental systems and other things. What we are very concerned about is future diversity and plurality. So while some populations are going to keep growing, and we are going to have plenty of people in the future, what we're really concerned about is certain groups (like Malcolm referred to) basically completely disappearing, going extinct. So we could have a future in which maybe there are only five dominant cultures that are out there in the world. And that worries us.
MALCOLM: When she says certain groups, I think some people who aren't familiar with the data could think that she is dog whistling White Christians in America, when nothing could be further from the truth. If you look at the sort of ethnic and tradition clusters that seem to be most resistant to population collapse in highly prosperous countries, you're really only looking at white Christians and Jews. Specifically what I mean by Jews is, Israel is projected to be one of only four countries in the world that will be at a positive fertility rate at the turn of the century. And within the US, if you look at the rates of collapse, they are the slowest among the White Christian population, when contrasted with the black or the Hispanic population. And the White Christian population seems to have the largest population clusters of individuals who are able to maintain a high birth rate in the face of modernity.
SPENCER: So obviously, a lot can change in the next 80 years, right? The world can be completely different, where all of our projections are wrong. But suppose we were to project out from here, just like our best projections of what the world will look like 80 years from now, are you saying that it will be mainly Christians and then some Jews and then not very much of other groups? Or what are we actually predicting based on the data?
SIMONE: Two of the highest correlating factors with high birth rates are poverty and low female educational attainment. So one of our primary causes with pro-natalism is, to a great extent, to protect women's rights and to make sure that the groups that are represented in the future aren't just impoverished people who don't support women's rights necessarily, to include a really broad group of people. We don't just want the cultures and people represented in the future to be very against women in the workplace, very against female educational attainment, those sorts of things.
MALCOLM: And to clarify what she means there, because this is coming directly after a talk of White Evangelical Christians and Jewish populations, we are not saying that those communities are disproportionately against women's rights. But within any population group, the portions of that population group that are more against women's rights will have higher birth rates. And also almost always within any population group, the portions of that population group that are poorer will have higher birth rates.
SPENCER: So how does this interact with the claim that it's largely Christian groups and Jews that are having the highest birth rates?
MALCOLM: So this actually comes to like our larger solution to this. So what we are seeing is, across every group, you see this, but certain traditions. So this comes to our book, "The Pragmatist's Guide to Crafting Religion," where we go over this thesis that you can think of humans as being sort of two things. Humanity is sort of the evolved firmware we have, which is our biological predilections, which obviously was shaped by genetic selection pressures. But then on top of that, there were these mimetic packages. And today, we often think of mimetic packages as being the things that infect a person and then motivate that person to infect other people. We think about them in marketing terms,
SPENCER: You're talking about cultural memes, basically?
MALCOLM: Yeah. But historically, there were these things that we call cultivars. Yeah, they're like cultural memes, where it's like a mix of a culture and a religion. And this sat on top of the human condition, and primarily spread not by converting people (which was actually fairly rare, historically speaking), but by augmenting the fitness of the people that it sat on top of. And when we say fitness, to be clear, we don't mean quality of life. Fitness is morally blind. We just mean the number of surviving offspring they had that stayed in the same culture. If you think of the firmware — like these genetic proclivities that humans have — as being like a lower level coding level language, this is like the object oriented coding language, that can undergo much faster evolution. And it allowed things like, if you look at Islam or Judaism, both of them culturally evolved the knowledge that you handwashing — like Lincoln's life, and it's a good thing to do — literally centuries before — like Lister in science came to the same conclusion. And every one of these cultural groups is sort of like its own organism or like an iteration of humanity. Modernity is a new one of these cultural groups, and it better eats away at the immune systems of some of these older groups than others of these older groups. It appears to encounter more immune variants in the Christian and Jewish communities than it does in other communities. It is difficult for me to hypothesize why that's the case. If I had to guess, it is because the iteration of modernity that is leading to lower birth rates uses prosperity to lure people into it. And Christian and Jewish groups have been exposed to this type of post developing world prosperity for longer than other population clusters. And this explains why, if you look at different variants — like if you look at Catholic groups that are in the US and have been in the US for a long time — they seem, currently, more resistant to changes in this birth rate collapse than Catholic groups coming from Latin American countries, where this level of prosperity hasn't existed for a long time and you see birth rates crashing at much faster rates. So I don't think there's anything intrinsic about Christianity or Jewish as it has been exposed to prosperity for longer and in larger population samples.
SPENCER: Okay, so let me make sure I get the overarching view that you have here. So it sounds to me like you're saying that poverty and belief that women shouldn't be educated equally to men are both correlated with high birth rates. But modernity tends to lower birth rates, as this modern idea (or whatever we want to call these sets of ideas) spreads around the world. But you're saying that as modernity spreads around the world, when these modern views reach populations that are Christian and Jewish, they tend to have less effect on their birth rates than it does on other populations. Is that what you're claiming?
MALCOLM: That's what we're saying. And we're saying that the reason that probably is, if you think of modernity as being like an antibiotic or something, it's just that those population groups have had more exposure to that antibiotic over a longer period of history.
SPENCER: Okay, I think I understand your claims now. So I was just looking up what the countries with the highest birth rate in the world are. And according to this list I found, it's Niger (which I think is almost entirely Muslim), Angola (which I think is a mainly a Christian country, I believe), then there's Mali (which I believe also is Muslim), and then Uganda (which I think is more Christian, if I'm not mistaken). So it seems like a mix.
MALCOLM: Yeah, all of those countries have high rates of low female education and high rates of poverty, which, no matter what, leads to a high birth rate. So what we are looking at trying to do is prepare the world for a state in which the entire world has reached a certain level of development and baseline prosperity, where those countries, presumably, (unless there's something very unique about them) are also going to have their birth rate collapse, as they undergo the natural cycle that the rest of the world is going through, of development, getting more female education in their country, and getting more wealth into their countries. And so, even if you take a developed country and ban female education in a portion of it, birth rates will shoot up.
SPENCER: Okay, so going back to my question from before. Let's suppose that we could project forward based on the current data and that that procedure is valid (which it may not be, but suppose we could), what are we predicting the world would be like in 2100?
MALCOLM: The big thing that's going to change, that a lot of people are underselling, and a lot of people are like, "Why do you care so much about birth rates crashing in developed countries? That seems suspicious. It's almost like you care about these developed countries more than other countries." And it's like, well, like it or not, developed countries, by their nature, are the core source of the world's economy right now. The vast majority of global wealth is in developed countries. And these countries have all sort of built themselves as pyramid schemes that rely on constant growth to stay functional. In average, for the past 300 years, in most developed countries, if you put money on the stock market, that money would grow on average. And that happened because the number of workers in those economies was growing exponentially, and the productivity per worker in those economies was growing linearly. And a lot of people make the mistake. They think that because technology has been growing exponentially, that means that the productivity impact it has has been exponential as well, when it appears mostly linear.
SPENCER: Let's unpack that for a second. Because I thought productivity was usually like a percentage each year, like if productivity went up 1% a year, that would be exponential. But you're saying it's not?
MALCOLM: It's not, or it looks linear when contrasted with population growth numbers historically. There is an exponential component to it, but it is linear in contrast to the effect of birth rate on the economic productivity increase of a country.
SPENCER: Okay, so I think the way I interpret that is that, even if it's exponential, if it's a very slow exponential, it will kind of look linear relative to a faster exponential. And that's kind of what you're getting at?
MALCOLM: Yeah. And we're about to see population begin to decline exponentially, if the countries that are more advanced. And where we get this exponential decline from is, a lot of people were like, "Oh, you know, fertility rates aren't that low yet in the US or whatever." But keep in mind that fertility rate is the exponent by which it's declining. And it doesn't appear that this has a floor in the countries where it has declined already, like Korea.
SPENCER: So how much collapse in population has Korea seen?
MALCOLM: So, it's just at the beginning. But as we said, we are looking at for every 100 Koreans like 4.3 to 6.4 great grandchildren at this point, and it's still going down. And this is a fast process. Korea was where we were in the 90s where we are today. So I can actually run over the math here. So the fertility rate in Korea is either 0.81 or 0.7. At 0.81, that means for every 100 South Koreans, there will be 6.6 great grandkids. At 0.7, that means for every 100 Koreans, there will be 4.3 great grandkids. I think when you're dealing with exponents like this, a lot of people don't realize how fast things are going to drop. The problem for this happening to developed countries is, all of these countries are heavily leveraged. That means they've taken up debt at every level of their society: from their land, to their municipalities, to their cities, to their states, to their nation states. And anyone who has run a company knows that debt is an amazing tool when things are growing; it multiplies the returns you get. But if things ever shrink, it multiplies the pain and it leads to collapse.
SPENCER: Okay, so it sounds like you're saying that basically, many of these modern economies are predicated on growth; most of that growth comes from population growth, or immigration, not from productivity growth. And because society is so levered, if the population starts going the other way, suddenly things will shrink extremely fast. Is that the basic argument?
MALCOLM: Yes, and we will start to see most developed economies collapse, which is not good for anyone in the world.
SPENCER: Got it. So is your primary concern then an economic concern rather than a cultural concern?
MALCOLM: Our primary concern is a manifold concern.
SIMONE: Basically, we don't want there to be a hard landing on demographic collapse; we want there to be a soft landing. And we want people to prepare for the inevitable changes that will take place when population starts leveling off in different areas. And that could be at the city level, that could be at the nation level, that could be for cultures. So there needs to be governmental infrastructure-wise, culture-wise approaches that are taken very consciously, or there could be really negative consequences.
MALCOLM: The problem with the economic side of this is, as soon as it becomes blindingly obvious to people and they can't keep ignoring how bad the situation is, the economic collapse it instigates will make it impossible to fix or impossible to fix in any organized fashion. And the homogenization that we will see because of it becomes an inevitability.
SPENCER: So how soon do you project that we will see kind of substantial effects from this?
MALCOLM: Within our lifetimes. I think China is the first place we're gonna see this. It's funny. A lot of people attack us for this. They're like, "Oh, so you want to pressure women to have kids?" And it's like, "No, we want to change culture to emotionally reward women for having kids and make it a desirable thing to do, before we end up in a situation like China, where the government's starting to genuinely pressure women to have kids. And that's what we're going to begin to see, starting with the more authoritarian countries, where we will begin to see literal Handmaid's Tale mirroring stuff; I would predict within the next 25 years.
SIMONE: A recent article on pro-natalism that actually came out today had one of the anti-capitalist nonprofits argue that the [quote] "alarmism" that groups like ours are trying to raise around pro-natalism are a form of coercive action trying to get women to have children. And that same article also made note that many vasectomy clinics in China have been closed down and access to birth control is now being made a little more restricted. That's only just the beginning of what could happen in terms of coercive action around women having children. Proactive approaches to a pronatalist world, in which women are not robbed of their reproductive rights, is kind of important to us. As much as people want to accuse us of being coercive, we actually want to defend reproductive rights. And we also don't want anyone who doesn't want to have kids to have kids. To a great extent, we really just want to help families that want to have a lot of kids have more kids, which is more difficult now than it should be.
SPENCER: So my understanding with regard to China is that the one-child policy, which they implemented in order to try to curb population growth, has now put them in this position where they have a lot of elderly people — and obviously every year they're getting older — and not many young people.
MALCOLM: This is what we talked about when we talk about the misunderstanding of what's really happening. That is a mischaracterization of what's happening. They have been trying for about a decade at this point to be able to get their birth rate up, with things like the Three-Child Policy and stuff like that. And despite all of their best efforts to get their population rate back up, it is continuing to decline. It's continuing to decline so quickly, that year over year this last year, China's fertility rate fell 13%. China's fertility rate now is lower than it was during the Great Famine of the 1960s, where I think like 6 million people died. It's not that China has a fertility problem, just because of the one child policy; it's worse now than it was then.
SPENCER: But surely that must have contributed to the situation they're at now.
MALCOLM: Oh, no, it contributed to the situation. But to act like it's not this larger sort of modernity contingent that is lowering birth rates there is, as well as everywhere else, sort of hides the problem by pretending, "Oh, it was this one-child policy, and they're not doing it anymore. And after they lifted the one-child policy, their birth rate problem disappeared." That is not the case. And if the one-child policy was what was so effective at lowering their birth rate, why do we see things like Iran's birth rate, in the past 30 years, collapsing faster than the one-child policy that caused China's birth rate to collapse? Why is it that if China were so good at a state level preventing people from having kids, at a state level somehow unable to stem the tide of fertility collapse right now? I think that that's just a narrative that hides the larger picture.
SPENCER: So we consider this package of ideas we're calling modernity (which is, we're giving a really loose name here, obviously). What about it is causing people to have fewer kids?
SIMONE: Well, a lot of it comes down to kids are hard, right? Especially after you have maybe two kids, it is difficult. And maybe from a hedonic perspective, studies show that you take a hit, happiness wise maybe not contentment wise, but in many forms of happiness and convenience. So if you don't have an exogenous motivator encouraging you to have kids, and especially if you don't have a cultural reason to have kids — and you see this and the the nihilism that spread throughout younger generations in China, be it like the lying down movement, or people saying, "We are the last generation" — there really isn't this desire to create a next generation. And there is just much more interest in immediate personal comfort: intragenerational wellbeing versus inter generational wellbeing. So we think, largely, it's a problem of culture. If you have a culture that is primarily focused around reduction in suffering among oneself or in current populations, you're going to see lower birth rates,
MALCOLM: Which is the woke's goal, reduce suffering. This form of negative utilitarianism, which is where you're getting these anti-natalist movements from.
SPENCER: Do you see this connected to social justice as an idea?
MALCOLM: No, no, no, no, no. It's just one facet of it. But social justice is just sort of the eid of modernity. It's the quiet part out loud. It's the promise that we will remove emotional pain. And I think that most people who sort of grow up in modernity are like, "Well, what's the good? What should society aim for?" And it's remove pain, not maximize pleasure, or not maximize beauty or anything like that. And that just doesn't really motivate a high birth rate. But interestingly, I think to get people to think about what you need to have a healthy culture, so if you have any population group — and when I say population group, think of your friends who live in a city or whatever, like just any of your listeners think of your friend group — if a third of that friend group is have having no kids or are not gonna have any kids, and a third of that friend group is having two kids. Whatever sociological profile or belief system is associated with that friend group, for that to stay stable in the population, the final third has to have over four kids. And our society is just not set up in a way where you can have a huge chunk of people having over four kids. And people aren't really rewarded or motivated to have over four kids at large numbers. And that's really the population that you need to target and enable to fix low birth rates. It's not convincing the people who want to have two kids to have more than two kids, it's not convincing the people who want to have no kids to have kids, it is convincing the people who want to have four kids to have seven kids. That's where this is fixed. And that requires a cultural fix. And this is where we keep going back to things like these older religious structures that our society has cast off. It turns out that humans evolutionarily had sort of been using these as a crutch to motivate birth rates. And now that we have shed them, we don't have anything that motivates birth rates anymore. And we're going to see the portion of the population that was sociologically susceptible to shedding them essentially being deleted from the human gene pool.
SPENCER: So when I think about the trade off of having kids, I think of it as partly a trade off of pleasure for meaning. I think some people really, really get lots of pleasure from being around kids. But I think a lot of people don't actually find it that pleasurable, but they do increase their sense of meaning in life. And actually at one point in my life, I did a bunch of interviews with parents. And I found it really fascinating because I would ask them questions like, "What is the kind of best moment with your children?" And I remember this one couple I was talking to. They are very high achievers, they work really hard, and they have a nanny while they're gone. And they come home in the evening and they take care of their kids in the evening. And I was sitting with this couple, and they said, "Oh, yeah, the best moment is right after we've tucked them into bed, and we're just watching their sleeping faces, and just thinking about how great they are." And I was like, "That is a very interesting choice of greatest moment, because your kid is literally unconscious at that moment." And so that was really, really fascinating. I don't know how representative that is. But I do get the sense that there is that kind of pleasure-meaning trade off. I'm curious what you think of that.
SIMONE: That's really interesting. I do think that there is a lot more meaning, it's like serotonin versus dopamine. I think the 'just after they went to sleep' moment resonates. But again, it comes back to culture and it comes back to the way that you contextualize meaning and what 'winning' means in life. And our current culture just doesn't contextualize that life, which can be very exhausting, as being a form of winning.
MALCOLM: Keep in mind that if you look at surveys among Gen Z, a quarter of them plan to not have kids for environmental reasons, for example. We are actively trained by our culture that kids are a source of negative meaning, that they rob the world and life of meaning. We are told this as we are growing up. And I think you can look at people who have kids whose biological sort of systems have kicked into place after having kids, and they then see those kids as a source of meaning. But I think when you look at why people have their first kid, their second kid, why they have each incremental kid, I don't think people do that to inject their lives with meaning. And I would say that that's a really bad reason to tell someone to have kids. But that seems like it's gonna lead to a lot of negative externalities. The primary reason people have each incremental kid is cultural mandates, largely speaking.
SPENCER: Okay, so without those cultural mandates, why should someone have more than two kids?
SIMONE: Oh, gosh. This sounds weird that we're saying, "Kids make life harder, and they're more stressful." And yet, Malcolm and I, after having our third kid, are already so excited about starting with a fourth. Just seeing our children, seeing them grow. It is hard to understate just how wonderful these kids are, and how much we learned from them, and how much happiness and joy they do bring to our lives. But Malcolm, what are you going to say?
MALCOLM: But that's a hedonic argument. I think he means it in an absolute sense the value of kids. And it's that if everyone who is susceptible to what we think of as modernity — like a world with prosperity, female education and everything like that — and being open to outside ideas, and being open to outside groups. If that entire population stops having kids, then the people who are susceptible to those ideas, that on a sociological level, if you look at things like voting patterns, if you look at things like altruism, pro-sociality, all of these things have a large heretical component. And if you hunt elephants, and you hunt the elephants with the big tusks and that aren't afraid of people, then the elephants get small tusks and they start becoming afraid of people. Having like skittishness, or different ways of seeing the world, and to have a heretical component isn't unique to animals. Humans have that as well. And if you systematically delete all of the humans, who are open to ideas like environmentalism, from the population, you will see that at lower rates within future populations. And while genetics may not be a good determinant of the way any specific individual is going to turn out, they can be really predictive at the population level. And by that what I mean is, if you look at a polygenic risk score as being something like, "Okay, I have a sheet of paper, and there is a 60% chance that it'll have a blue dot under it." I don't know much better than chance whether that paper is going to have a blue dot under it. But if I know that there are 1000 pieces of paper, and all of them have a 60% chance of having a blue dot under it, I can tell you with a high degree of certainty, what percent of all of those 1000 pieces of paper are going to have a blue dot under them, and how many blue dots is ever going to be. And this matters when you're talking about things like democracy and sort of mass action in society. So we are going to see shifts in humanity, some for the better, I think. Maybe a drive to more religiosity is going to make humanity a more robust and kinder species. But some for the worse, potentially. And when we think about what we're trying to do with our family, largely, we like many of the things that we associate with modernity, like equality, being open to outside ideas, female education, technophilia (being open to technology). And we believe and want to fight for a diverse, (hopefully, one day) intergalactic human civilization. And to do that, we have to, through our own family and the culture we build for it, show that it is possible to motivate families in those circumstances to have a lot of kids. What is great about this is that this problem is highly tractable. One of the things we get most maligned about is we're like, just look at the math here, right? If just our family has eight kids, and they have eight kids, and you do this for 11 generations, that means we have more descendants than there are people on Earth today. Now, it should be obvious, from what we're saying, homogenization is a big fear of ours in society. The reason we point this out, is we don't need everybody to go along with this; we just need enough families to build durable cultures, that our kids get to live in, like a diverse social ecosystem that, at least to some extent, mirrors our own,
SIMONE: To build on what Malcolm says, there is an issue in which people like Scott Alexander, for example, when arguing as to why they're not so concerned about demographic collapse, often argue things like, we're very strong in terms of converting people to our culture, be that progressive values, or technophilia, or whatever it is that you care about (environmentalism, women's rights). The problem is that if you continue to poach from other cultures, like if you take their children and convert them, and that's how you keep your population stable, your culture is stable, especially if when you convert them caused them to not have children, you were basically (we'll say) infecting certain people, you convert with a sterilizing meme and causing them to get removed from the gene pool. That means that the people that will exist in the future, that ultimately will survive in future generations, are going to be more resistant to outside ideas. They're going to be more resistant to conversion, and therefore sterilization. And so to just rely on converting people to maintain your culture is inherently unsustainable and still likely to lead your culture to become extinct, your values to disappear.
MALCOLM: Yeah, and I should be clear, this is actually where data that you collected, Spencer, was really important to making us such firebrands about this, that I think you probably remember when we first went to you as this data, and we considered it something of a lark at the time. We're like, "Oh, you did this big study on political affiliations, and it happened to record how many kids were having." And so it was just like this absolutely massive data set and we paid Muhammad, a researcher at Mayo Clinic, to go through it. What we found is what ended up making us such firebrands on this topic is we had assumed going into it that it was religiosity that was protecting people from birth rate collapse. And we assume this because it was these more traditional sort of mimetic organism-like clusters that were able to motivate birth rate in face of modernity. And what we learned is that that assumption was wrong. Now religiosity is highly heritable. But what it turns out is that being at a higher end of religiosity was in one of these traditional cultures doesn't really predict whether or not you will deconvert from that culture. And this is something I should have known. I am familiar with the atheist community. Everyone knows that the people who convert most out of religions into the atheist community are often the most fervent, the most firebrand people before their deconversion. And anybody who looks at woke-ism or ultra progressivism sees this religiosity-like instinct in some of these people, it turns out that it's not this sociological profile of religiosity that protects people in these traditional cultures that motivate high birth rate. It's another population cluster, which is called the far right authoritarian population cluster, which basically is just the instinct to dehumanize anyone who's from your outgroup. Now, I should be clear here, it was named the 'far right authoritarian population cluster' by progressive academics. It actually appears almost as frequently in far leftist groups. It's the same thing that motivates people to join Antifa and stuff like that. It just means this sort of instinctive desire to dehumanize and not listen to anyone who's different from you.
SPENCER: You're saying that trait is especially correlated with high birth rates?
MALCOLM: Yes, that's what's protecting people. And that's what is most correlated with high birth rates. And it is heritable. There's been studies showing that it has a heritable component. If we look more broadly at our culture — and I don't really consider myself part of this modern culture, I consider myself as being much closer in mindset and sensibilities to these more traditional religious cultures. That's why we call ourselves 'secular Calvinists', and not like (I don't know) modern, secular people. But to me, it just seems sort of perverse that sort of this modern culture could just be happy parasitizing other families and converting kids out of these traditional ways of lives and homogenizing them. It just seems, I don't know, morbid.
SPENCER: Okay, so you're saying that there's this particular authoritarian, kind of like the outgroup trait, that's linked to having high birth rates. But presumably, you don't want to spread that 'the outgroup is bad' meme, right? So then what is your strategy?
MALCOLM: Well, that's what is going on in society right now. That's what happens if we can't find a way within our own family and with other (I guess sort of) families like us to motivate high birth rates. And what we're trying to do, as with the book "The Pragmatist's Guide to Crafting Religion," is sort of think about the evolution of these older cultural units, think about what our society threw out as we secularize, and think about how we can go back and sort of restructure many of these older religious systems. And I think, as a society, we're increasingly learning how much of what we throw out had value. As society secularized, we're like, "Oh, all of these arbitrary rules, let's get rid of them." And when you look at any religion — whether it's Ramadan or Feast of the Firstborn, or Lent — you have these arbitrary self denial rituals. And now we're learning that those are important. And so you have in the modern secular world all these fasting crazes, and everything like that. But that wasn't the only thing of value that we threw out. I would argue, and what we argue in the book, is most of what we threw out was valuable.
SIMONE: But what we're trying to say is that what we're avoiding with a hard landing on demographic collapse is a small number of cultures, more close to a cultural monoculture of cultures that are closed minded, more totalitarian, not willing to embrace a lot of progressive values or consider outside views. We want to prove that you can have a high birth rate, you can perpetuate a culture into the far distant future, while still being open minded, while still being open to innovation, while still being pluralistic and willing to engage with other cultures, learn from them adapt and protect things like women's rights.
MALCOLM: And I think that more broadly here, anyone who's listening to your podcast is probably thinking about AI, right? Is AI just gonna kill us all? Is AI, a deus ex machina? AI is a really interesting wildcard here, and it is not one that we are discounting. When we look at AI right now and we're saying, "What's the probability AI kills us all within the next 150 years?" I'd say that probability is a good 20-25%. That's big, right? What is the probability that our society enters a terrifying dark age because we've gone through these cycles before. Whether you're looking at Athens or the Renaissance or Rome, sort of a golden age of being open to other lifestyles, being open to other ideas of flourishing of science, and then Dark Ages afterwards, but we've never hit one of these dark ages with nukes. And the probability that we are heading towards one of these dark ages, I'd say 99%. So yes, AI is very dangerous and very scary. But if we somehow dodge AI killing us all, we are driving straight into a wall right now. And there's just no way around it in the data that I can see.
SPENCER: So in fact, the dark edge claim, so you're saying we're gonna have demographic collapse. And then how does that lead to a dark age?
MALCOLM: So it leads to economic collapse. And it leads to shifting in what sort of the human profile was. So there's an interesting study that's going to be coming out soon, that was looking at polygenic risk scores associated with education. And you can look at this, and this is a well-studied thing. They actually determine that polygenic risk scores associated with education are currently so accurate that they can determine a person's educational attainment level at a higher rate than an IQ test can.
SPENCER: So they look across someone's whole genome. And they build like a regression model, trying to use sort of all the genes simultaneously to predict something about them. Is that what you're talking about here?
MALCOLM: Yeah, yeah. And we can look at these in bodies. We can look at these in bodies of people during the Roman Republic era, during the height of the Roman Empire, and after the Roman Empire, and see how their rates of expression changed over time.
SPENCER: Like digging up old DNA, you're saying?
MALCOLM: Yeah, and a study is about to come out that's going to show this, and it shows in the Republic era, like right as it was beginning to explode, the polygenic risk scores that today are associated with high educational attainment were uniquely high in that population cluster, to the extent that they were even higher than they are in the modern Roman population cluster. They then fell a lot as the Empire grew to its height, and then they rose again, during the dark age, you know, preparing civilization for next height. These civilizational cycles are something we've gone through before, and we can see it happening again. If you look at the polygenic risk score as associated with educational attainment, in modern developed countries — there was a great study of this I want to say. In Iceland (or something) — people are like, "Oh, it's a coincidence that IQ seems to be dropping like 0.2 points a year. But the actual polygenic risk scores associated with educational attainment are directly associated with lower birth rates. They directly negatively impact the fitness of people. The same scores that predict a person's educational attainment also predict how many kids they will have.
SPENCER: So why would this lead to the dark age, rather than say something more like what we saw in Japan? My understanding is that the Japanese stock market was kind of flat for a really long time. We also had a declining population in Japan, I think, for quite a while. But it's not like a dark age, right?
MALCOLM: It's still declining.
SPENCER: Right. But basically, you wouldn't call it "Japan Dark Age."
MALCOLM: I'd say look at how much debt Japan is under right now. They're only able to maintain a debt structure like that (and that debt is necessary for their economy to function) because the rest of the world is still functioning basically okay, and they're part of global supply chains. If every country was like Japan, the economy just wouldn't function.
SPENCER: So what would happen? Can you try to be a little more specific? Obviously, it's hard to predict the future.
MALCOLM: Yeah. Well, it would look like the fall of the Roman Empire. So I think a lot of people when they think of a collapsing civilization, they think of it like The Road Warrior. And that's not really what it looks like. If you're in like Roman Gaul during the collapse of the Roman Empire, what it looks like is like supply chains break down, some stuff that used to be in your grocery stores start disappearing, some social programs that people in your community and the most vulnerable people used to rely on slowly start disappearing or become less effective (because money's worth less), infrastructure stops being updated as much — your Aqua deck stops working on near, your freshwater supply stops coming into town — you start to hear of rich people in your community losing all their money, but you don't really care because you're a subsistence farmer anyway. I just think that when people hear about civilizational collapse, they expect it to be much more dramatic. The problem is that the people who get most impacted by civilizational collapses are often the people who are sort of running these governments. And these are the people who in the current era have nukes. And that is what scares me.
SPENCER: So you're worried about the decline in civilization leading to nuclear war basically?
MALCOLM: Increased conflict, deglobalization. Now, deglobalization is a really good thing; I think it was a mistake that we became as globalized as we did, but a rapid deglobalization is going to hurt economics. And in a world where people look down on outgroups at an intrinsic level, that's going to lead to more conflict. And so that combined with deglobalization, and potentially resources becoming more scarce, that's going to have all sorts of negative effects that could increase the amount of conflict we see in the world, in really negative ways that is very worrying to me.
SPENCER: So, what would show that you were wrong? Let's say 30 years from now, what would be a sign that you're incorrect?
MALCOLM: Easy. An immediate thing that could show I'm wrong is, some country finds a way to get their birth rate back up significantly. Like, Korea finds a way to turn it around. China without doing something coercive finds a way to turn it around. If anyone finds a way to significantly turn it around, that would be huge. But no one has yet. If you look at Hungary, they spent 5% of their GDP last year trying to get their fertility rate up, and they got it up by like 1.6%. Consider that China's fertility rate is declining like 13% year over year last year. So there was a great study done that showed that if you looked at the studies that were determining whether cash handouts had a positive impact on fertility, how much they showed they had a positive impact was directly correlated to the margin of error of that study. So because cash handouts don't fix this, it appears to need to be a cultural solution and a solution at the level of individual families who build sorts of new intergenerationally durable cultures for themselves, while also state level governments removing some of the restrictions that make it very difficult for families to have over three or four kids.
SPENCER: What are some of those restrictions?
SIMONE: Zvi Mowshowitz has a really good blog post about this. It's called, "On Car Seats as Contraception." It is incredibly thorough and incredibly compelling. But it talks about things like, a lot of government policies that are meant to protect children are very well intentioned but ultimately make it really hard as a parent to have more than two or three kids. And also, I would say that there's a lot more government intervention on raising, schooling, and caring for children than there has been in the past. We've seen more instances than ever of child protective services being called on parents after their kids are seen walking home from school or walking from a park, just for two blocks. So there's just a lot being placed on parents, that is entirely unreasonable, by governments. And by just removing some basic unreasonable standards, I think it will make it a lot easier for families to have and raise kids.
SPENCER: So right now, thousands of people are going to be listening to you talk about this. And most of these people don't have kids or don't have kids yet. So what would you say to them? Now's your moment to try to convince them to have children, if you want. What would you say to them?
MALCOLM: I would not say, "Just go out and have kids." I would say: Do you want to engage in this project, this project with your family and with your kids? Because if you just go out there, and you just spam lots of kids, like suppose you are not doing any good. You need to rebuild what it was that motivated people to have lots of kids in the past. And that is an intergenerationally durable culture. That is a cultural identity where your kids will know what it means to be a member of your family, how your family is different from other people, and why they should have kids themselves. And actually, I think this is a big reason why, for example, Jewish groups have been so resistant to population collapse, is because they have done a very good job of conveying this to their kids. Even when their family secularizes, they still very much know who they are, what their identity is, and why it matters to be part of their cultural group, and why their cultural group has value.
SIMONE: There's also another factor to this. I think it's really important. One, to only have kids if you feel like you are able to, if you have a group of friends or a partner that you feel you can raise kids with successfully. But then a lot of people are in a position where they could do that, and they don't think they should because it would dampen their ability to have an impactful career. But when you think about the amount of impact you can have by, to Malcolm's point, building a durable culture, that your children in turn pass on, the impact is incredible. And I think people also don't think about the extent to which children can hedge their philosophical bets. So think about anything that you can achieve with your career. Even if you are wildly successful, your influence will largely end with your death. And maybe the entire ideology that you used, the evidence that you utilized to make your decisions on what you're going to fight for was off or inaccurate. So your entire life, even if very impactful, even if very influential, may have been kind of moving in the wrong direction or a feckless direction, because your evidence wasn't sufficient, and you weren't actually doing what was ideal or best per your values. If you have children, you sort of get another roll of the dice. You get another generation to try it. Your children are going to watch you as you work throughout your career, they're going to grow up exposed to your culture and your ideology, and they will also be exposed to different and, perhaps, better evidence. So you basically get to spend their entire upbringing as a sales pitch for your values and your culture. And if ultimately that sales pitch fails, your children may pursue something different. And I think that's a really great thing. You were also not saying that you have to have kids, so you indoctrinate them and force them to live your values. To a great extent, you have kids to have another shot at trying life in an entirely different way through those children when they make their own decisions and choose to have their own impact in the world. And if you have children who in turn have children who in turn have children, you have generations of people who can have a huge impact on the future of humanity, our ability to overcome great challenges, our ability to flourish, as a species go to other planets. It's kind of hard to imagine anything that you can do in your career that would be more impactful than that. So even though sometimes having children can be a little bit of a dampener or a headwind on your career, or make your career a little bit more difficult, the impact that you will ultimately have, if you raise them successfully, if you give them a good upbringing, if you give them the best education you possibly can, is pretty incredible. Soyou could argue, just from an effective altruism angle or having a maximum impact for your values angle, I think kids are pretty impactful. And that's my pitch.
SPENCER: So before we wrap up, let's talk about designing a culture. Because essentially, your pitch is around having a culture in your family that can propagate throughout time. And so what does that look like? I know that you have taken this topic on in one of your new books.
MALCOLM: Yeah. So the theological framework for our culture that we raise our kids with is, we sort of ask them, 10 million years from now, if their descendants are still alive, would those descendants be more the way they conceptualize a human today or closer to the way they conceptualize a god today? And you're talking 10 million years of technological advancement in the future, whatever we end up changing about humanity in the future, they're probably going to be closer to the way we would conceptualize a god today. And who's to say our understanding of physics is complete? Who's to say that these distant future beings, in the same way that like in the double slit experiment, we can see probability waves bounce off each other, don't exist as sort of a probability wave almost attempting to manifest themselves and that they cannot influence that they're not watching over us today, that they're not watching over our kids today, and are rewarding them for making decisions that ensure a prosperous future for our species. And in many ways, we joke that sort of like descendant worship. So many cultures have a form of ancestor worship, where they're like, in the aggregate, their ancestors are watching over them and guiding them. And we try to really make this a forward and future focused thing that gives our kids and ourselves motivation to give our kids the best life possible. Our kids do not exist to serve us and their ancestors. As they do in many other cultures, our kids exist to serve their descendants. Simone, could you talk a bit about our holidays as sort of that we've designed around this.
SIMONE: Yeah, so the larger point and a point we're trying to make with holidays that we have invented for our own family is that even if you are secular, it's important to create more of a cohesive culture, a feeling of belonging, feelings of tradition and fun things, to impart fitness both within any participants' life, but also that encourage people to have kids, raise their kids in that culture, and then inspire those children to, in turn, raise their own kids in that culture. So having this cohesive set of holidays, traditions, things that you enjoy that are kind of related to a larger metaphysical understanding of the world, even if it's secular, is really valuable. So to Malcolm's point about our belief that far distant descendants will be akin to gods, we talk a lot about the future police, like if something bad happens in your life, because we have this deterministic approach to the world like, "Well, you know, maybe the future police orchestrated this." So one thing that we often do is, if something bad happens in our lives, we often, per our metaphysical understanding of the world, we say, "Well, hey, maybe the future police made that happen. This was meant to happen." And we also, to Malcolm's point, have a holiday where we really play with the concept of the future police while also leveraging trends associated with other holidays. So right around New Year's, we do 'Future Police Day', where leading up to New Year's Eve, the future police steal from our children some Skinner Box-related device — so any anything that's kind of related to operant conditioning, kind of causing them to become addicted to something; it could be a mobile game, it could be any number of things that we steal from them, possibly a gaming console, (most likely gaming consoles, let's be honest here) — and then we leave a little calling card from the future police saying, "We've taken this from you because, to a great extent, those devices are removing your efficacy as humans." Then they need to pledge to the future police. They basically write down a vision they have for the future, how they're going to make it better, and one specific discrete thing they will do that year to help to make that future come to pass. They place that note, that promise, that contract essentially, in a designated location that could plausibly last thousands of years, and it'd be found by the future police in the future. And so if the future police are pleased with the pledge made by the children, they return the addictive object along with a small gift, and then give them a gift later in the year, if they achieved their proposed project. And the gift, of course, will be in proportion to however challenging the project was.
MALCOLM: So the goal of this holiday is to: 1) get the kids thinking a lot about the future that they want to see in the world, but also to make them understand that they have agency about the future. If you look at Gen Z right now, there's just so much nihilism. We really want our kids to grow up feeling like they have agency over the distant future, that their actions matter, and that they can work to create a better and brighter future for our species. And you might have noticed, she mentioned our kid, Titan Invictus, in the background there. And a lot of people online, they're always making fun of us for the names we name our kids. But that is what it means to be a distinct culture. Any predominant culture, that predominant culture that's one within our social ecosystem, partially (1) because it was very good. It had an immune system that was very good at stamping out any deviant culture, any cultural variants, by calling them cringe, by calling them weird, by calling them nerds or whatever. And so by owning that cringe or that difference about your culture and saying, "No, this is who we are. And we are okay with being different from the mainstream culture, because the mainstream culture isn't motivating high birth rates, it's not motivating vitality. And frankly, it doesn't seem very nice to live in," we can both, through the traditions that the kids grew up with and the way they self identify as people with hopefully feeling like they have agency over the future, to carry this on to the next generation. And if they don't want to carry this on to the next generation, we've even built this separate thing that we call 'the index', which is a way to bring them back in and keep them... If they say, "Look, I think I can do it better than my parents. I think I can build a better culture than the one my parents built." We actually love that idea, and we would want our kids to do that. So they just record the traditions that their parents had them practice, the outcomes of those traditions in the central index, and then they get to try their own variation. And then when their kids get married, they then get to review the index and the outcomes of the various traditions to determine if they want to spin the dice again. Think of it like cultural horizontal gene transfer that can hopefully allow for a faster transmission of sort of cultural resistances to changes in this sort of larger modernity like super virus, which is eating away at most of the more traditional cultures in the world.
SPENCER: So for final thoughts, what would you say to parents who want to create their own culture? What would your advice be to them?
MALCOLM: We spent the past three years writing a book to help you, The Pragmatist's Guide to Crafting Religion. I really have nothing else to say; check out the book.
SIMONE: But beyond that, I would say, basically, you don't have to be religious in a traditional sense to create a very compelling culture and religion. It can be really fun to develop entirely new traditions that take the best of what old religious traditions offered and the best of what new science explains. So there are many strange old religious traditions around fasting or food prohibitions or coming of age ceremonies that kind of now make sense because of science. You can really now parse out the stuff that's ridiculous and you can kind of get rid of those that don't really help anyone, and things that science really reinforces and that show to really help people mentally and give them an advantage in life. And I think it's really fun to parse out those similarities and build something that's very intelligent.
MALCOLM: Yeah. And I would really argue that I think that what we want for a future is a diverse future. We don't want people to just borrow everything that we've created for our family, which we call secular covenant, because it draws a lot on our family's older traditions, but riffs on their own traditional culture. But also, I think there's just too much animosity in our society against sort of the older religious traditions without understanding the benefits they provided us. We see from mental health to happiness rates in these more strict religious cultures. And I think we can rebuild iterations of those and develop those that already exist into things that are robust against this cultural super virus.
SPENCER: Thank you both for coming on. This was a really interesting conversation.
JOSH: After the discussion, Spencer followed up with Malcolm and Simone to ask some additional questions about their views that he'd felt uncertain about during the episode. First, Spencer pointed out that according to the UN, the world population is projected to reach 8.5 billion in 2030 and to increase further to 9.7 billion in 2050, and 10.4 billion by 2100. Spencer asked whether Malcolm and Simone expect these estimates to be accurate, and how this estimate influences their views. Additionally, Spencer asked when they anticipate seeing the rise of substantial problems in the world as a result of falling birth rates. Malcolm and Simone responded with the following.
SIMONE: We're so glad you brought these things up, as most peers who see this information think, "Aha, and therefore none of this is a problem," and forgot that the problem we're highlighting is not "Hey, we need the global population growing," but rather, "Wow, populations are dropping locally all over the place. If we don't handle this thoughtfully, we're in for a world of hurt." While the world's population does not start declining until 2064, that is not relevant when the population of almost every developed country in the world is already well below replacement rate. A country is only likely to have an above repopulation birth rate if the average citizen is earning less than $5,000 a year. What about using immigrants to shore up the problem? Here we would ask people to consider what they are really suggesting and the long term implications of it. Recall that South America, Central America and the Caribbean have already collectively fallen below re-population rate. Almost all of the growth we are seeing in the global population is coming from just a few nations in Africa. This growth will hold steady in those countries so long as they are impoverished. It would be very bad to make developed world's economies reliant on ensuring that those countries stay impoverished. We also need to consider it as somewhat sociopathic as people from White Christian and Jewish cultural groups to say fertility collapse is not a problem, given that those groups are the two most resistant cultures in the world to prosperity induced fertility collapse. Conservative Christians and conservative Jews are the only cultural groups in the entire world that showed durable resistance to fertility collapse after their nations get wealthy. These populations dropped dramatically less than other cultures. Meaning that if we succeed in making the world wealthy, and if current trends hold, the inheritors of our society will largely be conservative Christians and Jews. We encourage people to stop building their worldviews on their far right and far left talking points, and just look at the data. Compare Israel's fertility rate with that of Iran. Go through all the policies Iran has implemented over the past decade to try to raise its fertility rate. We are looking at a cultural mass extinction event, with cultures like Janes, Farsi, Emiratis and dozens of Native American groups likely to go extinct in the next century. All, while we sit here saying there is no problem because it doesn't affect our people. We are killing people's cultures, extinguishing thousands of unique cultural and ethnic groups at a level totally unparalleled when contrasted against anything but the colonial age. And we are asked to act like this massive modernization of our species and to people like us is irrelevant. We believe humankind benefits from cultural and ethnic diversity and see this as an issue worth highlighting, even if our cultural and ethnic group is the single biggest beneficiary of demographic collapse. People use the growing global population to hide three core issues at hand here: one, rapid demographic shifts in the developed world will lead to a collapse opposite the world's current economic system. And we should at the very least be preparing for this as a society; two, no country in the world outside of maybe Israel has figured out how to have it all — prosperity, gender equality and access to education along with a stable population or economy. We have been able to hide this through the shell game of mass immigration. This should be a problem for anyone who wants a future in which all nations enjoy prosperity, gender equality, and access to education; three, fertility rates are falling locally within cultural groups around the world leading to what can only be called cultural mass extinction. This extinction primarily benefits Christian and Jewish groups and is leading to the homogenization of our species. If you want to learn more about this stuff, feel free to check out our books, "The Pragmatist's Guide" series, or check out our podcast Based Camp. Not a single nation in the world outside of maybe Israel has figured out how to combine prosperity, gender equality, and access to education with a stable population. And this seems like something we should probably be working on if we're trying to aggressively push these things in every corner of the globe. Stop and let that sink in. Prosperity, gender equality and access to education appear to be incompatible with a stable society. And we've been hiding this fact by importing people from countries that don't yet have access to these things. If you value a future in which those things still exist, this should be a huge issue to you. The goal of the pronatalist movement is not endless population growth or even a higher world population, but rather awareness of this shell game and alleviation of the effects that will have on society as its impact becomes evident. We must recognize the massive demographic transition we're about to undergo and rejigger the way we fund and leverage infrastructure, pensions, stock markets and a myriad of other institutions, to make them durable in the face of declining populations. The average fertility rate of developed countries is 1.56 right now. That is catastrophically low and getting lower every year. This is not a problem that can be written off just because it is only hitting developed countries. That's where the world economy is. If those countries go down, everyone goes down with them. A lack of development may be what makes national fertility rates high, but a lack of development also makes nations economies less relevant to the global economy. If this changes, if these countries' economies become stronger, then all data suggests that their fertility rates will also crash. Worse, the scale of the problem is hidden, if you look at population numbers, and not fertility numbers and rates of change in those numbers. From 2010 to 2020, US fertility rates declined by 15.9% and ended the decade at 1.64. If fertility continues to decline at this rate, and a new generation emerges roughly every 30 years, then for every 100 living Americans, there will be 3.7 great grandkids. The effects of low fertility do not cause a population to crash when they first appear. It takes about one generation for that to happen. Once a majority of a society's population reaches a certain age, there's nothing that society can do to reverse the population collapse. The point of no return is passed before that society begins to meaningfully experience the dropping population. To be more specific, a population that is 80% over the age of 50, will likely never be able to recover because people over 50 are very unlikely to have kids that they often still have about half of their lifespan ahead of them. This is why talking about population numbers instead of fertility rates can obscure the gravity of the population's risk of a hard landing on demographic collapse. So you can't wait until population numbers actually start to collapse to address this problem, or it's too late. As at that point, most of the population is out of the fertility window. The point of no return for a population fertility wise can happen long before their population actually starts to see a rapid decline. This is a huge issue to anyone who claims to care about gender equality. If we can't find ways to culturally motivate people to solve this voluntarily, the only wealthy cultures to survive and thus the ones that end up controlling the future of our species, will be those which coerce women to have kids. We want to go on record saying that within the next 15 years, due to its low birth rates, China will either see an economic collapse, not a depression, or implement Handmaid's Tale like policies. To be fair, most of our concerns are long term in nature, beyond 2050. Birth rate problems are intrinsically measured in human lifespans. If you wait until the problem can no longer be ignored, it is already too late.
JOSH: A listener asks: Have the ultra rich irreversibly won? Or are there any viable options for putting a clamp on their power?
SPENCER: It's kind of a strange framing. I mean, if you think about who has power in society, there are different pockets of power, right? A bunch of people who are really powerful are ultra rich, that's absolutely true. But ultra rich people are not one group. It sounds like they all work together, and they all meet together, and are friends with each other. They are sort of like pockets of them, right? So there are libertarian ultra rich people, some of whom are (let's say) hedge fund managers, or libertarian tech people who have certain things they're trying to get done in society. Then there's highly liberal ultra rich people that are pushing for certain things, maybe opposing Donald Trump. And then there are conservative ultra rich people that are pushing for certain things. Maybe they're Christian conservatives, and they want to go back to a more traditional Christian society. And so, I wouldn't view it as a monolith. Fortunately, there are also other powerful groups. So while politicians definitely tend to be rich relative when they get up to really high level politics relative to sort of the average person, they're not in the ultra rich, usually; most of them are not. Obviously, some of them are, but most of them are not. And politicians have a lot of power too, and so that's another group. And it is true that ultra rich people influence politics, but politicians also are influenced by voters. And so it's not like they're fully captured by the ultra rich for this (as far as I'm aware, I don't believe it's true). There are other pockets of power. Journalists are powerful in their own way. Startup founders are powerful in their own way; they can change society through the companies they build. And when they start, they're not ultra rich. Mainly they're starting from the ground floor usually. So yeah, I think there's a lot of pockets of power in the world, and I don't want to oversimplify.
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