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Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 1999 /9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Econophone

The population
explosion fizzles

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
THE BIRTH of the world's 6 billionth person (she was born in Sarajevo) was greeted quite equivocally by the American media. Most of the stories touted population control "successes" like Mexico's and China's, and warned that the world could contain 10 billion people by the year 2200.

A belief in population control is one of those unexamined tenets that liberals tout not because it is true but because they think it should be true. The solution to the problem of poverty is to give people welfare checks and raise the minimum wage. The answer to violent crime is to ban handguns. The response to teeming millions of impoverished people in foreign countries is to practice birth control and bring their numbers down to manageable levels.

But the danger of the Earth's peoples multiplying into starvation or ecological disaster, which modern Malthusians have been warning about for 50 years, has not only failed to materialize, the exact opposite has happened, instead. Despite an expanding population, Earth is experiencing a food glut.

Even China has a problem with obesity. As Stephen Moore explained in the National Review: "Global food prices have fallen by half since 1950, even as population has doubled. ... Enough food is now grown in the world to provide each resident of the planet with almost 4 pounds of food per day."

Aren't there still famines in Africa and elsewhere? Yes. But as human rights groups attest, famines are no longer the result of natural disaster, but instead the purposeful acts of malign governments. Recent famines in Ethiopia and Sudan were engineered by governments to punish rebellious subjects.

But for the vast majority of the world's people, population increases have gone hand in hand with improvements in living standards. And, just as free market thinkers have been predicting all along, as nations get richer, their rate of population growth naturally slows. Wealth is a far better contraceptive than the condom.

What about space? Isn't the planet getting overpopulated? Well, it may seem that your vacation spot or commuter route to work is overpopulated, but the Earth is not likely to run out of space for the numbers of people that even the most alarmist population controllers project. Moore points out that if all 6 billion of Earth's residents had to squeeze into the state of Texas, there would be enough room for each family of four to have a house and one-eighth of an acre of land. The rest of the globe would be empty.

In point of fact, many of the developed nations of the world are experiencing what Ben Wattenberg calls the "birth dearth." In Japan, for example, population is slowing to such a marked degree that the nation will soon face a severe crisis in caring for an aging population. We, also, are concerned that we will soon have too few young workers contributing to the Social Security tax and too many elderly people collecting benefits. That is the topic our politicians are working so hard to avoid facing.

But population control has been in the saddle for several decades now, and many people continue to equate it with responsibility -- this despite the gruesome crimes that have been committed, particularly by China but also by other nations, in its name.

In China, the one-child-per-family policy has resulted in the exposure and infanticide of an estimated 10 million to 20 million female babies. Ninety percent of the children in Chinese orphanages are female, many abandoned, left to die essentially so that the parents can try again for a son. The government also enforces its one-child policy by forcing women who get pregnant without permission to undergo forced abortions -- even into the ninth month of pregnancy.

China has created a new society: one without brothers, sisters, aunts or uncles. And millions of young Chinese males will never marry or have (one) child of their own because there aren't enough women to go around.

It was all so tragically unnecessary. The birth rate in developing countries follows a predictable downward path as wealth increases. Since 1950, the birth rate in the Third World has halved, from six children per family to three, and it is continuing to fall.

The little girl in Sarajevo poses no threat. We have abundant food. There are medicines to keep us healthy. And there is plenty of room to spare on planet Earth.


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