Melanie Reid on Population

Gaaah! More nonsense on population!

Surely it wouldn’t take too much effort to design some kind of similar global incentive scheme for the world’s most populous nations – with all the proper safeguards, of course, and done with willing participation? I rather warm to the idea of Global NonBaby Awards (GNBA), paid annually if you have remained pregnancy-free, and available to women of every race, religion and skin colour in the world.

Once Western governments realised their survival was at stake and they couldn’t afford not to fund the GNBA they would find the money (who knows, it might even stop them fighting pointless wars). A special GNBA global population task force could administer it, with free contraception to back it up. Payments would be made to both individual women and to governments, which would have the felicitous effect of controlling population, giving women choice, and lifting them out of poverty.

Look, contraception is not the answer to the rise in population. It is indeed the mechanism by which women can exercise their choices, yes, but first you need to change the choice before anyone is going to make use of it. That is, you need to change desired fertility before you change actual fertility. And the research shows that 90% of changes in fertility come from changes in desired, only 10% from access to contraception.

Further, we also know what changes desired fertility: wealth. Wealth in its true meaning of course, longer life spans, lower child mortality. These in turn lead to women being regarded as more than simple breeding machines (one more that\’s very important here, lowering maternal mortality, the risks of child birth) and thus opening up education, literacy to them. These in turn, raise the opportunity cost of having many children: while the changes in death rates lower the opportunity cost of having few children.

Which leads us to the question of how do we create wealth? That, actually, we do know. It\’s the division of labour, the specialisation, brought about by material exchange. When this happens across national borders we call this trade.

The answer, at root, to the "problem" of overpopulation is increased globalisation. For when the poor are rich as we are, then their fertility levels will be as ours, below replacement rate.

6 thoughts on “Melanie Reid on Population”

  1. Not inextricably linked, markbrinkley, at least not on a permanent level. As populations move past fossil fuel dependence, levels of CO2 production will drop but wealth will continue to increase. The issue is that to move past such dependence, wealth is required (and as Tim mentions, so to are the mechanisms of its creation) so we have to accept some short-term environmental cost to yield the greater long-term environmental gains. It’s not ideal but then we live in the real world.

  2. Why would any nation reduce their fertility when it is so useful in edging out other countries.
    Countries of the EU have noticed that their grip on their own countries has been loosened by ‘immigrants’.
    They have to claim this is somehow a benefit but , in the long run, why shouldn’t the fertile countries take over the infertile (and tired) old countries.

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