THE MALTHUSIAN NIGHTMARE AND THE PARADOX OF INVERSE POWER
For those who took seriously Jimmy Carter's ubiquitous promises to place a new dimension of morality at the center of U.S. foreign policy, no potential initiative seemed more logical or more compelling in January 1977 than did an assault against the cycle of endemic poverty that continued to stalk the Third World nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. More than a hundred new nations had escaped colonialism in the decades after 1945. For most the early euphoria of independence had long since collapsed under a complex calculus of political inertia, staggering population growth, widespread illiteracy, class and ethnic conflict, mounting debt to the great European, U.S., and Japanese banks, and a near total incapacity for deferred gratification--all within an international trade and fiscal system that placed no premium whatever on either their extractive economies or their woefully hardworking but unrewarded people. Like the original Third World nations of Latin America, the newest members of the developing world seemed destined for at least semi-permanent exclusion from the West's remarkable record of postwar prosperity.
Had some easy solution existed for the paradox and contradiction of intractable poverty amid potential plenty--and of an unprecedented population explosion at the very moment in history when the biochemistry of birth control could guarantee demographic stability forever-- that solution would have been employed well before 1977. Yet for the Carter White House, which believed that adequate food, shelter, health care, and education comprised human rights as inviolable as civil and political liberties, some vigorous effort to address the Third World crisis was inescapable.