Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Government and Fertility.

One does not need to be a Neo Malthusian to recognize that there comes a point when human population growth becomes highly undesirable to say the lease. If the projected 10 billion humans by 2050 are not enough then what is? Is it another doubling to 20 billion or maybe a further doubling still to 40 billion?

Most, and possibly all, of those that have looked into this issue and investigated the potential limits seriously have concluded that we are already beyond any metric of sustainability. This only means that we have overshoot the carrying capacity of the ecosystem and as a result we have to take measures that will reverse our current course.

But what is it that needs to be done if we are to reduce fertility substantially? Surely we cannot stand by as idle spectators and hope that the humans will decide to change their behaviour drastically just because that is good for the ecosystem? Had this been the case then they would have done so a long time ago. So what we are left with is the absolute certainty that human population must stop growing and preferably even start to decline.

If it is deemed to be too risky to count on a voluntary change in behaviour then the only other alternative to reduce the rate of fertility would be a direct and sustained government policy aimed at achieving lower fertility rates. There are a number of actions that the government can adopt that will act to internalize the negative externality of high fertility such as taxes, social expenditures and even outright strict limits on the number of successful pregnancies per female.

What do you think does the government have the right to interfere or should it just stand by and watch?


Rob Hamilton said...

With the necessity for the population to decline, there would be many people of the current generation that would be forbidden to have any children, or at most one.

This isn't possible in developing countries as many families are dependent on many offspring to take care of the parents in their older age. Also in developing countries, less tech orientated jobs are available and families are at a great advantage to have many children to work the land.

Developing nations also have the highest population growth rates, so they are the main points of concern. The core of the issue has to be addressed, and the economy of these countries needs to be enhanced so those people can move away from the primitive model of families to survive.

I'm not disagreeing with your position to some how decrease the incentive of having children, but if families don't have an option of decreasing family sizes, they will do whatever it takes to maintain homeostasis.

Caroline Craig said...

I agree with Rob. People in developing countries (although i've heard that about 70% of pregnancies are unplanned but i don't remember the source) need to have STABLE and strong government/social structures in order to provide them EDUCATION (especially for women), family planning services, and a system to care for the elderly besides their own children. You need all three, at least, in order to get people in developing countries to begin decreasing the amount of children they have. I think it's great that China's rule has led to 400,000 million fewer people but I can't help but see tremendous flaws in the system (including the killing of baby girls).
When it comes to developed countries, to be frank, people would not put up with such an idea. I mean people are freaking out over Obama's health care plan because they actually thought there was going to be "death panels" for elderly. Can you imagine the chaos if the government so much as whispered the idea of creating disincentives for having children. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if people began to have extra children out of spite.

Caroline Craig said...

Check this out:


Teena Ramdat said...

This is a very interesting post. I see what both Rob and Caroline are saying. It is crucial to see the importance of keeping the population increase to a minimum to prevent undesirable living situations. I could not imagine the world with more humans and a less appealing living environment. I agree completely with Caroline’s point on having sufficient education, planning and care for women when it comes to the growth of a family. While many want to extend their families and enjoy all that comes with having children, we must think of the future and how our future lineage will be able to survive. We see that China has made an effort to keep their population down, but the outcome is harsh and not inclusive of everyone’s feelings and beliefs. I know it is physically impossible to please everyone’s ideas and feelings, however maybe we should stress the importance of educating the current population with the effects of overpopulation.

Kim Richards said...

I also agree with the previous bloggers that population is certainly an important issue. I also agree that the problem must be faced at it source, developing countries. I beleive it is extremely important to provide education to these areas. Stressing the importance of contraceptives and even having monetary help from developed countries to help provide this I believe would be more effective than taxation as many of these areas with exuberant population growth do not have much money if any. Education although costing money is so important to teach these populations the importance of family planning.

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