More Fun with Liberal Hypocrisy

By Robert Wallace
America’s Right

Diane Francis makes a bold claim in Canada’s Financial Post:

The “inconvenient truth” overhanging the UN’s Copenhagen conference is not that the climate is warming or cooling, but that humans are overpopulating the world.

A planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days.

There are so many things wrong with the article that I don’t know where to start. Francis ignores basic concepts of human rights, spreads lies about major world religions (the Catholics, by implication, take the brunt of it), and gets simple, objective facts completely and utterly wrong. I’m like a kid on Halloween examining my new Trick-or-Treat stash: where should I begin?

Human Rights

Francis can’t say enough good things about China’s one-child policy. According to her, China “is the world’s leader in terms of fashioning policy to combat environmental degradation,” and:

China has proven that birth restriction is smart policy. Its middle class grows, all its citizens have housing, health care, education and food, and the one out of five human beings who live there are not overpopulating the planet.

Right, I’m sure China’s embrace of capitalism has nothing to do with it. The fact that they force women who get pregnant with a second child to have abortions (no matter how late-term), that is the reason for the growing middle class. Also, isn’t it ironic that liberals seem so dedicated to the ideals of freedom when they want abortion to be legal, but toss freedom out the window when they want it to be compulsory?

Make no mistake — the only way to enforce a law against more than one child is to kill additional children. Why waste time? We’ve got nukes, right? And biological weapons? If that sounds too extreme, we could always just step back and let malaria and AIDS do their work they’re supposed to, right?

Francis also ignores some of the other drawbacks to China’s one-child policy, such as the missing women of Asia: the girls that would have been allowed to live if it were not for sex-selection, abortion and female infanticide. The sad fact is that, in a society where you only get to have one child, many people prefer having a son even if that means a daughter or two has to die.


Overpopulation Facts

Francis states that humans don’t limit their own reproduction, and thus aren’t genuinely rational. Of course, I have no idea how some humans forcing other humans not to have children is any more rational, but the fact is that she’s dead wrong. She writes:

Medical and other scientific advances have benefited by delivering lower infant mortality rates as well as longevity. Both are welcome, but humankind has not yet recalibrated its behavior to account for the fact that the world can only accommodate so many people, especially if billions get indoor plumbing and cars.

The fact is, in every developed society the rate of population growth has already flatlined. From Wikipedia:

Many nations in Western Europe (and the EU as a whole) today would have declining populations if it were not for international immigration. The total population of the continent of Europe (including Russia and other non-EU countries) already peaked around the year 2000 and is currently declining. Japan began depopulating in 2005; Japan’s situation is related to low fertility rates and an extremely low level of immigration.

The list of countries that have negative population growth (excluding immigration) includes Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania and Russia. You can see that Europe–even with immigrationhas flatlined and the overall world population growth has been falling since the 1960s.



Here’s the really simple take-away: China’s one-child policy has not had a single ounce of impact on their economic growth, but their economic growth will in time lead to stagnant population growth all on its own. For better or worse, that’s the universal experience in human society. Once a society reaches a first-world standard of living, they stop reproducing.

On the other hand, if we do implement draconian baby-rationing, what do you think will happen to social security, medicare, and other financial systems that depend on a growing population to stay afloat? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doing so hot in my macroeconomics classes, but you don’t have to be an “A” student to realize that all of the theories about “intergenerational transfers of wealth” depend on the next generation being bigger than the current one. If we put the brakes on population growth the way Francis recommends, we won’t need to worry about an economic disaster in a century because we’ll have one right now. This shouldn’t be rocket science: If you think your car is going too fast, do you apply the brakes, or just steer towards the closest available brick wall?

Religious Nonsense

In comparison to the other whoppers this one is relatively minor, but it’s worth bringing up. She writes: “Leaders of the world’s big fundamentalist religions preach in favor of procreation and fiercely oppose birth control.” I’m not sure what she means by “fundamentalist religions,” but I can only assume that she’s including Catholicism in the mix. I’m not a Catholic, but it ticks me off when people have a go at the religion based on misconceptions and falsehoods. The Catholic Church forbids the use of artificial contraceptives, but they don’t forbid birth control. They just insist that their members should practice it through natural means.

I’m aware that there are complications in this method of birth control and I don’t want to get distracted from the main point which is that no major religion I know of would oppose parents choosing of their own free will to only have one child or to have no children. What they would oppose is a government with the power to dictate how many children people are allowed to have, not to mention the inevitable forced abortions what would come with it. And not just “fundamentalist religions,” but everyone who has any notion of human liberty, dignity and equality would oppose this outright tyranny.

The Last Laugh

I’m not familiar with the Financial Post. The name of the paper sounds credible enough, but this piece of hyperventilating proto-fascism is not what I would expect from even a heavily left-leaning paper that had any intention of being taken seriously. Of all the inconsistencies and inaccuracies I’ve covered so far, however, I’ve saved the best for last. As the National Review Online put it:

What I Meant Was You People Should Only Have One Child
“The whole world needs to adopt China’s one-child policy,” writes Canadian journalist Diane Francis, mother of two.

What, did she think no one was going to check that? And you have to wonder: what must it feel like to be Diane Francis’s younger child today?

—————
Robert Wallace is classical liberal studying economics in graduate school. He and his wife work as business analysis consultants, and they live as undercover conservatives with their two small children in a socialist bastion of a college town. He has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.

Share

Comments

  1. Robert Wallace says:

    T.I.M.-

    Your surprise me. I didn't expect that you would quote your own obnoxiously patronizing comments and then ask what was obnoxious about them. If you can't see what is objectionable in comments like "With a few decades of real world living on you…" or "A pie chart never fed anyone.” or ""sorry to devalue your as-yet-unfinished education," then I am at a loss for words. However, you managed to avoid those tactics in your last post and stay on-topic. That's an improvement.

    1. Different Perspectives

    You say my use of the word antecedent/consequent is evidence that "is conditioned to think in
    formulas and educational mechanisms." Perhaps if you'd spent more time in school (see the patronizing?) you'd be aware of *why* people use precise language. The simple fact is that trying to have a mathematically precise conversation in purely vernacular English is like trying to hammer in a nail with a banana. You may seek rhetorical refuge in your folksy stories about heroic quadrupeds (see it again?), but if you want to make a serious point you need to use serious language. Which is what I did on your behalf. Feel free to correct me – I've invited you to do so – but if you can't formulate your viewpoints with precision then you're wasting time.

  2. Robert Wallace says:

    2. Rationing / Limited Resource

    You write that "arguing that more people will
    solve a lack of resources does not compute." and also that "I believe, based on facts I have seen, that we are running out of water and topsoil. You want proof? We already have water rationing."

    Not having enough water is not evidence that there are too many people. Do you think no one died from lack of water when there were only 1 billion people on the planet? 100 million? There is not enough water for everyone to have all the water they want. There is similarly not enough gold or silver for everyone to have all that they want. Setting aside oxygen we breathe, there is practically nothing that we need to survive that is not rationed through the price mechanism. That's what prices are: an efficient way of rationing what is in limited supply. And *everything*: food, shelter, clothing, etc is in limited supply.

    So no – the fact that we have to ration does not prove that we have too many people. We ration everything. That's what markets do.

    We don't need to ration water because we're overpopulated. We need to ration water for the same reason that the clothes you buy are not free: we live in a world of finite resources. We can't all have everything we want.

    Furthermore: attempting to get around this by reducing population will actually result in less. Go back to society when we only had a few million people on the earth. Was the standard of living higher, or lower?

    And what I don't seem to convince you of is that it's not a coincidence. A few million people is not enough people to support a 21-st century standard of living.

  3. Robert Wallace says:

    3. Animal Intelligence

    "You even wrote that animals reach equilibrium – meaning their procreation matches their resources. We have far too many people on the welfare rolls – and in our prisons – because a lot of humans haven’t been able to manage this “trick”. "

    Do you know what other systems manage the "trick" of equilibrium? Take a spring. Hang it from the ceiling. Attach a weight to the string. Wait for it to stop bouncing up and down and reach a steady state. Presto: the system involving the spring, the weight, the ceiling, and the Earth's gravity is in equilibrium.

    Does this mean we should envy the behavior of a spring? It's a length of twisted metal, not a paragon of moral virtue.

    Just because population reaches equilibrium doesn't mean there is any intentionality behind it. You use examples of animals like geese and dogs. But bacteria can reach equilibrium too. So if bacteria can do it – and you clearly don't think bacteria are capable of self-control – then obviously the mere fact that a population reaches equilibrium doesn't mean that the animals in the population are doing it on purpose.

    4. Growth Rate

    "I asked for an explanation of the 2050 drop-off in population because I can’t see
    over two billion people being added up until then, and presto, no more growth"

    Just look at the chart in the original article, T.I.M. It says "Yearly Growth Rate" on the y-axis and years on the x-axis. Notice that ever since the 1960s the rate has been doing down, but is still positive. This means that we're going to add people every year, but at a smaller and smaller rate until eventually the rate equals zero. Just look at the chart right above that one. Do you see how Europe's curve flatlined around 2000? That's what the global population will do in 2050. It won't stop suddenly. It's taking a full century to slowly ramp down (1960 – 2050).

    5. Conclusion

    We have a choice we face as human beings. We can either address the problem of efficient resource use, or not. If we choose not to address it we can just try to reduce our population to the point where we don't have to be very efficient. This is a valid strategy if your only goal is to manage resources. But if you also want to maintain a high standard of living – including things like medicine and scientific knowledge – then it's not a very good strategy. The reason for it is simply that our incredibly complex society requires having billions of people so that folks can specialize in extremely narrow capacities.

    Alternatively, we can actually attempt to become more efficient. Instead of just controlling how many people there are we can control how efficiently we use our resources. Maintaining our standard of living has the advantage that it will actually lead to slower population growth all on its own.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Does all this mean that in Memphis they'd stop having illegitimate babies if they cutoff welfare? They mate like rabbits here.

  5. T.I.M. says:

    Robert:

    After reviewing our entire exchange, “obnoxiously condescending” doesn’t apply to my side. You’re the one ridiculing my position and inferring my ignorance. I merely
    tried to demonstrate our differing perspectives by pointing out the FACT that you
    are currently an academic, and I have decades of life experience you don’t. If that reality offends you, then I have no calculus to solve your dilemma. You promote precise language – and then misquote me, while degrading me for trying to be specific. When it comes to arguing this point, you should be at a loss for words.

    I disagree that everything short of oxygen is rationed through pricing. Water is rationed when it is in short supply – not because the price isn’t right. When the Ogllala aquifer is dry, pricing won’t be worth squat in providing the water we need.
    GM doesn’t price their cars to ration a supply – they do it to make a profit. Does Microsoft price their software to LIMIT sales? I think not. While rationing may influence prices (supply / demand), I disagree that pricing is designed as a means of rationing. What capitalist wants to limit the amount of money they can make?

    You say [- “’] that we need to ration water because it is a finite resource.
    Then there’s only so much to go around. So (correct me if I’m wrong here)
    if there are less people, there is more for each of them. And, to quote Wikipedia: “Rationing is the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods or services.” If X is the amount of a resource, and Y is the number of people to share it, reducing Y will provide a bigger share of X for each. Conversely, increasing Y will reduce the available portions of X. Have I got this concept right? Doesn’t that mean that if we have less people, we will have more to go around, and will have less need for rationing? And I agree that we would not have our present society with a few million people. But we’ve already multiplied that by two thousand, and are doing just fine. Why is adding another two billion necessarily going to make things more productive, rather than making resources even more scarce?

  6. T.I.M. says:

    Robert:

    Thanks for the spring and bacteria detours.. The point remains (and you agreed)
    that animals manage equilibrium. They do a much better job of limiting resource-depleting offspring than we do. Without the technologies we have, they manage to survive in a world that doesn’t need entitlements. The point is that we can learn a few things from those we share the planet with, even if they don’t have degrees. Whether they succeed with or without spreadsheets – or moral virtues – the results should speak for themselves.

    I’m looking at your charts. The second one looks like it ended four years ago. The first one – with the exception of Europe – shows continuing upward trends. And the point remains, in 2050 we’re predicted to have added two billion people. I think that means more hungry and more thirsty. I don’t see how it equates to better distribution just because there will be more of us. And please don’t be offended if
    I’m dubious of some lines on a piece of paper. It seems the people at East Anglia
    are currently having some problems validating theirs.

    I see no valid reason why we can’t be efficient in our use of resources—and limit the amount of people who will use them. It doesn’t have to be either/or. We already have medicine and science – and economics. I will look forward to verifiable evidence that adding two billion more bodies to this planet of limited resources will
    provide more for all – rather than less. To little old non-advanced-economics degree me, with or without your “precise language” it. just. does. not. add. up.

    Respectfully submitted…

  7. Anonymous says:

    yawnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

  8. T.I.M. says:

    Anonymous:

    I agree that this has dragged on.

    I also have the right to defend myself against unsubstantiated attacks — and make valid points even if I'm not majoring in econ.

    Robert and I seem to have similar ideas — we just have very different approaches.

    I'm still looking for concrete answers — not academic theory.

    I'm hoping Mr. Wallace will also provide a reasonable response.

Speak Your Mind

*