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

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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'Humanitarian' hypocrites -- I'LL NEVER FORGET meeting a woman who billed herself as a "child-advocate" but who became visibly horrified when I mentioned to her (jokingly?) that my husband and I eventually wanted six children. I'd rightly suspected she didn't really advocate kids.

I thought about her and her like-minded friends when the world recently marked the addition of its 6 billionth person.

That's because so many "humanitarians" bemoaned the birth of that newest little human, wherever he or she was born.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed that "we have to stabilize the population of this planet.

Quite simply, there is a limit to the pressures our global environment can stand." The executive director of the U.N.

Population Fund expressed worries about "a world devastated by human activities." In Britain, the BBC intoned that "the birth of the child who will bring the global population to six billion ... . will probably not be a happy affair."

The Wall Street Journal summed up the world view of these folks when it editorialized, "Let a chicken or pig be born in Delhi or Shanghai and the bean counters at the U.N. and World Bank will tell you that the nation is wealthier. But let an Indian or Chinese mother give birth to a son or daughter, and it goes down in their crabbed little ledgers as a liability."

It's clear the elite want fewer people in the world. The question it seems to me is: Why?

Over the last decades prophets of doom and gloom have varied their tone about over-population, but never their message: In the 1970s we were told by the leader of this movement, Paul Ehrlich, that "the world is teetering on the brink of mass starvation;" in 1980 the Carter administration said that "the world hunger problem is getting worse rather than better," and in 1989 the United Nations informed us that "hunger and malnutrition are growing and will continue to grow."


How wrong they were.

It's true that the world population over the last century may have tripled, though it's due to dramatically longer life-spans, not increased fertility. In any event, the world's food supply and available resources have grown faster.

Thanks to vastly improved technology and freer economic systems, the supply of food for every man, woman and child on the earth today has risen 40 percent since 1948. Even in the poorest parts of the world, it's gone up by 25 percent per capita since 1960.

Meanwhile, real food prices have dropped significantly and the quality of that supply has risen dramatically. In Africa alone, according to estimates, real per capita income has increased threefold in the last century. So too, as the late economist Julian Simon pointed out, has the price of every non-government controlled commodity, including oil, metals and timber. Even grain prices have dropped in real terms since the turn of the century.

Since prices decline when goods become more plentiful, that tells us a lot about the availability of the earth's resources. This success story is again thanks to technological achievements that demonstrate, as Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute and Harvard University put it, that "human beings can create as well as exhaust 'natural' resources."

Man-made global warming is the latest bugaboo of the population-control set, but that theory has as many holes in it as did the "impending ice-age" scare of the 1970s. Meanwhile, in temperate regions forests are actually expanding and in richer countries -- no matter how densely populated -- air and water quality continue to improve.

Today where scarcity and poverty do exist on any kind of widespread basis it is because of corrupt governments or social regimes, not because of too many people.

In fact, it's declining birth rates the world over that are more likely to lead to serious economic and social consequences than growth. By 2050, for instance, those aged 65 and older will be twice as numerous as those 15 and younger.

So back to my question. Why, all evidence to the contrary, do the world's elites still view people as a liability instead of a resource?

Well some of these folks may be naive, others may enjoy the sense of moral indignation it gives them, and some may even revel in the coercive power of government population-control programs which literally get into people's bedrooms the world over.

Or, perhaps at its core it's simply that many "humanitarians" love humanity -- they just don't like people.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


10/15/99: On a first-name basis with a three-year-old

©1999, Scripps Howard News Service