Overpopulation: Should America have a one-child policy?

Published on October 29th, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
By Joseph Cotto
The Washington Times Online Edition


OCALA, Fla., October 29, 2013 — Today, America is more secular of a nation than ever before.

With secularism’s rise has come a scientific wave — some might even call it a tsunami — that is answering life’s toughest questions in a fact-based fashion. Of course, scientific inquiry has no shortage of foes; the most prominent of whom tend to be hardline followers of supernaturalist religions.

Beyond the stereotypes of Bible thumpers and pseudo-intellectual creationists, though, one sector of modern science tends to attract derision from across the board. This, as more than a few might have guessed, is overpopulation.

The very concept of overpopulation is so controversial that some deny its existence. These people run our society’s socioeconomic gamut; from poor immigrants to public intellectuals to high-profile politicians. Their overarching claim is that as populations grow, human innovation will increase; thus creating a higher quality of life.

What can be said about their perspective?

“There’s no doubt that innovation increases under pressure,” urban designer and public policy analyst Michael E. Arth tells The Washington Times Communities. In 2010, he launched a quixotic bid for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. While this was not a success, it set the ball rolling for discussion about the role special interests play in politics.

On a more comprehensive level, Arth’s writings about overpopulation have attracted great controversy, but successfully raised interest about the subject. 

He continues: “One of the most innovative periods of human history was WWII, which ushered in a technological age that has helped create a higher post-war quality of life. Computers, rockets, pressurized air cabins, jet airplanes, radio navigation, the microwave oven, penicillin, synthetic materials (rubber, lubricants and fuels), radar, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear power were all developed or brought into use during those five years. 

“However, we also had the wholesale destruction of cities, untold suffering and the massacre of at least 60 million people. No compassionate person would advocate such misery and sorrow for the sake of innovation, but the human misery created by overpopulation is comparable to war and one of the main reasons for war. Nazi foreign policy, for example, was based on the need for “Lebensraum,” living space that would support Germany’s growing population. 

“Every day the human population of the Earth increases by 220,000 people, or 80 million annually. That is like adding adding another Germany or Iran every single year.  As famed mathematician Bertrand Russell said about overpopulation, ‘Humans would rather kill themselves than learn math.’

“We live on a finite 8,000 mile diameter sphere, two-thirds of which is covered with water. Based on current practices, we are far exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. The carrying capacity has previously been expanded through scientific innovation, but it’s a risky and unnecessary course of action to count on just so we can senselessly grow our population. 

“We should use innovation to clean up the mess we have already created and make a better, sustainable world for ourselves.”

Jo Wideman is the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, perhaps the foremost group addressing overpopulation’s impact on American life. She explains to TWTC that “(o)verpopulation is a fact, not a myth.  

“Human innovations – medicines and antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation, exploitation of fossil fuels, the Green Revolution, etc. – have allowed for a higher standard of living and quality of life for most of the world’s 7.2 billion inhabitants.  And, these advances have occurred in spite of a global population that quadrupled over the last century, and grows by 80 million annually. 

“These increases in human numbers and overall rates of resource and energy consumption are not, however, sustainable.  They have taken place at great ecological cost, enabled by the ongoing depletion of non-renewable natural resources, over-exploitation of renewable natural resources, and the accelerating degradation and disruption of environments – air, water, lakes, ocean, atmosphere, climate – upon which the modern industrialized human economy, and indeed civilization itself, depends.  

“To believe that the human capacity for innovation is infinite, and that therefore human populations can grow infinitely, is to believe in fairy tales.  It is to believe in a parallel universe in which we live on a flat earth, because only a flat earth extending infinitely in all directions – as opposed to a round earth, which is bounded and finite – could support a human population that never stopped growing.”

In order to proactively meet the challenges posed by overpopulation, Arth has proposed an immensely controversial program. Pushing all of the rhetoric aside, what is it all about?

“The U.S. population grew by 22.5% from 1990-2010,” he says. “That is the highest growth rate in the industrialized world. By comparison, Mexico’s population grew by 32% while Japan only grew by 4.7% during the same period.  

“I have proposed that all countries adopt a self-funding, choice-based, marketable birth license plan called ‘birth credits.’ Each couple could have one child for free, additional births would cost one credit each. In low-birth countries, like all of Europe, these credits would be free. In high-birth countries, the cost of the credit would still be only a tiny fraction of the actual cost of raising a child, so birth credits would function as a wake-up call to future costs. 

“The wealthy would not buy up birth credits because birth rates correlate inversely to net worth through intelligent choices. Instead of socializing the costs of bad family planning, like we do now by encouraging the worst parents to have the most children, we should put a greater burden on individuals to make socially responsible decisions.”

Wideman states that “(a)cess to contraception is a key component of enabling population stabilization.  Along with age-appropriate sex education and education on the role of population growth in environmental degradation, it is an important and necessary tool.  However, in the U.S., where most growth stems from immigration, these tools are insufficient.

“The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of American women has been at or below the replacement level (2.1 children per female) for four decades. This means is that if net immigration were zero (immigration equaled emigration), or even below a few hundred thousand annually, the U.S. population would stop growing in a matter of decades. 

“What keeps our population growing very rapidly and unsustainably is net immigration (legal and illegal combined) of between 1 and 2 million year after year.”

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