Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

The International Convention on Population Development: The Fallacies and Hazards of Population "Control"

Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

The International Convention on Population Development: The Fallacies and Hazards of Population "Control"

Article excerpt


The International Conference on Population Development (ICPD)1 has many admirable goals: it strives to reduce maternal mortality rates;2 it aims to enhance the lives of low-income residents of both residential and urban areas;3 and it seeks to eradicate poverty, perhaps its most important objective.4 Unfortunately, however, the theme of "population development" for many participants in the Conference is merely a subtle euphemism for population "reduction" or "control." While asserting that "[p]eople are the most important and valuable resource of any nation,"5 the Conference's Programme of Action is replete with policy proposals and declarations which attempt to dissipate that "most important" resource. A number of justifications have been advanced for such an approach, but none appear to validate the serious harms that population reduction programs cause. Ultimately, those programs seeking to diminish or discourage the existence of people-the so-called "anti-natalist" agenda-simply do not enhance people's lives. Delegates to the ICPD conference in Cairo "assumed that people were essentially a problem rather than a resource.' With so many challenges facing populations worldwide, our task should be to eliminate problems, not people.

This Comment attempts to show the fallacies and hazards involved in population control. Part II examines the major justifications advanced by population reductionists, briefly responding to each in turn. Part III provides a substantive analysis of population reduction, examining its negative effects and reinforcing responses to issues introduced in Part II. Part IV outlines several recommendations for the ICPD, encouraging the Convention to pursue better avenues of serving populations than simply reducing them.


Various justifications have been advanced for promoting population reductions.7 They range from a simple fear of the unknown to serious questions about environmental depletion. Many of the justifications are founded on inaccurate information, illogical assumptions, or fear induced by the scare tactics commonly used by population control advocates. Ultimately, all of the reasons given are inadequate in comparison with the harms they create.

A. Fear of the Unknown

The first reason can be understood simply as a fear of the unknown. Many commentators point out that we have never had this many people on the earth before, and that our rate of growth is disturbing.8 Most commonly, writers point to the time it took for the world's population to reach one billion, then how quickly it rose to the nearly six billion people today.9 Population alarmists invoke images of children being born with the "speed of a machine gun,"lo adding a "new Germany" each year.ll Scare tactics are the common technique employed in such statements, attempting to alarm people at the rapid rate of population growth.12 Media, celebrities, and academia alike13 have assumed that unprecedented population increase can only mean that there will be countless billions of people without food, leeching the planet of scarce resources before falling prey to famine, war, and other cataclysmic events.

Amazingly, this argument has little to do with sound logic or economic reality. By itself, the fact that we have no record of larger world populations only means that our experience is incomplete in understanding how to thrive with larger numbers of people. Declaring that having much larger populations than ever before will be a catastrophe is something akin to the worldwide fear of only 500 years ago that travel too far overseas would cause one to fall off the edge of the earth.l4 Moreover, there is abundant evidence that our planet is capable of sustaining a population nearly seven times our current amount-at least forty billion By itself, the fact that we have never supported so many people does not necessarily mean that we are incapable of doing so in the future. …

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