What Percentage of the World’s Population Is Necessary To Maintain Civilization?

My brother and I were talking about the various interpretations one can put on events, trying to see if there is one that makes sense.  “Intentionally kill off N% of the population” was a thought, so I wondered if that was possible.

Short answer :  Any loss of people will slow economic growth, as no group of people is entirely isolated from the world economy.  It is certainly conceivable that civilization could continue after even a percentage of the population dies off, but the wealth of the remaining populations falls rapidly as the percentage dead increases.  In the middle ages, with their low levels of technology, the Black Death’s making labor relatively more expensive than land changed everything because a civilization is an integrated economic, social and political system.  It would do the same now, our infrastructure is built for a certain population and level of economic productivity.  Fewer people could not maintain the infrastructure nor the economic productivity.

I first rhought that the percentage of decline in standard of living wouldn’t be proportional to the loss of people in the early days, the rest would have use of more of the best resources.  And on the other hand, there are a surprising lot of connections in the world, and so many of them are affected when anything at all bad happens.  Losing 10% of the world’s population, no matter how random, would be a lot of random bad things happening, key people without whom things don’t work very well in too many companies, … that might become a logistics cascade.

There is no way to engineer such an event for improved results, plan as completely inhumanely as you will, as every bit of every economy is dependent upon every other and peoples and countries cross all of it.  Everything is connected, as we are learning about our financial world at the moment.

The full argument : Pick any important sector of the world and assume you need to support that, e.g. research.  Medicine will need so many MDs, nurses, orderlies and administrators.  So many medical and so many nursing, etc schools per 100K population for replacement and additions to the medical  So many workers in maintaining the hospitals, nursing schools, … need so much [ resources ] which requires so much [ resources ] and you fan around adding people and resources until you are back where we are.

It is fantasy to think anyone can plan and organize an economy better than the one we have, tho they could stop crippling it.

It is not fantasy to believe this is a less-than optimum organization and use of the world’s resources, human and natural.

That conclusion is impeccably liberty free-market conservative and subversive of all current political order at the same time. My kind of conservatism.


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