Peace possible regardless of declining or increasing populations

I refer to the 1 Mar 2013 Straits Times article by Mr Lee Kuan Yew [1].

Mr Lee said that World War 2 Japan and Germany were examples of growing populations that led to the desire for expansion. To support his theory, he cited the fact that Japan had a population of 64.5 million occupying 145,882 square miles of land in 1931. But Japan today has a population of 128 million occupying roughly the same 145,920 square miles. Despite being twice as populous as it were in 1931, Japan today shows no desire for expansion.

In the case of Germany, Mr Lee cited Germany’s TFR of 2.6 in 1939 to support his case. His number is fairly close to the TFR of 2.5 given in another source [2]. Mr Lee also claims that the world is more peaceful and stable today because developed countries have TFRs of less than 2.1. But Germany in the years 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966 also had similar TFRs of 2.51, 2.54, 2.5 and 2.53 respectively [3] but had no desire for expansion as it supposedly did in 1939. Thus, Mr Lee’s theory that Germany’s TFR of 2.6 led it to war in 1939 doesn’t gel with the fact that Germany in the mid 1960s didn’t go to war despite having similar TFRs. Mr Lee’s theory that the world today is more peaceful because developed nations have TFRs of less than 2.1 also doesn’t gel with the fact that developed Germany in the mid-1960s remained peaceful despite having TFR greater than 2.1.

Mr Lee wrote of Germany in 1939 wanting lebensraum (living space) for its people. Yet, despite being more densely populated today than it was in 1939 (229 persons per square km today [4] compared to 147 persons per square km in 1939 [5]), Germany today shows no desire for more lebensraum. In fact, decades of plummeting TFR right up to the eve of the First World War did not prevent Germany from plunging headlong into that European conflict [6].

The truth is that both World War 2 Japan and Germany needed no more lebensraum than their leaders had preached. The then leaders of both nations had taken their respective peoples on the path to total destruction on the mistaken belief that they needed more lebensraum. The lesson learnt here is that we must not blindly follow our leaders without questioning the logic that they preach. Today, our government wants to continue to import population because it believes that is what it takes to grow our economy. Let us not repeat the mistakes of World War 2 Japanese and Germans by blindly following our leaders until it is too late.

[1] Straits Times, Declining populations make peaceful neighbours, 1 Mar 2013, Lee Kuan Yew

[2] Gilles Pison, Population and Societies, Number 487, Mar 2012, “France and Germany: a history of criss-crossing demographic curves”, page 2

This was partly because fertility had already increased before the war, reaching 2.5 children in 1939

[3] World Bank Total Fertility Rate (births per woman)

[4] Germany population 2011 is 81,726,000. Germany land area today is 357,021 square km.

[5] Jean-Louis Rallu and Alain Blum, European Population, Volumes 1-2, page 90

[6] Jürgen Dorbritz, DEMOGRAPHIC RESEARCH, VOLUME 19, ARTICLE 17, PAGES 557-598 PUBLISHED 01 JULY 2008, “Germany: Family diversity with low actual and desired fertility”, page 561


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