June 14, 2011


The Return of the Population Bomb: When the experts tell you there are too many people, they don't mean too many Swedes. (WILLIAM MCGURN, 6/13/11, WSJ)

From these pet orthodoxies two clear implications flowed.

First, when the experts tell you there are too many people, they don't mean too many Swedes. They mean too many poor people, mostly brown or black or yellow. In Hong Kong, I stumbled across a 1959 book written by an American entitled "Too Many Asians." Today the focus has shifted from Asia—but the theme remains. Early last month, the New York Times ran a page-one story citing United Nations warnings about the growing population of Africa.

Second, if the experts continue to tell countries they need to control their population or else, Mr. McNamara is absolutely right: That "or else" is going to mean coercion.

We saw that throughout the 1970s as well.

In India, the government of Indira Gandhi launched a massive and brutal sterilization campaign. In China, women's monthly periods were charted on blackboards at their places of work—and even today women are sometimes hunted down and forced to abort if they become pregnant without permission. Meanwhile, in the early 1980s, black women in Namibia complained about being forcibly injected with contraceptives after having their first babies. From Peru to the Philippines, the poor and vulnerable were subject to similar outrages.

The one difference between the 1970s and today is this: Back then, the worry was that poor nations would never advance. Today we know they can and are developing.

That's precisely the fear: that as people are eating better and living longer and making their way up the ladder, they will want more of the things that we take for granted—cars, air conditioners, refrigerators and so on. Indeed, the really big dreamers might even hope one day to have for their families the kind of carbon-footprint-maximizing manse that Mr. Friedman has for his family in Maryland.

Ironically, by almost any human measure—food consumption, life expectancy, access to clean water, etc.—life is getting better, not worse. So why the recurring predictions of catastrophe?

Because the growth sectors of both the foreign and domestic populations are mostly colored.

Posted by at June 14, 2011 5:59 AM

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