Prosperity Versus Planning: How Government Stifles Economic Growth

By David Osterfeld | Go to book overview

5
Population

There is a great deal of concern, both among professionals and in the popular press, over the "population crisis." According to biologist Paul Ehrlich in a 1970 interview ( 1973, pp. 13-28), "the death of the world is imminent" because

the human population of the planet is about five times too large, and we're managing to support all these people--at today's level of misery--only by spending our capital, burning our fossil fuels, dispersing our mineral resources and turning our fresh water into salt water. We have not only overpopulated but overstretched our environment.

The basic problem, said Ehrlich, is "too many people. And nothing else can be solved unless we solve that problem." The "population of the United States should eventually be reduced to well under 50,000,000 and that of the world to an absolute maximum of 500,000,000." (Also see Watson and Smith, 1973.) In his 1968 book The Population Bomb (p. 17), Ehrlich stated that "each year food production in undeveloped countries falls a bit further behind burgeoning population growth." The "inevitable" result is "mass starvation. . . . A minimum of three and one-half million will starve this year [ 1968], mostly children. But this is merely a handful compared to the numbers that will be starving in a decade or so. And it is now too late to take action to save many of those people."1

In a similar vein the famous Limits to Growth ( Meadows et al., 1972) characterized population growth as "'super' exponential" (p. 41) and concluded, much like Ehrlich, that the inevitable consequence is resource depletion, massive pollution, soil erosion, and a reduction in the amount of arable land. "The basic behavioral mode of the world system is exponential growth of population and capital, followed by collapse" sometime before the year 2100 (pp. 148-149).

In his 1973 book, One Hundred Countries, Two Billion People, Robert McNamara wrote (cited in Zinsmeister, 1987, p. 18):

The greatest single obstacle to the economic and social advancement of the majority of the peoples in the underdeveloped world is rampant population growth . . . the threat of unmanageable population pressures is very much like the threat of

-104-

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Prosperity Versus Planning: How Government Stifles Economic Growth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • I - Theoretical Framework 1
  • 1 - The Three Worlds 3
  • 2 - Economy, Government, and Culture 19
  • II - The Key Variables 59
  • 3 - Food 61
  • 4 - Resources 84
  • Notes 102
  • 5 - Population 104
  • III - Economic Development: Engines and Obstacles 137
  • 6 - Foreign Aid 139
  • 7 - Multinationals 162
  • 8 - Migration 194
  • 9 - Corruption 204
  • Note 218
  • IV - Conclusion: The Enabling Environment 219
  • 10 - Property, Law, and Development 221
  • Notes 245
  • References 247
  • Index 265
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