752. Joan Robinson to Harrod , 24 January [1938] [a]

[Replies to 747 , answered by 753 ]

3, Trumpington Street, Cambridge #

24 January [1938] [1]

My dear Roy

There seems to be a serious confusion in your argument. The reproduction rate I take to be the rate in which women under 45 are replacing themselves (by the way why do our statisticians always assume polygamy?) whereas you want them to replace also all the older people who are a heritage from higher birth rates in the past.

The population is bound to fall at present rates, & to maintain the [b] population stable by raising birth rates say 50 years hence would be, I will grant you, an impossible programme.

But if you can raise the average family to 2+ at any time extinction need not be feared tho' a large decline in population cannot be prevented.

You might argue that if the average size of family continues to fall it will be hard to raise it even to 2+, but I do not see much reason to expect it to fall further than the present middle class level, & I would guess that most of my own contemporaries among working class wives have already the middle class point of view, tho' not always middle class facilities.

I rather suspect our statisticians have added the usual sharp decline of the birthrate 1933-35 into their trend. So if you did argue as above, tho' I should not think you in logical error, I should still be unconvinced. In an earlier letter you said that in 50 years time there [c] would be a "negligible number" of women under 45. [2] Do you really think that the number of births will fall to zero within 5 years from the present date?

Your case in favour of ballyhoo is also based on a fundamental fallacy. You overlook the fact that altho' the panic may be raised by reasonable chaps like yourself its effects will certainly not be controlled [d] by them. If you <confined> yourself to a definite campaign for family allowances, [e] child welfare, improved midwifery services etc. you would have all my sympathy, but all your talk about extinction of the British race etc. is merely feeding the jingo's & you'll have no means of getting the genie [f] back into the bottle. Sans blague I regard it as dangerous and pernicious in the extreme.

The more so as even your own sense of decency has already been corrupted, as your attitude on abortion laws.

Yours ever


  1. 1. Year read from postmark.

    2. Letter 741 , [jump to page] .

    1. a. ALS, six pages (the last three of which are numbered) on two sheets, the first of which is folded in half. With envelope addressed to Christ Church. In HPBL Add. 72737/8-11. Reproduced by kind permission of the Provost and Scholars, King's College, Cambridge.

      b. Ms: «the then».

      c. Ms: «the».

      d. Ms: «controled».

      e. Ms: «allowances child».

      f. Ms: «geni».

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