Friday, August 7, 2009


So far, this blog has become a repository for Skeptics news items. Well, I think I’ll mix it up a bit with some of my personal observations and political incorrectness.
I am absolutely convinced that almost all of the problems facing the human race today could be solved if we could get a handle on population growth. In fact the ideal situation would be to roll back the population and maintain it at a sustainable level. Rational humans who care about the quality of ALL human life, should be able to formulate a strategy to accomplish this. In fact, it is essential for the long term survival of the race.
Easier said than done.
So what are our options?
The Chinese have tried using law and coercion, with quite obviously very little success.
Pol Pot had some rather distasteful notions of his own. So did Stalin and Hitler.
Abstinence education is a dead end for obvious reasons.
The human drive to procreate is based on the notion that there is infinite room for growth. It is built into our primal nature. So we are on a self destructive path which no amount of rational discussion can end.
Force is not an option. The only humane and totally equitable solution would be a capitalist one. Reward for deferred or ended fertility would be the only way I could see this working. A one-time small cash payment for elective, reversible sterilization. The payment has to be large enough to incentivize those who are not ready to handle the cost or responsibility of children. But small enough that there would not be a black market in cheap reversals. When, or if, an individual considers him or herself ready for children, they would pay back the amount they received, with interest, and get the reversal.
The first ones to line up would be the alcohol and drug addicts who should not have children anyway. Care of their children costs us millions a year. This would be a windfall savings for society. I am sure that there is a large portion of the population which would never consciously want to have children. Accidental or unwanted children would be a thing of the past. There is another segment which would never achieve the economic status to raise children properly.
This is the only form of Eugenics which allows each individual to choose for themselves. There would be no majority deciding the reproductive fate of a minority. There would be no pressure to make a decision. The only pressure would be economic.
I haven’t worked out the details of applying this on a global scale. But, we have to start somewhere.
If someone has a better, more equitable, idea I would love to hear it.


raa said...

I agree that the world would be a better place with less people. We are straining our resources and the problem is only going to get worse in the coming decades.
I don't believe that your idea of an economic reward is going to solve the problem. My guess is that many of the people who have the most children do so with some conviction or need. This may be a religious creed, to fill a personal need, or a family tradition. These are the people least likely to take you up on you offer. There may be some impact but unless the financial value is high (say at least >$100,000) I suspect the changes will be small. Are you considering this a one time benefit, only to women who do not have children yet? Is this financial benefit available to women and men both? Do you want to extend this to a family that already has children and are considering stopping?
There is some slowing of the rate of population growth and some true decrease in a few areas (most notably parts of Europe and Russia). (for instance see Wikipedia on World population) In general, the decline in population growth seems to be linked to overall economic well being. This is leading also to some potentially game changing demographics, for instance in Europe, where the Muslim population is growing while the original populations are decreasing.
So I'm afraid I don't have any good solutions to offer, just some concern that your suggestion won't work and likely won't be well accepted by some of the people you would like most to reach.

Bourgeois_Rage said...

Today's Tom the Dancing Bug addresses population growth.

I really don't know what the upper limit of the population of the Earth really is, but people have been saying that we're going to hit that number soon since before Thomas Malthus.

Looking at some fertility rates we can make the generalization that as country become more modern, the fertility rate declines. So as more of the world becomes more educated and get better health care, people have less children. Obviously to stop population growth getting that number at or under 2.0/woman is the key. But we should also look at our lengthened lives. With people living longer, that will also contribute to an increase in population. The biggest unknown here is probably where the average life span level out. right now the longest living people can expect to live around 80 years.

So, yeah, are we going to be able level off both of those numbers before we get too big? In some localities, sure. Parts of the American southwest are doing their best to drink all of their water while also growing in population. But who knows what kind of unforeseen developments will enable the population to continue to grow until it levels off a bit?

Of course then there are the people who think that we need to breed like never before... See the Quiverfull Movement.

Bourgeois_Rage said...

I just saw Roy's response. I got a bitdistracted in my ramblings. I agree that an economic motive probably won't work. For many people economics is already a consideration when it comes to having a child and I can't find any data right away, but I would guess that there isn't much of a relationship between the ability to afford a child and actually having one.

Bernard Droege said...

Bourgeois_Rage you said "I really don't know what the upper limit of the population of the Earth really is".
I think we passed it a long time ago. When 1/6 of the world population is on the verge of starvation, we are already there. The only reason we can feed as many people as we do is because of recent "advances" in crop technology. But that comes with it's own set of problems. Like degradation of genetic diversity, chemical runoff into our water, and mega-corporate control over all the seed stock. We also could not produce as much meat and dairy as we do without possibly harmful over use of antibiotics and steroids. So if we ever needed to go back to natural, truly sustainable food production, we might only be able to feed 1/3 of the population, if that.

Bernard Droege said...

raa, you said "There may be some impact but unless the financial value is high (say at least >$100,000) I suspect the changes will be small".
I have to disagree. I think that a lot of the lower income young people out there who don't really think about becoming parents yet, and shouldn't be parents yet, would do it for a down payment on a new car ($2000).
I do believe, in order to to avoid accusations of genetic partiality, every person capable of procreation should be eligible for this program. But at $2000 most people who would be cable of caring for children properly, would not consider that worth it.
In parts of the world where $100 a year is the average income, a mere $100 would probably do it.

raa said...

Just a couple of comments.
- I also don't know what the true carrying capacity of the earth is. For an idea of what we are doing currently in the US, with our high cost consumer lifestyle, try and see the movie Food,Inc.. In order to live off the land properly, we may not be able to support the current population. Alternatively, maybe we need to make it to the science fiction level of hydroponics and factory manufactured meat (not animals)
- Bernie, I think your estimate of where the world is may be off. I would recommend you look at For instance, the average world income in the third world is more like $2000/person today. (This number doesn't come from Gapminder directly, but you can see the truth in the graphs).


Bernard Droege said...

Roy, I just wanted to point out that according to The people of the Congo with a population of 65M have an average income of $278 per year. that would mean that several million would still be making $0-$100 per year.
By the way thanks for the link to Gapminder. A great site. I've always had a thing for time line charts, especially animated ones.

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