MICHELE BARNABY | Social Sciences Instructor
Although world population reached 7 billion on Oct. 31, the need for a world population control policy, or a policy to control or reduce the current world population, is not necessary.
Most nation states already have a population policy that sets aside federal funds for family planning. Strict population policies, like China’s one-child policy, are not needed today. What seems to be more important and more successful is economic development. As economic development takes place, people choose to limit (or control) family size, and this makes sense. In rural societies, children are needed to help out on the farm, take care of younger children, and care for the older generation—children are assets. In urban societies, children are no longer needed to help out, are expensive, and a liability. As the world develops economically from primarily rural societies to primarily urban societies, couples choose to have smaller families.
Where vigorous population policies do exist, they have tended to be successful at reducing population growth, but unsuccessful at meeting societal needs. Many negative outcomes are associated with these types of policies. China’s growth rate declined immediately after the installation of its policy in 1976. Today their natural growth rate is lower than the US’s. China could abolish its population policy and would not see an increase in family size or a change in its continued declining growth rate because China is now an economically developed nation.
The negative consequences of this policy are still apparent. In China, the law states how large your family can be. If you ignore the law, the penalties can be quite strict from paying fines to losing certain privileges. Also, China’s culture favors males over females, resulting in an abnormal sex ratio at birth. Today, China has many more grown men than women. Other negative social problems have been associated with the strictly policed policy. Outside of China, vigorous population policies don’t always work as well, either. India has had a less stern population policy since 1952 with somewhat unorthodox approaches, such as focusing on providing incentives to voluntarily become sterilized. This has resulted in distrust among people in certain regions toward “help” from the government regarding family planning.
A strict population policy today could cause a severe population decline if it worked as well as China’s. A declining world population would have negative results as well. Some regions already see population declines. Europeans no longer reproduce themselves. This has resulted in an aging population where more people are no longer part of the work force. Aging populations put financial stress on governments, can result in declining GNPs, and can even affect military policies. Europe relies on immigrants to make up for the hole in their work force. In Japan the declining population is so problematic and extreme that the Japanese have introduced policies to keep the elderly in the work force and even policies to assist in increasing the birth rate.
Population worldwide continues to grow, but eventually, and probably not too far in the future, we will see more regions with a stable or even a declining population. Focusing on economic development allows people to move to a condition where conscious family size is a priority. Government “control” is not wanted or needed.
TRAVIS IRION | Guest Columnist
Did you know you can fit the entire world’s population into an area the size of Texas?
And this would give each person about 1,069 square feet to live on, leaving the rest of the world uninhabited. Although this would not be ideal, this shows there is no land crisis in relation to population. As for food, American-grown food alone provides about 3,800 calories per American each day. That is 1,800 calories more per day than the recommended 2,000-calorie diet.
Here is the kicker, 1,100 of those calories on average are wasted. This is not including the amount of foreign food consumed each day in the United States. The facts show that the U.S. produces enough food alone to sustain its own population.
With no land crisis and no food crisis, this leads to the conclusion that there is no need for government regulation of population size. The real issue is with our culture of materialism. There is no self-control to Americans’ greed and indulgence. The government cannot legislate self-control for Americans. As much as governments have tried in the past, laws will not change people’s ways. In fact they may only serve to reinforce them.
Try telling an American to eat only 2,000 calories per day! The real crisis is overconsumption, not overpopulation. The solution to this problem lies with America and its need to step back up to the plate and educate its population properly. Churches, private charities and health classes in school should be leading this campaign.
There is a fundamental moral factor to this issue, too. Self-control would invariably feed more people and satisfy the needs of the hungry not only in America but the rest of the world. Again, this requires a total cultural reorientation, which is not something that the government has any lasting effect on. If anything, government is an expression of culture, especially our democracy in America. Thus, government is not the solution.
Besides all this, the population-control advocates’ solutions are patently illegal. Many support forced contraception, abortion, or sterilization and child limits. This would fly in the face of several fundamental rights that all Americans hold dear: religious liberty, privacy and family rights.
To enact such laws, the government would need a legitimate reason to interfere and regulate public life. In America, the Supreme Court has ruled that for the government to make forays into reproductive rights, it must have a compelling interest, which is more than legitimate. The case that made that most clear is Roe v. Wade. Let’s see how many population control advocates would go for repealing that case!