The Populationist Case for Obama

With the conventions now behind us, the choice between the presidential candidates is clear. For those concerned about the effects of overpopulation, both home-grown and imported through free trade with overpopulated nations, the winner is Obama. I base this on the following analysis of the candidates’ positions:

  1. On the issue of reducing the birth rate to stabilize our population, neither candidate has a position. However, McCain has unwittingly come down on the wrong side of this issue by advocating a doubling of the tax deduction for dependent children. It’s a feature of the tax reduction part of his economic plan, but the effect would surely be to provide an incentive to boost the birth rate. This seems like a very odd approach to reducing taxes. Why not simply reduce the base rate, so that everyone at that income level benefits? Is it possible that a pro-population growth economist had a hand in crafting this policy? It seems quite possible. This policy is exactly the opposite of what I have recommended in Five Short Blasts, and is clearly a step backwards for those fighting overpopulation. Advantage: Obama
  2. See my previous post regarding the size of the candidates’ families. If something precipitates a catapulting of the overpopulation issue to national attention (as if it shouldn’t be a key focus already), which candidate is more likely to be receptive to the concept, and which will be a more credible leader on the issue – the candidate with seven children, or the one with two? Advantage: Obama
  3. Both candidates are on the wrong side of the immigration issue. Both favor what amounts to amnesty and guest worker programs, but supposedly only after the border has been secured. The Democrats have an especially bad record when it comes to favoring immigration to the detriment of American citizens. So Obama makes me nervous on this, but so too does McCain. Advantage: Neither
  4. This leaves the subject of trade. If you haven’t read Five Short Blasts, it may be difficult for you to understand the connection to overpopulation. I strongly encourage you to read it. Otherwise, you’ll just have to believe me when I say that our trade deficit is a direct result of attempting to trade freely with overpopulated nations. On this issue there is a very sharp contrast between the candidates. McCain has been very open and adamant about his belief in free trade and his plans to “open more markets,” as have other Republicans who have spoken on his behalf. Obama, on the other hand, blames our trade deficit for the loss of manufacturing jobs and has even vowed to scrap and renegotiate NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). Advantage: Obama
  5. On the subject of breaking our dependence on foreign oil, both candidates recognize the need. McCain more strongly advocates drilling offshore and in ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) as a stop-gap measure while renewable energy is developed. Obama has expressed a willingness to consider more drilling, but not in ANWR. Neither candidate has acknowledge the necessity to even stabilize our population, much less reduce it, as a critical element of achieving energy independence. Advantage: Neither
  6. Both candidates acknowledge the problem of global warming and have promised action. But, for whatever reason, McCain has chosen a running mate who does not share this same belief. Given McCain’s age, it’s not a stretch to think that Palin may have to take over at some point. It would be an environmental disaster to have another administration that doesn’t “get it” on global warming. Biden, on the other hand, if he had to take over from Obama, shares his concern with global warming. Advantage: Obama

In summary, from a policy perspective, Obama has unwittingly made himself the clear choice of those concerned with overpopulation and its effects, both home-grown and imported.


2 Responses to The Populationist Case for Obama

  1. nextgen08 says:

    I admit I’m only now being introduced to your site, so please forgive me if I missed something, but it seems that one of the biggest problems for any industrialized economy is a declining birth rate. This problem is most visible in Japan, but is found in France and the US also. I was under the impression that in order to keep social programs viable and to keep a healthy work force we should be increasing, not decreasing, our population. What am I missing here?

    Jerame Clough
    -Next Gen Politics

  2. Pete Murphy says:

    Jerame, thank you so much for asking this question! It’s the most crucial question of our times, and gets at the very heart and soul of the theory that I’ve proposed in my book.

    First of all, without even getting into my theory, consider what you’ve just proposed: never-ending population growth. It’s impossible. Even if we say that economists are right when they assert that resource shortages will never be a problem because man is ingenious enough to overcome any such problems (a real stretch of the imagination), unending population growth is still impossible from the standpoint that there is only a limited supply of elements on earth that could be used in the make-up of human flesh. For example, at the current rate of global population growth, in only 1,100 years every drop of water on earth, including fresh water and sea water, would be locked up in the make-up of human flesh. That’s obviously impossible. The human population would have to level off much sooner than that if we are all to have water to drink!

    The point here is that, regardless of whether or not we want to face it, the population will level off. If it doesn’t happen by reducing the birth rate, then the only alternative is an increase in the death rate.

    So, if we must eventually face the day when the population levels off, forcing us to deal with the economic challenges that presents, will those challenges be easier to deal with now, when the population is less, or in the future, when we are far more densely populated? Will dealing with the problem of funding social security be easier now, or when we reach the same point with ten times as many retirees?

    But that’s just the ultimate, end-game scenario. I maintain that overpopulation is already a drag on our economy. Others’ concerns for overpopulation are rooted in worries over resource shortages and environmental degradation, which are certainly legitimate concerns. But I may be among the first to build an economic case for stabilizing and even reducing our population. To put it very briefly, my theory is this: that as people are forced to crowd together and conserve space, it is inevitable that per capita consumption must decline. Falling per capita consumption, especially in the face of rising productivity (which always rises), unavoidably yields rising unemployment and poverty.

    Consider just one example, the per capita consumption of dwelling space. In Japan, a wealthy nation, but ten times as densely populated as the U.S., their per capita consumption of dwelling space is less than a third of that in the U.S. So their per capita consumption of all of the products and materials involved in constructing housing is less than a third of ours. This same relationship is evident for nearly every product you can imagine, with the exception of food, water and perhaps clothing. It’s simply impossible to consume many products – especially those that require the most space to use and store – at a level that’s consistent with a high standard of living.

    There are two major ramifications of this theory:
    1. If we want to avoid rising unemployment and poverty, then we must level off and eventually reduce our population to an “optimum” level.
    2. It’s economic suicide to attempt to trade freely with nations that are overpopulated.

    The second point above may be difficult to understand without reading my book. But consider what happens when a nation like the U.S. attempts to trade freely with a nation like Japan. Our economies combine. The work of manufacturing is spread evenly across the combined labor force. But, while Japan gets access to a healthy market, all we get in return is access to a market badly stunted by overcrowding and low per capita consumption (if we get access at all). The resulting trade deficit and loss of jobs is automatic.

    Jerame, I’d love it if you bought a copy of my book, since that would support my efforts to inject this new thinking into the political arena. But, since Next Gen Politics is a very nice web site of some political influence, I’m willing to send you a complimentary copy. All I ask in return is that you read it and give my theory serious consideration. (Maybe you could even post a review, but that’s up to you.) If you’ll just send me an E-mail with a mailing address, I’ll get a copy in the mail to you right away.

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