U.S. Birth Rate Falls to 100-Year Low

August 28, 2010


Now for a little good news for a change.  As reported in the above-linked USAToday article, the National Center for Health Statistics reported on Friday that the birth rate fell in the U.S. in 2009 by 2.7% to 13.5 births per 1,000 people, its lowest level in a century. 

“When the economy is bad and people are uncomfortable about their financial future, they tend to postpone having children. We saw that in the Great Depression in the 1930s and we’re seeing that in the Great Recession today,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University.

This is great news – a significant improvement from the 14.14 birth rate at the time that I wrote Five Short Blasts – but still above the rate of 12.73 needed to reach stability in the native population.  But just as significantly, as the professor observed above, it’s proof that peoples’ decisions about whether to have more children is indeed influenced by economic conditions.  I have had people argue that there is no such effect, and they offer the example of single mothers on food stamps and welfare who continue to have more and more children.  While there may be isolated examples like that, the overall decline in the birth rate is proof that they are wrong.  This is significant because it’s proof that population management policies aimed at achieving stability through economic incentives, as I proposed in Five Short Blasts, will indeed work without the need to resort to coercive, draconian measures like the one-child policy employed by China.

But, alas, the article goes on to bemoan falling birth rates as some sort of economic threat:

The downward trend invites worrisome comparisons to Japan and its lost decade of choked growth in the 1990s and very low birth rates. Births in Japan fell 2% in 2009 after a slight rise in 2008, its government has said. 

Not so in Britain, where the population took its biggest jump in almost half a century last year and the fertility rate is at its highest level since 1973. France’s birth rate also has been rising; Germany’s birth rate is lower but rising as well. 

“Our birth rate is still higher than the birth rate in many wealthy countries and we also have many immigrants entering the country. So we do not need to be worried yet about a birth dearth” that would crimp the nation’s ability to take care of its growing elderly population, Cherlin said.

 Very true, we do not have to worry about a “birth dearth” if nothing changes.  However, we do have to worry about the consequences of overpopulation, not least of which is declining per capita consumption and a corresponding rise in unemployment and poverty.

I’ll take the “birth dearth” any day.

Population Management and Abortion

May 21, 2009


As a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, a Catholic and an author of a book advocating population management, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a few words about President Obama’s commencement address at Notre Dame this past Sunday. 

It’s not what he said that I’d like to address, but the firestorm of controversy that preceded it.  The university took a lot of heat for their decision to invite the president to speak, and especially their decision to award him an honorary degree, because of his stated positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.  Donations to the university are sure to take a hit. 

For those who advocate a population management program designed to stabilize and even reduce our population, this controversy highlights the necessity of excluding the use of abortion from any such program, without being judgmental one way or the other in favor of either the pro-life or right-to-choose factions.  The issue is so divisive that any inclusion of abortion in such a program will make the whole subject of population management a non-starter.  Just-released polling data shows that a slim majority of Americans identify themselves with the pro-life side of the debate.  Among pro-life supporters, the subject of population management is universally synonymous with abortion.  Some even associate the subject with infanticide, genocide and all sorts of horrible plots to eradicate some groups in favor of others.  That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to be very clear, right up front, that your vision of population management expressly excludes all such practices – especially abortion.

But the right-to-choose faction, according to the latest polling, is nearly as large and will be just as quick to reject a plan that is perceived as taking away that option.  So it’s a very fine line that we advocates of population management must walk to avoid an instant loss of credibility with one half of the population or the other.  And without the support of a majority of people, population management will never happen. 

So how would one factor abortion out of national policies designed to manage our population?  Pro-life advocates would correctly point out that, even if federal dollars aren’t used to fund abortions or if government-run family planning services don’t even mention abortion, economic incentives designed to reduce the birth rate will only encourage the careless to fall back on abortion to take advantage of the incentives.  That’s true, and even most pro-choice advocates would concede that we don’t want to do anything that actually encourages more abortions.  That’s why I’ve proposed counting abortions (with exceptions in the cases of rape and incest) as live births, meaning that abortion could not be used to escape the economic consequences associated with having additional children. 

Won’t the pro-choice faction have a problem with this?  Perhaps.  But it doesn’t remove the choice of having an abortion.  It just makes it more expensive.  Besides, it’s not as though the woman doesn’t still have a choice.  It just pushes the decision point back to conception, where it should be in the first place.  Every woman still has a choice as to whether or not to give birth.  But the choice should be made when the decision regarding the use contraceptives is made.  It’s a serious decision and, once made, there should be commitment to live with the results.  Where no choice is involved, as in the case of rape, abortion would still be an option.

A perfect solution to the question of where abortion fits in a population management program?  Probably not, but at least it addresses the major concerns of both camps – actually discouraging abortion while preserving choice.  Once one understands the consequences of overpopulation and its potential for condemning people to a life of poverty, ignoring the problem isn’t a responsible course of action.  And there are no other options that don’t require addressing the subject of abortion head-on.  If you’re serious about working toward general acceptance of the concept of population management, then you need to be prepared with ideas on how to address abortion in a way that will seem to both sides to be a reasonable approach.

CIA Sees Trade Deficit as a “Long-Term Problem” for U.S.

March 25, 2009


If you’ve never visited the CIA’s “The World Factbook” web site, you really should take a look.  There you’ll find a whole encyclopedia of information and objective analysis of every nation on earth, including the U.S.  Here’s an excerpt from the CIA’s analysis of the U.S. economy:

Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.

It’s encouraging that even the CIA can understand the threat to our economy posed by our trade deficit.  I hope Obama reads this in his daily intelligence briefings.  The question is what he plans to do about it. 

Secondly, what’s to be done about the costs associated with our “aging population?”  More population growth, adding younger workers, is no way to address it.  That’s been the approach for decades and now we see that the end result is nothing more than an even larger aging population.   The time has come for a population management policy.  (See the 29th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.)

Green Leader Calls for Halving U.K. Population

March 25, 2009


Thanks to one of my readers for bringing this linked article to my attention.  It seems that one of English Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s key “green advisors” has called for the U.K. to reduce its population by half to build a sustainable society. 

JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron.

It’s significant that influential leaders are beginning to muster the courage to raise this issue.  Is anyone on this side of the Atlantic listening?  Of course, if they understood that their economy would actually be enhanced instead of harmed by such an approach, their job would be that much easier.  But regardless of whether overpopulation is addressed out of concern for the environment or out of concern for its effect upon unemployment and poverty, the end result is the same and I’ll be just as happy. 

You would think that environmentalists would be the first to jump on this bandwagon but, amazingly, they’re among the most resistant.  They fear that linking the environmental movement with a drive to reduce our population will stigmatize them as being too radical.  Here’s an example in this same article:

Population growth is one of the most politically sensitive environmental problems. The issues it raises, including religion, culture and immigration policy, have proved too toxic for most green groups.

Such views on population have split the green movement. George Monbiot, a prominent writer on green issues, has criticised population campaigners, arguing that “relentless” economic growth is a greater threat.

Environmentalists who fear tackling the population issue focus instead on reducing per capita consumption.  For example, they point to the low per capita consumption of energy in densely populated societies like Japan as evidence that nations like the U.S., with much higher per capita consumption, are being wasteful and can dramatically reduce consumption without significant harm to the economy.  However, they don’t understand that per capita consumption of energy in places like Japan is low not because they are more efficient, but because over-crowding has driven down their standard of living.  Low per capita employment in providing goods and services for domestic consumption is an inescapable consequence, making them dependent on exports to prop up their economy.  Without a high per capita consumption market like the U.S. to absorb their productive capacity, their economy would quickly collapse, just as ours would if we tried to emulate their rate of consumption. 

The only solution that relieves the strain on the environment and resources, while retaining the ability to enjoy a high standard of living, is to implement a population management policy that, through non-coercive measures, encourages a reduced birth rate, ultimately resulting in a slow decline in the population.  I hope that America is represented at this OPT conference and I hope that we pay close attention.

The Octuplets

February 11, 2009
Those of you who have followed this blog for some time may be surprised at my lack of comment so far on the recent birth of octuplets to Ms. Suleman in California, a woman who already had six children and was dependent on the financial help of her mother and government food stamps. First of all, I wanted to hear more facts before commenting, which has also given me time to put aside my personal feelings on the issue and frame them in the context of the plan I proposed in Five Short Blasts for addressing overpopulation. For those not familiar, the plan leaves all people free to choose how many children they’d like to have, since any heavy-handed approach to population management that restricts that right could never receive the approval needed to become public policy. However many children any one family chooses is practically irrelevant, since the only thing that matters is the relatively small reduction in the overall birth rate needed to attain population stability. This goal would be achieved through economic incentives, like tax incentives, designed to influence the decision toward choosing slightly smaller families on average.
In spite of the extreme example of this situation, I still maintain that it’s critical for any of us who are concerned with overpopulation to continue to support the right of parents to choose to have however many children they wish, regardless of extreme and sensational cases like the birth of these octuplets. I don’t criticize Ms. Suleman for wanting to have more than six children, or even for taking the risk of ending up with twelve children (she had six embryos transferred, two of which divided to produce eight children). However, I do believe it’s irresponsible for anyone to choose to have more children than they can support, whether that’s one child or fourteen. And that’s clearly what Ms. Suleman has done.

Would my system of economic incentives have made any difference in this case? For someone like Ms. Suleman, perfectly happy to subsist at a minimum standard of living with the support of her mom and government, probably not. But it might have made a difference to the sperm donor. If the IVF (invitro fertilization) clinic was required to reveal to the government the fathers of all successful births for the purpose of taxation, it’s likely he would never have agreed to the fertilization of so many embryos. And if IVF clinics were required to ascertain the financial ability of parents to support all children delivered by this method, or otherwise be held liable for reimbursement of government expenses to support them (along with the father), no IVF clinic would ever have agreed to transplant even one more embryo into this woman, much less six, regardless of her wishes.

So, do I think that Ms. Suleman is just a bit off her rocker? Yes! Do I think she’s acted irresponsibly? Absolutely! But do I still support the right to choose to have this many children? You bet. But it’s high time that such a right be exercised within the framework of a national population management program designed to reduce the birth rate by providing economic incentives to choose smaller families.



Obama Confirms Climate Change a National Security Issue

December 10, 2008


Eight days ago, following Obama’s roll-out of his national security team, I wrote a post about the seemingly strange mention of climate change on a couple of occasions, and speculated that this meant the issue of climate change was being elevated to a national security issue.  (See “Hints of Hopeful Signs in Obama’s Press Conference.”)  As much as I scan the web for commentary on these kinds of things, I don’t think anyone else picked up on this nuance in that press conference. 

Does this mean that climate change, energy and food have been elevated to national security issues in this upcoming administration? And doesn’t talk of energy and food in terms of “shortage” and “scarcity” imply an understanding of the supply / demand relationship for these resources – an understanding that demand is at least part of the problem?

Now, in this linked Reuters article, we get confirmation from Obama himself that, in fact, this is exactly the case – he considers climate change a matter of national security.

“This is a matter of urgency and of national security and it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That’s what I intend my administration to do,” Obama said.

This is very good news!  No intelligent person (and Obama is very intelligent) who accepts that climate change exists and is caused by human activity – that is, by the burning of fossil fuels and the resultant CO2 emissions – can believe that the problem can be solved while allowing our population to grow unchecked.  I’m not saying that Obama has yet reached this realization but, once his staff gets down to the nuts and bolts of how to accomplish their objective, they will quickly run into the population growth wall.  It’ll be very interesting to see how Obama then reacts to this new reality.  Will he rein in immigration?  Will he begin to ponder the need for incentives for people to choose smaller families? 

The article goes on to mention that Obama sees tackling climate change as another opportunity for creating jobs.  No doubt, there will be a tremendous amount of work involved in converting our electrical generation to new technologies and in transitioning our home heating from oil and gas to more climate change-friendly technologies.  This is an example of the kind of thing I hope Obama has “up his sleeve” when he spoke recently of his economic stimulus plan, but seemed to come up short on jobs.  (See “Obama Jobs Plan: Please Tell Us There’s More.”)

It’s going to be exciting to see how all of this unfolds, as it appears that enormous changes for the better are finally in store for America!

Philippine Struggle with Overpopulation and the Catholic Church

November 14, 2008


Yesterday, in response to one of my blog posts, reader Robert commented, “The fact is that the word ‘population’ is a taboo in our society and I fear it will never be addressed by our politicians.”  I share Robert’s concerns.  But all we can do is keep plugging away at the issue.  I thought it might help to realize that the issue is certainly getting concern in other nations, even in places where it would seem most unlikely.  For  example, every day I get Google blog alerts for the keyword “overpopulation.”  And almost daily I see blog postings from the Philippines, a heavily Catholic, grossly overpopulated and desperately poor nation.  Yet, in spite of their Catholic orientation, there is a fierce debate raging there, between traditional Catholics and those more progressive, about whether and how to stem their rapidly growing problem of overpopulation.  This linked article is just a sample. 

As this debate spreads across the world, can the United States not help but take notice?  Wouldn’t an intelligent leader look at these situations and ask him/herself, “My God, do we really want the U.S. to sink to this level before we take action ourselves?”  Sure, it’s a controverial topic, one that makes social security reform look like child’s play, but it’s one that demands to be addressed even more urgently.  If it can happen in the Philippines, it can certainly happen here.

Catholic Church’s Position on Birth Control

May 14, 2008


The above link will take you to an article that really has nothing to do with this subject, but it got me to thinking:  If the Catholic Church can be so progressive in its thinking on a subject like the existence of extraterrestrials, why can’t it apply the same logic to a subject much closer to home – the subject of overpopulation and birth control?  As you may or may not know, the Catholic Church is opposed to all forms of birth control with the exception of the “rhythm” method.  Why?  They believe that birth control thwarts the will of God if it is His will that the couple conceive a child.  They allow use of the rhythm method (timing intercourse to occur when the female is at a point in her cycle when she is much less likely to conceive) because it is very unreliable and leaves open the possibility of conception.

The Catholic Church has the potential to have tremendous impact on the subjects of overpopulation and population management.  True, many Catholics simply ignore the Church’s position on birth control, but there are still many who adhere.  It is out of fear of reaction by religious voters that our nation’s leaders avoid this subject like the plague.  Imagine the possibilities if the Church were to change its position.

In the linked article, the Reverend Joseph Gabriel Funes, head of the Vatican Observatory and a science advisor to the pope, says of the possibility of extraterrestrials:

“Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom,” …

Father Funes goes on to discuss his belief in the “big bang” theory of the origin of the universe, which obviously means that he believes in evolution as well – evolution guided by the creator, but evolution nonetheless.  This is a far more progressive stance than many other fundamentalist Christian sects.  Why can’t the Catholic Church apply the same logic to the subjects of birth control and overpopulation?  Father Funes observes that “we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.”  Applying the same logic, how can we pretend to know what is God’s will, beyond what has been laid out for us in the Bible?  Nowhere in the Bible are these subjects addressed.  Who is to say that it’s not God’s will that we use our intellect and technology to manage our procreative capacity?  If we allow that it may be God’s will for someone to bear a child, is it not also possible that His will may be that they not bear another child?  He endowed us with a high reproductive capacity in order to assure the survival of our species in the beginning when our death rate was high.  Now that, through God’s gifts, our intellect and technology have enabled us to dramatically reduce that rate, wouldn’t He expect us to use our intellect (and our common sense) to manage our reproductive capacity? 

Recently, the Vatican issued a list of new sins.  One of them was the sin of causing harm to the environment.  It was long overdue – an admission that man has the capability of causing irreparable harm to the home God has created for us.  Can’t they extend this logic one step further and acknowledge that our sheer numbers present a threat to the environment?  Does it not then become a sin to ignore that threat?  Does it not become sinful for a government to shirk its responsibilities to manage its population?  Is it not sinful for the Vatican to be a roadblock to progress on this issue? 

Every municipality in the country recognizes the need to manage pet populations and has established animal control agencies.  Every state in the union recognizes the need to manage wildlife populations and has established departments of natural resources for that purpose.  How can the Vatican and the federal government not recognize the need to manage our own population?

It’s just astounding that the Church can be so progressive in some ways, as displayed in this linked article, and yet so rigid and dumb when it comes to this one issue. 


Another Perfect Example of Conserving Space

March 30, 2008


Check out this article about housing in Sedona, California.  They are actually considering allowing families to live in rented “Accessory Dwelling Units” – essentially sheds with plumbing – erected on the property of existing single family homes!  Imagine what that will do to the average per capita consumption of products in Sedona! 

The per capita consumption-destroying space conservation warned of in Five Short Blasts is well underway in America.  What will it take?  When will we ever consider the one common solution to this housing problem, our energy dependence problem, our carbon emissions problem and so many other problems?  We need a population management policy in America to stabilize and eventually reduce our population.