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There are few overlaps between the green left and reactionary right, but one of them is an obsessive fear of global population growth. To a certain mindset, there is no doubt as to the greatest threat facing mankind: babies.

In his 1995 book All the Trouble in the World, PJ O'Rourke includes a chapter entitled "Just enough of me, way too many of you" – neatly satirising those who see overpopulation as the cause and not the outcome of insufficient freedom and opportunity.

David Brooks, for his part, takes a characteristically evidence-based approach. And what the numbers tell him is this – the real story isn't rampant procreation, but a "fertility implosion" that's going global. Almost half the world's people now live in countries where the fertility rate is below replacement level, with some of the biggest falls happening in the most unexpected places:

  • "According to the United States Census Bureau, Iran now has a similar birth rate to New England — which is the least fertile region in the U.S.… The speed of the change is breathtaking. A woman in Oman today has 5.6 fewer babies than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Morocco, Syria and Saudi Arabia have seen fertility-rate declines of nearly 60 percent, and in Iran it’s more than 70 percent. These are among the fastest declines in recorded history."

Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia: it clearly doesn't require that much extra freedom and opportunity to turn things around – nor, one assumes, much in the way of feminist re-education programmes funded by western governments.

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