Population Pressures and Public Policy

The World and I, December 2001 | Go to article overview

Population Pressures and Public Policy


To the Editor:

Jacqueline Kasun's article "Population Control Today--and Tomorrow?" [June 2001, p. 50] drew unreasonable conclusions from statistics unrelated to population control in order to buttress its thesis that population-control measures are no longer necessary and in fact have been largely detrimental. The author concludes that there exists no reason to continue to funnel money and congressional support into the "saturated" population- control market. The facts, however, show that world population is expanding at an unprecedented rate, and the leaders of the world must take action to avoid the calamity of a population that has surpassed earth's carrying capacity.

The article first proposes that population-control programs have worked too well in developed nations, causing a decline in population due to death rates exceeding birthrates. This argument, however, ignores the fact that population decline is not at all uncommon in developed countries. In lesser developed countries (LDCs), large families are a necessity in order to work the family farm; however, once a country industrializes, families no longer have to be so large to provide food for the family unit. Consequently, family sizes in developed countries are always distinctly smaller than they are in LDCs.

This decreased birthrate is also coupled with an increase in life expectancy in developed nations, due to the augmented availability of health care. With the increase in life expectancy worldwide, it is not at all surprising that "the proportion of people over 60 will rise to exceed the proportion of people under 15, for the first time in history."

This situation could be alleviated by reverting to a completely agrarian society and by surrendering the technology and modern medical care that have increased the quality of life in developed nations. Such actions would encourage larger families and would decrease life expectancies, halting the aging of the world's population, but these steps would also greatly decrease our quality of life.

The article raises the phantom of population decline without showing that it will have any detrimental effects on the people of the world. It is true that population decline has a slight impact on a nation's economy. Goldman Sachs reports in a "Daily Economic Flash" on Japan, "The potential growth rate [of Japan] currently stands at 0.9 percent, and if productivity growth remains at current levels because no progress is made in structural reform, the potential growth rate will decline to 0.6 percent in step with the contraction of the labor force."

This small contraction in economic growth, however, seems negligible when compared with the economic havoc fueled by a population explosion, which leads to increased crime and higher unemployment rates. Furthermore, the world has only a limited supply of the resources needed to sustain life, such as fresh water and food. If the current population explosion goes unchecked, there will be a time when the earth's resources will not meet the needs of the people. The consequences of such uncontrolled expansion are too horrible for the human mind to contemplate.

The most disturbing assertions made in the article, however, deal with the use of contraceptives. The article asserts that "the family planning movement" has planted "the cultural seeds" of "promiscuity, which spreads sexually transmitted diseases." The article would have the reader believe that the distribution of condoms in Africa is the direct cause of the AIDS epidemic on that continent. This is simply not the case.

The problem of AIDS in Africa is most directly related to a lack of sexual education on the continent. Many myths about sexuality exist that could be corrected by proper teaching. For example, the "virgin myth," that a man with AIDS can be cured by having relations with a virgin, has led to the rapes of young children and has only caused an increase in AIDS victims. …

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