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One child policy: Is this what America needs?

Written By | May 13, 2014

OCALA, Fla., May 13, 2014 — Overpopulation is an impending disaster for America.

Yet this vital issue to our national future is ignored. This is no accident; the matter is taboo on the left and right alike, avoided by them the way parents often avoid talking to teens about sex.

To think they say America is more open-minded than ever before. Our growingly secular society still has far to go.

Many issues facing us have answers rooted in science, but scientific inquiry has no shortage of foes. These aren’t just your stereotypical Bible thumpers and pseudo-intellectual creationists. Political ideology can be as much a religion as fundamentalist Christianity or Islam, and population control touches on as many ideological taboos as religious ones.

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The very concept of overpopulation is so controversial that some deny its existence. These people run the socioeconomic gamut, from poor immigrants to public intellectuals to high-profile politicians. The liberal economic claim is that as populations grow, human innovation will increase, thus creating a higher quality of life.

“There’s no doubt that innovation increases under pressure,” says urban designer and public policy analyst Michael E. Arth. In 2010, he launched a quixotic bid for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. While this was not a success, it set the ball rolling for discussion about the role special interests play in politics.

Arth’s writings about overpopulation are controversial, but they successfully raise interest in the subject.

“One of the most innovative periods of human history was WWII, which ushered in a technological age that has helped create a higher post-war quality of life. Computers, rockets, pressurized air cabins, jet airplanes, radio navigation, the microwave oven, penicillin, synthetic materials (rubber, lubricants and fuels), radar, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear power were all developed or brought into use during those five years.

“However, we also had the wholesale destruction of cities, untold suffering and the massacre of at least 60 million people. No compassionate person would advocate such misery and sorrow for the sake of innovation, but the human misery created by overpopulation is comparable to war and one of the main reasons for war. Nazi foreign policy, for example, was based on the need for ‘Lebensraum,’ living space that would support Germany’s growing population.

“Every day the human population of the Earth increases by 220,000 people, or 80 million annually. That is like adding adding another Germany or Iran every single year.  As famed mathematician Bertrand Russell said about overpopulation, ‘Humans would rather kill themselves than learn math.’

“We live on a finite 8,000 mile diameter sphere, two-thirds of which is covered with water. Based on current practices, we are far exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet. The carrying capacity has previously been expanded through scientific innovation, but it’s a risky and unnecessary course of action to count on just so we can senselessly grow our population.

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“We should use innovation to clean up the mess we have already created and make a better, sustainable world for ourselves.”

Jo Wideman is the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization, perhaps the foremost group addressing overpopulation’s impact on American life. She explains that “overpopulation is a fact, not a myth.

“Human innovations – medicines and antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation, exploitation of fossil fuels, the Green Revolution, etc. – have allowed for a higher standard of living and quality of life for most of the world’s 7.2 billion inhabitants. And, these advances have occurred in spite of a global population that quadrupled over the last century, and grows by 80 million annually.

“These increases in human numbers and overall rates of resource and energy consumption are not, however, sustainable. They have taken place at great ecological cost, enabled by the ongoing depletion of non-renewable natural resources, over-exploitation of renewable natural resources, and the accelerating degradation and disruption of environments – air, water, lakes, ocean, atmosphere, climate – upon which the modern industrialized human economy, and indeed civilization itself, depends.

“To believe that the human capacity for innovation is infinite, and that therefore human populations can grow infinitely, is to believe in fairy tales. It is to believe in a parallel universe in which we live on a flat earth, because only a flat earth extending infinitely in all directions – as opposed to a round earth, which is bounded and finite – could support a human population that never stopped growing.”

In order to proactively meet the challenges posed by overpopulation, Arth has proposed an immensely controversial program.

“The U.S. population grew by 22.5 percent from 1990-2010,” he says. “That is the highest growth rate in the industrialized world. By comparison, Mexico’s population grew by 32 percent while Japan only grew by 4.7 percent during the same period.

“I have proposed that all countries adopt a self-funding, choice-based, marketable birth license plan called ‘birth credits.’ Each couple could have one child for free, additional births would cost one credit each. In low-birth countries, like all of Europe, these credits would be free. In high-birth countries, the cost of the credit would still be only a tiny fraction of the actual cost of raising a child, so birth credits would function as a wake-up call to future costs.

“The wealthy would not buy up birth credits because birth rates correlate inversely to net worth through intelligent choices. Instead of socializing the costs of bad family planning, like we do now by encouraging the worst parents to have the most children, we should put a greater burden on individuals to make socially responsible decisions.”

Wideman says that, “access to contraception is a key component of enabling population stabilization. Along with age-appropriate sex education and education on the role of population growth in environmental degradation, it is an important and necessary tool. However, in the U.S., where most growth stems from immigration, these tools are insufficient.

“The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of American women has been at or below the replacement level (2.1 children per female) for four decades. This means is that if net immigration were zero (immigration equaled emigration), or even below a few hundred thousand annually, the U.S. population would stop growing in a matter of decades.

“What keeps our population growing very rapidly and unsustainably is net immigration (legal and illegal combined) of between 1 and 2 million year after year.”

Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.