There was an article, a little over a year ago, about a woman in Minnesota, in her early 60s that was suffering from a heart condition. One morning she woke up and had great difficulty breathing. She managed to arrange to shortly see her cardiologist, who was able to bring her breathing difficulties under control. But it was the beginning of July and the woman mentioned that she and her husband had been invited to a neighborhood outdoor party for the Fourth of July holiday. Under no condition, the doctor warned her sternly, was she to eat any hot dogs or other similarly fatty foods. If she did, he admonished, she would likely wind up in the hospital. So did this woman heed the doctor’s clear warning and wisely choose her food selections at the neighborhood party? Of course not. That would have been too rational. Instead, she let her weakness for consuming hot dogs gain the upper hand, and knocked down two extra large ones in the blink of an eye. And sure enough, the next day, she suffered a mild heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital. After all, what was more important-continued living, or the few minutes of pleasurable taste attained in eating those hot dogs.
It’s too bad that medical science has not been able to develop a pill, or a therapy, for curing stupid. For example, almost 43 million adults, or near a quarter of the adult population 18 years or older, continue to smoke in this country. This, despite over 50 years of harsh warnings from the Surgeon General on down to the local councilman, about the destructively ill effects resulting from smoking. Despite the fact that over 400,000 Americans die a painful death each year as a result of smoking. Millions more develop life-long debilitating illnesses. It is also interesting to note that all these millions of smokers, at one time or another, manage to wind up in Las Vegas casinos. Because casinos are the one place in America where smoking is not only not demonized, it is, in fact, welcomed. Because casino owners know that as eager tourists start shoveling their life savings into slot machines or the craps tables, smoking is the one outlet left to help soothe the nerves of people that have just lost a bundle. They also get free drinks, as long as they’re gambling, to further calm their anguish.
This is sort of a long way around to discuss the situation in Crimea, where over 90% of the Crimean population just voted to align themselves with Russia instead the Ukraine which they are actually part of. To put themselves under Vladimir Putin’s boot, so to speak. Because life in Russia is so peachy. I discussed last time, the thug and tyrant that is Vladimir Putin, so I won’t rehash that again. Suffice to say that the Russians themselves are not quite as enthralled as the Crimeans. An interesting detail is the fact that Russia is slowly but steadily losing population. Even Putin has decried the seriousness of this problem. In the early 1990s, Russia’s population stood at 148 million people. Today, it has declined to 143 million, and continues to fall at a rate of 700,000 to 800,000 per year. It’s like watching a catastrophe unfolding in slow motion. By 2050, it’s estimated that the Russian population will be down to 110 million.
Apparently the Russians themselves don’t believe they are quite living in the Garden of Eden, as their death rate continues to outstrip their birth rate. Russia’s death rate is 15 people per 1000, each year. That’s far higher than the world average of 9 people per 1000, per year. In the U.S. it’s 8 per 1000. In Russia, people die at an earlier age than in most countries, mainly because of rampant alcoholism. For example, the average longevity for men in Russia is 59, versus about 76 for men in this country. The primary reason for the difference is alcoholism, especially among men. As I mentioned last time, Putin’s cronies get all the capital, and the rest of the peasants, who generally experience great economic hardships, are left to drown their sorrows in Russian vodka.
Coupled with the high death rate in Russia, is an exceedingly low birth rate. Due to poor economic conditions, freezing weather, and a general lack of freedom and liberty, Russian couples are becoming less inclined to bring new off-spring into the world. The Russian fertility rate stands at only 1.3 births per woman during her lifetime. A replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman is required for the population to just stay even. In overall numbers, this amounts to about 10 births per 1000 people, versus the 20 deaths per 1000 that is currently occurring in Russia. Doesn’t look to me like there’s a lot of sustainability there.
Other European countries who also have low birth rates, (not as low as Russia’s birth rate, however) are experiencing a considerable influx of immigrants, which helps them maintain a sustainable population rate. However, the amount of immigrant migration to Russia is virtually nil, primarily because of the poor economic outlook. In fact, the emigration out of Russia, especially for the best and brightest who seek better economic opportunity in other European countries, often exceeds immigration into Russia. The Russian economy is built around one product, which is energy. It does have considerable deposits of oil, gas and coal. But due to the crony capitalism inherent in operating the Russian energy system, there is great waste, fraud and mis-management which results in low productivity. In any event, it’s difficult to achieve a high functioning economy with just one product. Oh, and there’s vodka manufacturing, also.
So congratulations to all those that voted in Crimea to cast their lot with the Russian bear. You’re joining a system that most people with brains are running away from. But as I said at the beginning, science has yet to develop a remedy for stupid. That’s the one freedom that no one can take away-the freedom to act with stupidity.