Skip to comments.The Underpopulation Problem [Frightening and Open]
Posted on 08/06/2008 10:15:02 AM PDT by NYer
Steven W. Mosher is president of Population Research Institute (www.pop.org) and author of the book Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, 2008). Michael J. Miller interviewed him on the subject of his book.
Miller: Dire scenarios about imminent overpopulation, from Malthus to Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, have not materialized. Where are the mistakes in their calculations?
Steven Mosher: In some cases they were deliberately exaggerated, even fabricated, in an attempt to frighten individuals into having no more than one or two children, and legislatures into funding population control programs.
Assuming that the alarmists really believed those projections, I think that their principal error came in the 1960s when they assumed that Third World countries would have to reach Western standards of living before birth rates decreased. They supposed that only affluence would convince people in Nigeria, China, or Peru to have fewer children.
Of course, population control programs played a role in limiting fertility. But the principal reason why almost all Latin American countries today are at or near replacement-rate fertility levels is that the death rate among infants and children went down, and therefore couples voluntarily stopped having large families. They’re still relatively poor, yet they began limiting the number of children. Reduce the mortality rate and population growth ceases.
Miller: Even if projections about limited resources are wrong, what’s the harm in a little “underpopulation”? Isn’t a nation with negative population growth like a factory that sells its unused CO2 allowances to less environmentally friendly businesses?
Mosher: A free-market economy is constantly looking for new markets for goods and services. The size of those markets is driven in large part by the size of the population. As a population grows, the demand for cars, houses, and other goods increases. As a population shrinks, this process works in reverse.
I think, though, that the dangers of population decline are even more serious than this would suggest, because a decline in absolute numbers of people is always preceded by population aging. The population gets out of balance: too few young people enter the workforce; fewer young people get married, have children and buy houses; and the population ages, which puts increasing demands on retirement and healthcare programs.
You might say, “Yes, but a growing population with lots of children has a bad worker-to-dependent ratio as well.” But children don’t require nearly as much health care as the elderly do, children don’t consume as many resources, and children live with their parents, so there are economies of scale.
Europe, for example, is going to see tax rates go through the roof in order to support growing populations of the elderly. Who’s going to be taxed? Working people in their 20s and 30s. When you tax that segment of the population you impoverish it and make it less likely that they will have children at all, much less large families. And so you eat your seed corn. You put so much economic pressure on the young and reproductive that they stop having children.
Birth rates in Catholic Spain and Italy are down to 1.1 children per couple. We’ve done some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and in Italy every young couple would have to have four children in order to stop the population decline that’s currently underway. No combination of incentives in the world could turn this thing around. So Italians have no choice but to accept large numbers of immigrants, mostly Muslims from Albania, North Africa, and the Middle East. This creates the additional problem of integrating people from very different cultural, religious, and social backgrounds into Italian society.
Miller: You observed the effects of the one-child policy imposed in Communist China in the early 1980s. How could such a radical population-control program be implemented in the world’s most populous nation?
Mosher: It’s hard for Americans to imagine how any government could control over a billion people. Chinese law allows one child per couple in the cities; two in the countryside. How does Beijing enforce the rules?
People need to understand that there is a Communist Party presence in every village, hamlet, and neighborhood throughout the country. There are 60 million Chinese Communist Party members, roughly 5 percent of the population, and they’re everywhere. Their job is to see that government policies are not just adhered to, but that they are popular and accepted by the people. The CCP works hard to quell dissent over the one-child policy.
There is a parallel organization for women called the Women’s Federation, again with tens of millions of members. Their job since 1979 has been to enforce compliance with the one-child policy. What do they do? They keep extensive records on the rest of the female population and track menstrual cycles. They ensure that women who have not yet been sterilized are contracepting. They assist the sterilization teams that perform tubal ligations on women who have had two children. Then there are the family planning officials themselves, who run the whole operation.
It is a huge and costly effort. But mass mobilization campaigns are the kind of thing that the Chinese Communist Party is very good at. It is an Orwellian organization that is used to intruding into the most intimate decisions that people make.
There is dissent, of course. There are women who conceal their pregnancies and run away and go into hiding when they’re discovered. We are able to help a few of these women through our Safe House program. But by and large the policy is effective.
Miller: The last half-century saw the end of colonialism and also the worldwide spread of population control programs funded by the West. Have any Third World nations successfully resisted the “incentives” to start such programs?
Mosher: In the book I quote African leaders who denounce this kind of new imperialism. To understand how intrusive it is, imagine the outcry if the Chinese government funded a program to reduce the American birthrate and paid workers to go door-to-door with contraceptives, insisting that American women use them. Yet that is what we, the United States, do around the world. It is not surprising that these programs are resented.
In the book I describe at length the enormous pressures that are brought to bear on governments around the world. Do you want short-term, long-term loans from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund? You must have a family planning program in place. Do you want money from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)? You must distribute contraceptives to your women; we’ll send you the pills. Many countries resisted these kinds of pressure for a time, but most have caved in.
There’s another force at work here: many needy countries, in Africa especially, are governed by corrupt dictators. How convenient for them to have a prestigious foreign theory on which to blame their countries’ problems! “Our country is impoverished because there are too many people,” the dictator can say, “not because my bureaucracy is hopelessly inept, lazy, and corrupt.” The theory of overpopulation gives them an excuse for the results of their own misrule.
Miller: How did the United States government get into the business of distributing contraceptives?
Mosher: At the end of World War II the United States was engaged militarily around the world, and Americans learned where Burma, Singapore, and Papua New Guinea were. Since Japan and Europe were devastated, half the world’s goods and services were produced in the United States. Being a generous people, we decided to fund foreign aid programs. We went in to improve living conditions around the world and succeeded in lowering infant mortality rates in a number of countries by providing modern medical care.
World population began to increase rapidly. Here is the origin of the notion that there is a “population bomb.” If the population kept doubling every 30 years, the alarmists said, there would soon be tens of billions of people on the planet; unsustainable growth would eventually cause economic, environmental, and societal collapse.
The hysteria about “overpopulation” translated into a stampede to include family planning in our foreign aid program. Laws were passed stating that population stabilization was an official goal of US foreign policy, and that every foreign aid program had to have a family planning component.
The whole movement gained strength from both the left and the right. The liberal argument was that too many people would devastate the environment. The radical feminist argument was that women in Third World countries were being forced to breed because they didn’t have access to modern contraceptives.
The conservative argument—it’s really a national security argument—was that growing populations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia would destabilize the political situation in those regions and lead to Communist insurrection. The other “conservative” argument was that if Third World populations grew too rapidly, the Asians and the Africans and the Latin Americans might want to consume their minerals and resources instead of selling them to us at cheap prices.
Miller: You write that “when the population controllers move into a poor country like Kenya or Peru, primary health care invariably suffers.” Please explain.
Mosher: Imagine that you’re the minister of health in Peru and you have a fixed budget to pay a certain number of doctors and nurses in public clinics nationwide to provide medical care for the poor. Part of that budget comes from government revenues; it’s a poor country, however, and much of your funding comes from foreign aid. Your principal source, the United States, announces that it wants you to make population control a priority of your medical care program. Not just one of 10 goals, along with combating malaria and providing vaccinations. “Unless you make it the number-one priority, we will stop our foreign aid; if you do, we will increase it.”
You don’t want to forfeit half your budget. In the case of Peru, the government actually launched a sterilization campaign. That country’s doctors and nurses, who had been administering vaccinations, begin inserting IUDs and distributing birth control pills. Many surgeons who had been performing emergency surgery and appendectomies and setting broken bones were organized into mobile surgical teams to travel around doing nothing but tubal ligations.
We know from Dr. Carbone, the Peruvian minister of health who served after the sterilization campaign, that rates of infectious diseases skyrocketed in Peru during the height of the sterilization campaign.
In every country where pride of place is given to family planning, resources are taken away from other forms of healthcare. Death rates go up as people die of preventable diseases or from accidents because the medical system has other priorities—preventing pregnancies.
Miller: Bishop Oscar Andres Rodriguez, then president of the Latin American Catholic bishops’ conference, condemned a 1995 USAID report warning about “dangerous” population growth rates in Honduras. Are you aware of any attempt by the United States bishops to criticize USAID policies at the source?
Mosher: No, I am not. The Respect Life Office of the [US] bishops’ conference has been a very stout defender of the Mexico City Policy, which denies US family planning funding to any organization that does not specifically commit to eschew promoting or performing abortions or lobbying for the legalization of abortion. They have been helpful in getting laws passed like the Tiahrt Amendment, which defines voluntarism in family planning programs, mandates informed consent, and rules out targets and quotas or the use of experimental methods on women. They have also been helpful in pointing out abuses in these programs.
But what is needed is a full-scale frontal assault on the whole population-control enterprise. It needs to be defunded. We need to go turn out the lights at the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). If there was any reason for such an organization to exist in the 1960s, that reason no longer exists today.
Miller: The encyclical Humanae Vitae turns 40 this summer. In your opinion, does the experience of recent decades corroborate the teaching of Paul VI about the social effects of contraception?
Mosher: Absolutely. I think that it’s one of the most prophetic documents ever penned by a pope. I think that Pope Paul VI was right not only in his general argument, but in his specific arguments about the rise in divorce rates, the rise in the abortion rate, the devaluing of children. On all of these points he was tremendously prescient. I think that we need to continue to read and study this document and subsequent documents like Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), which point out the dangers of going any farther down the road of devaluing and instrumentalizing human life.
Miller: Do you think that there’s any chance of mobilizing human rights groups to demand greater accountability from international organizations that promote population control?
Mosher: Well, this was my great hope back in the 80s when I was doing my initial research on China. I went to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the major human rights organizations. I found the assistant secretary of state for human rights under the Reagan administration very sympathetic. For the first time in the state department’s annual human rights report it mentioned, in the context of China, forced abortions and forced sterilizations. That was a victory.
The other human rights organizations were very reluctant to get involved because of their ideological commitment to abortion. It took several years, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s Amnesty International finally began to refer to forced abortion as a violation of human rights. Now, I’m afraid, Amnesty International has taken the formal position that abortion is a human right, and it condemns countries that do not allow abortion on demand.
Miller: What advice would you give to pro-life activists and legislators in Western nations who would like to defund population control programs?
Mosher: We need a family-friendly foreign policy. Pro-life and pro-family groups have to learn a little bit about what’s happening overseas and tell their congressmen that they think that our policies are fundamentally wrong-headed. In a world of falling birthrates we need pro-natal policies.
One US congressman expressed frustration to me not long ago. He said that when he voted against international population control funding, he got a half a dozen angry letters from his district. He said, “Can’t anybody write me and tell me that I did the right thing? The other side can set people to writing or calling at a moment’s notice.” Well, we need to be doing that. Politicians are politicians. Even the best ones need to be encouraged, to know that where they lead, we’re following.
The pyramid turned upside down. To reduce the strain, one can probably expect they will eventually legalize euthanasia.
Smaller families are more likely to need government. ergo leftists cooked this up.
The US pro-population growth immigration policy will destroy this country. We don’t need 1.2 million legal immigrants a year and another 500,000 to 1 million more illegals annually. Since 1970 our population increased by 100 million, most of it due to immigration, and we will add another 167 million by 2060. Every major challenge facing this country is affected signiciantly or driven by our immigration policies.
There, I updated it for you.
Most immigrants are on welfare to start and then the next generations have fewer and fewer children as they become more economically successful.
fewer people = less weight on tectonic plates = fewer earthquakes
It's all good.
You impose government-run healthcare, you virtually guarantee a future of euthanasia of the elderly, disabled and chronically ill.
Socialized medicine sees sick people as a liability, not as customers. If the anticipated Social Security/Medicaid demographic meltdown continues a euthanasia movement will be inevitable.
This was a good article about another flawed cornerstone in the liberal machine.
THE POPULATION OF AMERICA HAS DOUBLED IN MY LIFETIME
If you have lost control of your local school system and you believe it is because liberalism is triumphing over conservatism, you are right but you have identified the symptom and not the cause: The population of America has doubled in my lifetime.
If you have lost control over your own real property, if your rights to manage, improve, and develop your property have passed over to bureaucrats, if you can no longer choose whom to rent to or whom to sell to, if you have lost confidence that your deed in fee simple absolute will protect you against a venal government or one wholly given over to interest groups, and for all of this you blame liberalism, you have identified the symptom but not the cause: The population of America has doubled in my lifetime.
If you are a rancher who has lost his rights to graze his cattle upon lands licensed to his family for generations, if you're a fox hunter who has been deprived of his sport, if you must wait three hours for a tee time, if you have given up taking the family to the Jersey shore because the travel time now exceeds three hours, if, after hours of travail, you finally arrive at the Jersey shore with your family and you find your neighbors to close, too numerous, polyglot, and uncongenial, know this;The population of America has doubled in my lifetime.
If you look at Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida as-miracle of the jet age-suburbs of New York City, and you watch helplessly as the politics of these counties veer ever farther left potentially dragging all Florida and, with Florida, the soul of the Republican Party in America, be advised: The population of America has doubled in my lifetime.
If, as a parent or grandparent, you find yourself mightily boring your children or grandchildren with descriptions of how Christmas used to be, descriptions of a time gone by when shopkeepers were permitted to say, "Merry Christmas," when Christmas carols were really that, carols, when the public square was a place for the exuberant celebration of the birth of Christ, rather than a forum for the celebration of the pagan, then you instinctively know: The population of America has doubled in my lifetime.
If you are old enough to remember America before the vietnamization of America, then you must love your country and you see her "a shining city on the hill" as the last best hope for men.
You know what to do.
Ping to read later, but this is also the root of the thorny immigration issue lots of the West is facing. Fewer, “better” people - but with an underclass to do the dirty work. Eloi and Morlocks.
Democracies might not be able to keep their cultural values enshrined in law if their native populations do not simply breed. The heritage of Western humanism (the democratic ideal as expressed.for example, in the Delcaration of Independence) will be voted out of existence one pesky civil liberty at a time.
Russia and China might have something going there...
Paul Erlichman is a ‘pop science and culture’ writer who made millions out of writing a series of books predicting world catastrophes from various inescapable doomsday scenarios.
As far as I know, not one of his scenarios has come to pass as predicted.
Here are links to a current series on it by Christopher West. I will post another one today.
Sex Speaks: True and False Prophets Part 4 of 6 [Open]
Contraception and the Language of the Body Part 3 of 6 [Open]
Does Contraception Foster Love? Part 2 of 6 [Open]
Contraception and Cultural Chaos Part 1 of 6 [Open]
And all of the immigrants will vote for it, as they don’t want to work to pay for old people who are not even La Raza.
We will. Mark my words, U.N.-led "world social security" tax is coming.
And yet no mention of the total savings to society from not having to pay to take care of children for two-decades or more, taxes to pay for more schools and more teachers, followed by the cost to parents and society of college and grad schools.
And no mention of the savings from fewer jails, less crime, lower insurance, fewer police, fewer judges--because the young commit most of the crime and traffic accidents.
So, if Europe took all the money saved from having fewer children and used it to care for their elderly instead, there would be no problem.
Which elderly they should also put back to work because 50's and 60's is too young to retire these days.
That's called a pyramid scheme, and is unsustainable. What's sustainable is a stable population level, with increasing levels of education and productivity, and a demand for increasingly better products, services, homes, etc.
The conservative argumentits really a national security argumentwas that growing populations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia would destabilize the political situation in those regions and lead to Communist insurrection.
And to a large extent, that's what happened. Communism had a big setback when the Soviet Union collapsed (which it did in large part due to the plummeting birth rate, as people chose not to bring children into that miserable society). But other equally oppressive forms of totalitarian and self-serving forms of government took up the slack. Mugabe's Zimbabwe makes the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Brezhnev look like a paradise.
Meanwhile in China, we may deplore the methods, but the resulting drop in the birth rate mimics the drop that Soviet citizens achieved on a voluntary basis, and the associated improvement in standard of living and education is now posing a major threat to the Communist establishment. The masses have gotten a taste of upward mobility and want more. Most of them are no longer forced to spend every ounce of energy scrounging for tomorrow's food for themselves and many little mouths, and this has allowed them to spend time pressuring the government for change (already with huge results, as the formerly unthinkable idea of private enterprise for profit is now actually endorsed by the government) and organizing opposition to government policies and programs via the Internet.
I don’t know about you, but my “cultural values” don’t include engaging in a breeding contest with third world peasants whose plan for economic survival and feeding their too-many children is to sneak into the US and do menial labor.
You know it's coming and the justification will go something like this: "You aborted our peers, reducing the number of taxpayers; now we're euthanizing the social security beneficiaries".
Can't say I blame them.
That's true but there is one big difference between the US and the rest of the world. Europe has brought in workers from the Middle East, the majority of whom are Muslim. Our immigrants are Christians! You have seen the Muslim riots in Paris and London ... contrast that with Mexicans who believe in Jesus Christ.
Then we wonder why the world does not love us anymore.
No. The weight is already there. In the dirt. In the grain. In the water. The weight on the earth would be the same even if the population doubled instantly.
Joking I was.
Absolutely. If you aren’t independently wealthy they will start euthanizing the unproductive elderly.
And yet no mention of the total savings to society from not having to pay to take care of children for two-decades or more, taxes to pay for more schools and more teachers, followed by the cost to parents and society of college and grad schools.So you claim the next generation is a net expense to the current one?
Since 1970 our population increased by 100 million, ...And our standard of living has done what since then?
Most immigrants are on welfare to start ...An interesting claim. NONE of my immigrant relatives have EVER been on welfare. What data supports your claim?
That's called a pyramid scheme, and is unsustainable.Nonsense. A growing population and groing productivity (both have defined the United States for the last 30 years and more) are far from a "pyramid scheme". Shame on you for claiming that having children is the same as a criminal fraud.
Whose standard of living? The gap between rich and poor has never been wider. We are taking on the profile of a third world country.
I always get suspicious when people use Democratic Party talking points on FR.
The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, compared to 19 percent for native households.
The poverty rate for immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) is 17 percent, nearly 50 percent higher than the rate for natives and their children.
34 percent of immigrants lack health insurance, compared to 13 percent of natives. Immigrants and their U.S.-born children account for 71 percent of the increase in the uninsured since 1989.
The current influx of poorly educated immigrants is the result of two factors: first, a legal immigration system that favors kinship ties over skills and education; and second, a permissive attitude toward illegal immigration that has led to lax border enforcement and non-enforcement of the laws that prohibit the employment of illegal immigrants. In recent years, these factors have produced an inflow of some ten and a half million immigrants who lack a high school education. In terms of increased poverty and expanded government expenditure, this importation of poorly educated immigrants has had roughly the same effect as the addition of ten and a half million native-born high school drop-outs.
Some 38 percent of immigrant children live in families headed by persons who lack a high school education; Minor children of first-generation immigrants comprise 26 percent of poor children in the U.S.; and One out of six poor children in the U.S. is the offspring of first-generation immigrant parents who lack a high school diploma.
First-generation Hispanic immigrants and their families now comprise 9 percent of the U.S. population but 17 percent of all poor persons in the U.S.; and Children in Hispanic immigrant families now comprise 11.7 percent of all children in the U.S. but 22 percent of all poor children in the U.S.
You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Immigration, legal and illegal, is one of the main reasons for this diparity. The immigrants are depressing wages at the lower end of the scale and they are largely undeducated. The Hispanic out of wedlock birth rate is 50% and the high school drop out rate is about the same. This is the social pathology for failure in this society.
The proportion of immigrant-headed households using at least one major welfare program is 33 percent, ...So the VAST majority do NOT use welfare. That makes your claim that "Most immigrants are on welfare ..." an obvious lie. Vary sad.
The gap between rich and poor has never been wider.What data backs up that claim?
We are taking on the profile of a third world country.Really? How so?
See my posts above. Hatred seems to blind some folks.
I never said most immigrants are on welfare. Your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired.
Income inequality grew significantly in 2005, with the top 1 percent of Americans - those with incomes that year of more than $348,000 - receiving their largest share of national income since 1928, analysis of newly released tax data shows.
While total reported income in the United States increased almost 9 percent in 2005, the most recent year for which such data is available, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent dipped slightly compared with the year before, dropping $172, or 0.6 percent.
The gains went largely to the top 1 percent, whose incomes rose to an average of more than $1.1 million each, an increase of more than $139,000, or about 14 percent.
The new data also shows that the top 300,000 Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans. Per person, the top group received 440 times as much as the average person in the bottom half earned, nearly doubling the gap from 1980.
Sorry, that was neb52 that made that fallacious claim. My apologies.
And yet the ‘poor’ in America are doing better today than in 1970, no?
It is not sustainable, for the exact same reasons that any pyramid scheme is not sustainable. In the case of the US population, it appears likely that the first thing we run out of will be water. In other parts of the world, the food runs out pretty regularly, and lots of people die of starvation or malnutrition-related disease.
It is not sustainable, for the exact same reasons that any pyramid scheme is not sustainable.Still that vile and unsupportable claim that babies are the same as a criminal fraud.
In the case of the US population, it appears likely that the first thing we run out of will be water. In other parts of the world, the food runs out pretty regularly, and lots of people die of starvation or malnutrition-related disease.LOL, where do you dig up this stuff? What evidence of food or water shortages of the deadly kind loom in the US of A have you?
By what measure? Many are being paid 1970 wages. We have the lowest savings rate of any developed country.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.
Shockingly, the New York Times leaves out the phrase "before taxes."
I don't particularly care if rich people make ten times more than I do, or a hundred, or a thousand. I don't give a flying frak how much rich people make. What I care about is supporting myself in the best way I can. And rich people don't take money out of my pocket. Rich people don't make me have to work twice as hard every year in order to pay ever-increasing taxes.
IT'S THE GOVERNMENT THAT DOES THAT. It's the government that takes my money and gives it away to freeloaders. It's the government that anally rapes me every April. Not the rich.
Your Marxist concerns about how much other people make really belong on the Socialist Workers discussion forum. Not here.
I daresay he is now working on a book about global warming.