This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union and Tunisian Demographics

President Obama's State of the Union address this evening was focused almost entirely on US domestic policy, but among the very few references to international events was his comment that the US government supported the recent events in Tunisia. By coincidence, I have to think (since the president's speech was leaked to the press later in the day), Richard Cincotta today posted a lengthy discussion of the demographics of the Tunisian situation. Among the many interesting comments is the following paragraph, which helps you to contextualize what's going on in Tunisia:
To understand how age structure can directly influence a state’s chances of attaining and maintaining liberal democracy requires a discussion of two models of sociopolitical behavior: (1) the Hobbesian bargain and (2) the youth bulge thesis. Assuming, as the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes did in the middle of the 17th century, that citizens are willing to relinquish political liberties when faced with threats to their security and property (the Hobbesian bargain), it is not surprising that support for authoritarian regimes – especially among commercial and military elites – appears high when societies are very youthful and prone to political violence (the youth bulge thesis). When fertility declines, the population’s bulge of young adults ultimately dissipates over time. With much of society’s political volatility depleted, authoritarian executives tend to lose the support of the commercial elite, who find the regime’s grip on communication and commerce economically stifling and the privileges granted to family members and cronies of the political elite financially debilitating. 

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