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This is not a coffee moment: Canadian columnist advocates worldwide one-child policy – fast back to the Stone Age


A friend writes, shocked, that a premier columnist, Diane Francis, at Canada’s National Post, recently wrote a column advocating a worldwide mandatory one child policy. She got plenty of attention. I replied,

In fairness, that is only columnist Diane Francis’s opinion. I have not heard that it was endorsed by the paper’s editorial board and doubt that it will be.

Hers would, of course, be a disastrous policy because there would not be nearly enough people to fulfill all the roles in society that make for modern progress, comfort, and longevity.

Population bombers have always failed to grasp this fact: If there were only 2 million people in the world, the pace of innovation would be very slow.

So population bomb-ism will, among other things, slow the pace of innovation.

Is that not a key reason that the pace of innovation in the Stone Age was in fact so slow?

The problem I see is this:

With a low population, you don’t have enough people to draw from a large pool of highly specific attributes.

Lots of guys can wield a club, but who can invent trigonometry? Only a few guys could do that, and your chances of drawing one from the pool are higher if the pool is bigger – because the bell curve of achievement has a bigger right hand tail, as well as a bigger left hand tail (but that matters less, because an advanced society can afford to support minimal achievers).

So Stone Age people went from one millennium to the next with few advances.

By contrast today, there must be tens of thousands of nerds in India alone. Advances are so swift, I can’t figure out what the kids are doing with those new devices they stare at or yak into on the transit.

Also, a slow pace of advancement feeds on itself.

If nothing has changed since Grandma’s day, Grandma can be the authority even if she doesn’t know very much beyond the subsistence survival skills she passes on – but does not add to.

So lore becomes doctrine, and the response to potential advances is, “Our people do not do things that way.”

No. But maybe they should. Still, it would be impossible to discuss. People caught in this bind feel they are desecrating Grandma’s grave when they move ahead.

No wonder an executive, frustrated with a similar problem in a moribund corporate culture, once shouted: “If it’s not broken, BREAK it!!”

Out of consideration for my friend, I didn’t mention other obvious points, like forced sterilizations, forced abortions, or predominance of boys due to selectively aborting girls. The latter situation leads to trafficking in women, prostitution, and forced marriage.

Also, later on, an unsustainable proportion of the economy mustbe given over to senior care or, alternatively, euthanasia – official or otherwise – becomes mandatory

The interesting thing is that Francis fancies herself a free enterpriser. I guess that applies to money, but not to what matters most – life. Not a recipe for better house and planet, I would say.

@IrynaB Consider if you will the following quote, which originally dealt with feminism; I've adapted it for birth policy. - - - Feminism [or a 1 child policy] is a Darwinian blind alley. In biological terms, there is nothing that identifies a maladaptive pattern so quickly as a below-replacement level of reproduction; an immediate consequence of feminism [or a 1 child policy] is what appears to be an irreversible decline in the birth rate. Nations pursue feminist policies [or 1 child policies] at their peril. - Katarina Runske, via Twilight of the Godless - - - Perhaps "low birth rate" is too generic of a phrase to describe an ideal. If we go on to specifically consider a 1 child policy, which will create a below replacement level of reproduction, surely you must see that such a policy is at odds with the objectives of evolution. (HT to Mung.) Thus to advocate for the objectives of evolution and a 1 child policy seems to be contradictory. (Unless you are a rival of the group you wish to have a 1 child birth policy.) ajones
First, evolution is not an ideal — it’s a process that happened and is still happening.
It's common courtesy to try to understand what someone means to say apart from the specific words they happened to employ. There's no issue, I hope, with seeing a low birth rate as an ideal. It does indeed seem to be so by certain folks. It's also not too much of a stretch to think of evolution as having an ideal condition, one in which the fittest survive and pass on those traits that led them to be more successful in the struggle for existence and reproduction than their less fortunate comrades. And ajones' question is simple. Don't these two "objectives" seem to be, if not in reality at least conceptually, to be in conflict? The proper answer is not to deny the facts, but to admit them, and then offer an explanation for the contradiction.
...even if it were true that high birth rates confer an evolutionary advantage (they don’t necessarily do), there is no reason why that should translate into a preference for high human birth rates.
High birth rates confer an evolutionary advantage in at least two senses: 1. By definition it is those who leave more offspring who are "the advantaged." So there is an inherent advantage to a high birth rate, but it can only be judged in actuality against the birth rate of others within the same population. 2. The higher the birth rate, the more competition there will be for the scarce resources required for survival. It is this struggle that ensures that the "most fit" survive and pass on their "more fit" genotypes. Therefore, high birth rates cannot but help the species and is therefore confers an evolutionary advatage.
You know, “is” and “ought” and all that.
Also known as the fact/value distinction, which is irrelevant in the current context, though you manage to mangle and misuse the idea fabulously. Certainly one cannot derive from the fact that it is the case that you made an inappropriate application of the fact-value problem, that you ought not have done so. But then again, perhaps I am mistaken. Mung
ajones, Welcome to this blog. To answer your question: First, evolution is not an ideal -- it's a process that happened and is still happening. Second, even if it were true that high birth rates confer an evolutionary advantage (they don't necessarily do), there is no reason why that should translate into a preference for high human birth rates. You know, "is" and "ought" and all that. IrynaB
(Perhaps this point has been made here before. This is my first comment on the blog.) It seems that many proponents of low birth rates probably take evolution for granted. Don't these appear to be conflicting ideals? ajones
Hi Denyse, I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that low population growth will eventually translate into a low rate of technological innovation. Anyway, here are a few more links on population that may be of interest to readers. Population Research Institute.Founded in 1989, the Population Research Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to objectively presenting the truth about population-related issues, and to reversing the trends brought about by the myth of overpopulation. Its growing, global network of pro-life groups spans over 30 countries. Demographic Winter. View the trailer here at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG2IZEzUmA0 . The implications of population growth and urbanization for climate change by David Satterthwaite at http://eau.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/21/2/545 . In Environment and Urbanization 2009; 21; 545. DOI: 10.1177/0956247809344361. On behalf of the International Institute for Environment and Development. Think that population growth in Africa is exacerbating global warming? WRONG. Think again. The Population Myth by George Monbiot. People who claim that population growth is the big environmental issue are shifting the blame from the rich to the poor. Debunks the myth that total impact equals population times affluence times technology (I=PAT). Total impact should be measured as I=CAT: consumers times affluence times technology. Many of the world's people use so little that they wouldn't figure in this equation. They are the ones who have most children. Consumption Dwarfs Overpopulation As Main Environmental Threat by Fred Pearce. Article in Yale e360, 13 April 2009. Pro-Animal, Pro-Life by Dr. Mary Eberstadt. Article in First Things, June-July 2009. No, we don't need five planets by Bjorn Lomborg. In The Australian, April 15, 2009. Refutes the myth that for everyone in the world to live an American lifestyle would require five planets. Prescription for the Planet by Tom Rees. The official Web site. Rees provides a workable solution to humanity's energy's problems - and at very little cost. Well worth reading. Also provides a practical way to combat man-made global warming, if it's real and significant: integral fast reactors. BraveNewClimate.com by Professor Barry Brook. One of the few intellectually honest Web sites by a proponent of global warming, with a workable solution to the problem. Global Warming Skepticism 101 by climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer. Can Global Warming Predictions be Tested with Observations of the Real Climate System? by climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer. Argues that climate models are too fragile and sensitive for us to base multi-trillion-dollar decisions on them. The Precautionary Principle Run Amock by Harold Ambler. Argues that the precautionary principle, it is wrongly applied to global warming. As Bjorn Lomborg correctly points out, every dollar spent researching and "fighting" climate change is one less dollar that can be spent on something else, like fiughting starvation. Ocean Absorption Of CO2 Not Shrinking by Douglas Hoffman. A new study re-examines the available atmospheric CO2 and emissions data and concludes that the portion of CO2 absorbed by the oceans has remained constant since 1850. Extinction, Climate Change & Modeling Mayhem by Douglas Hoffman. Climate and environmental scientists have become dependent on computer models in recent decades. The scientific literature and the popular press are filled with strident warnings of impending natural disasters, all predicated on the output of computer programs. The IPCC has solemnly predicted that climate change will drive thousands of species to extinction if anthropogenic global warming is not reined in. The coprophagous press has uncritically swallowed these computer generated droppings, reporting conjecture as fact and possibilities and certainties. Even though the climate change faithful continue to blindly believe the IPCC predictions, at least some researchers are aware of the glaring flaws in their computer models. Dreaming the Simonian Dream by Bryan Caplan. Bryan Caplan is an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. He believes that the Earth can probably support more than a trillion people. I think he's right. Space exploration - Basics by Dr. Ruth Globus of NASA. The human population in orbit could one day exceed ten trillion, living in millions of space colonies with a combined living space hundreds of times the surface of the Earth. No, the idea isn't science fiction. It's technically feasible. vjtorley
Diane Francis, at Canada’s National Post, recently wrote a column advocating a worldwide mandatory one child policy.
Can we make it retroactive? Mung

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