Can free contraceptives save America?

Birth control. Photo by outcast104 via creative commons

OCALA, Fla., May 15, 2014 — There is no greater threat to civilization — any civilization — than overpopulation.

Today, millions of American may not even know that it is an issue, and for good reason. During the 1960s and ‘70s, overpopulation was a mainstream political issue. Since then, the country has generally ignored it.

According to Michael E. Arth, urban designer and public policy analyst, “American politicians spend half their time begging for money from the business interests who control public policy, and the rest of the time giving their paymasters what they want while pretending to represent the people.

“People who sell stuff want a growing pool of consumers, so it’s not in their perceived self-interest to support low birth rates. Also, some think we need a constantly growing population so the young can take care of the old. The information explosion, robotics and people living indefinitely long (while remaining youthful) will eliminate this problem, while also exacerbating the overpopulation problem.”

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Jo Wideman, executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, says, “nowadays, both the left and the right do all they can to ignore the effects of overpopulation, or attribute them to other causes. When population activists force them to address overpopulation, they either attempt to dismiss its significance or ostracize these activists by accusing them of racism, xenophobia, and/or misanthropy.

“For the religious right, beginning in the seventies, a backlash against the idea of overpopulation set in as a result of it becoming entangled with the family planning issues. There could never be too many of ‘God’s children.’ Additionally, center-right and mainstream economic and business interests angrily rejected the proposition that there may be ‘limits to growth’ on earth. This, after all, challenged the fundamental ethos of modern civilization, namely that there are no limits which cannot be overcome by human imagination, ingenuity, innovation, and initiative.

“Mainstream economists and politicians in America and much of the world worship at the altar of growth, and that includes never-ending growth in population. They believe the only two alternatives available are perpetual growth or stagnation and collapse, and that the choice is obvious. In this view, population growth is needed for prosperity.

“For the left, the population issue became toxic because immigration to the U.S. exploded after the Immigration Act of 1965, increasing four-fold from the 1960s to the 2000s. Leftists identified with immigrants not only out of a sense of solidarity for the injustices they believed they were victims of, but also because they saw them as natural political allies who would boost the ranks and power of the Democratic Party, labor unions, and other liberal interests.

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“Because immigration now accounts for about three-quarters of U.S. population growth, and because at current high levels it will prevent population stabilization in the U.S. – forcing continued rapid growth through the end of the 21st century and beyond – liberals felt compelled to deny that this population growth causes any of the environmental problems that they claimed to care about as well.

“Instead, environmental degradation was attributed to corporate greed, the profit motive, the rich, SUVs, the fossil fuel industry, hydrofracking, poor planning, Republicans, and other convenient scapegoats.”

Beyond politics, no small number of Americans oppose family planning due to cultural factors. Said factors often leave contraceptive and prophylactic use in forbidden territory. Nonetheless, would overpopulation effectively be allayed if the government offered increased access to contraceptives and prophylactics?

“No,” says Arth. “Overpopulation is a systemic problem that is aided and abetted by a dysfunctional political system that now blocks efforts to think or act rationally. Offering free birth control is better than nothing, but to be effective it would have to be combined with public education and vast political and public policy changes.”

Wideman explains that, “in general, family size preference is very much a function of culture (including religion) and socioeconomic status.  For some religious groups – notably Mormons, Amish, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, some Catholics and some Muslims – large family size may be an end unto itself because children are regarded as a blessing from God, and the more, the merrier. In general, more conservative, traditional, and rural cultures tend to be correlated with larger family size, in part because women are relegated (or elevated, depending on one’s perspective) to more traditional roles, one of which is motherhood.

“When women enter the workforce in large numbers, overall societal fertility tends to decrease, because of what economists call the opportunity cost of having another child, that is, childbearing and rearing interrupt or interfere with job and career.”

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