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September 10, 2007

The Mahdi on Population

Poor Maddie, she really doesn't get it.

Population management is just as emotive. People quickly bristle at the idea of any government telling them how many children they can have. The whole policy area of population was given a bad name by India's enthusiasm in the 70s and 80s when government programmes ensnared uncomprehending young men into having vasectomies. But should the UK government pursue a policy of persuasion, a Stop at Two campaign, to bring people's attention to the carbon footprint of having lots of children? If it did, would it work? Internationally, population policy has been crippled by US and Vatican opposition on abortion and contraception. Have they managed to bully environmental organisations into this awkward silence?

We know how to reduce population. In fact, not only do we kow how to do it, we've done it. If you look around th world then, absent immigration, all of the rich countries have birth rates below replacement (as well as a few poor ones too). And birth rates are falling in all countries (again, absent immigration: first generation immigrants tend to bring with them the birth rates of their origin).

We actually have an empirical answer: being rich reduces birth rates. Which is why there is indeed a rise to 9 billion predicted: and if economic growth continues as it has for the past century or so, then a decline, to 7 billion in 2100.

Whatever it is that we needed to do about population growth, we've already done it.

September 10, 2007 in Environmentalism | Permalink


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Totally agreed.

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | Sep 10, 2007 12:15:02 PM

"Whatever it is that we needed to do about population growth, we've already done it."

That depends on whether during the course of the next century+ we feel that 7bn is an optimal global popultation, or whether we find that we prefer a larger population to sustain economic growth at desirable levels.

Posted by: JH | Sep 10, 2007 1:30:00 PM

The general fall in the birth rate of non-immigrant/indigenous population in the UK masks the problem that the (relatively) poor outbreed the (relatively) rich -- the procreation of the former being subsidised by the latter through welfarism and confiscatory taxation.

See, for an example:

Posted by: paul ilc | Sep 10, 2007 2:58:12 PM

We actually have an empirical answer: being rich reduces birth rates.

Being rich correlates with a reduction in birth rates. We don't know why.

It could just as easily be that compulsory education reduces birth rates - all those years in which the kids are not earning any money.

Posted by: ad | Sep 11, 2007 8:25:33 PM