Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And Baby Makes Seven Billion

William McGurn has flagged a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) news item, "The State of World Population 2011."  His comment: "Nothing brings out the inner Malthus like a newborn baby."
At Columbia University's Earth Institute, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs tells CNN "the consequences for humanity could be grim." Earlier this year, a New York Times columnist declared "the earth is full," suggesting that a growing population means "we are eating into our future." And in West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette editorializes about a "human swarm" that is "overbreeding" in a way that "prosperous, well-educated families" from the developed world do not.
Advance praise for Sach's 2008 book, "Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet," was provided by no less a personage than Nobel Laureate Al Gore:
"Common Wealth explains the most basic economic reckoning that the world faces.  We can address poverty, climate change, and environmental destruction at a very modest cost today with huge benefits for shared and sustainable prosperity and peace in the future, or we can duck the issue today and risk a potentially costly reckoning in later years.  Despite the rearguard opposition of some vested interests, policies to help the world's poor and the global environment are in fact the very best economics bargains on the planet.

Noman could read these alarums all day.  He loves their invariant structure.

(1) things are definitely going to be perilous (2) for all of us (3) because of the hairy unwashed (4) if we don't fix it right away (5) by doing what I say (and am heavily invested in), (6) and crushing the obscurantists (7) who are just selfish people (8) that don't deserve a fair hearing (or funding for their research);
(9) Conversely, things will be utopian (10) especially for the poor (11) and the sacred environment (12) if government forces people to be free, (13) according to my lights (14) which all affected can scarcely mind, (15) given my infallibility, (16) especially when everyone sees the eventual benefits (you'll thank me later) (17) and which is in everyone's best interests regardless.

Neither does the bottom line vary; it's been the same since the 19th century.  The enlightened must shackle the economy and procreation.  They must break the family's and church's hold on people.

Then heaven on earth and perpetual peace will ensue.  You can take it on their authority.  The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, if and only if government disregards the traditionally vested interests.
Many policy experts believe that governments and NGOs have the tools to limit and control the world's population. The key effort, many say, is simply making sure that effective family planning spreads throughout the developing world. "What's really critical is the political commitment of governments. Family planning is not actually that expensive," said John Bongaarts, vice-president of the New York-based Population Council. 
However, campaigners on family planning issues often come across cultural and religious factors that make educating women and reducing the size of families difficult.  Some governments make a point of trying to increase their populations, while many religious groups preach against the use of contraceptives. 
The Population Research Institute, a Virginia-based group linked to anti-abortion organisations in America, last week welcomed the news that the world's population was set to hit 7 billion this month. "Humanity's long-term problem is not going to be too many children, but too few," said the institute's president, Steven Mosher.
McGurn cuts deftly through the faulty anthropology underlying the UN's vision of the person.
The truth is that the main flaw in Malthus is precisely his premise. Malthusian fears about population follow from the Malthusian view that human beings are primarily mouths to be fed rather than minds to be unlocked. In this reasoning, when a pig is born in China, the national wealth is thought to go up, but when a Chinese baby is born the national wealth goes down. 
Behind this divide between those who worry about limits put on human exchange and those who worry about limits to growth are two very different views of the human person. The former believe that so long as people are free to trade and use their talents, the more the merrier. The latter treat people as a great mass of more or less interchangeable cogs, hence the worries about "sustainability" and "carrying capacity" and the like...
In short, it all comes down to your conception of the human person. Another way of putting it is this: Instead of looking for ways to reduce the number of people at the banquet of life, we would do better to look for ways to lay a better and more bounteous table.
Note how Malthusian Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi identifies people as a cost best obviated in order to help states avert fiscal crisis:

McGurn points to a necessary but oft-missed relation: free market economics are wed to population growth and procreative freedom (and vice-versa).  They stress the creative, innovative aspects of the person, whom Julian Simon designated the ultimate resource.

For those who view people as being resourceful, capable and contributory, there is no need to place limits on their number or productive activity.  They'll figure out what is needed in order to sustain life and procreation.

Significantly, the transmission of life normally results from love--real, self-gifving, donative love--something there can never be too much of in the world.  Children, incidentally, evoke the response of sacrificial, donative love better than anyone or -thing.

Statist economics are inevitably linked to population control and coercive measures to limit procreation (and vice-versa).  They stress the dependent, needy aspects of the person, whom editorialists at the Charlotte Gazette referred to collectively as the human swarm.

For those who view people as a resource drain, there is always an urgent need in a world of scarcity to place limits on, and control, nearly every aspect of human life, especially procreation and the free election of productive activity.

The exception to this command-and-control rule, for the time being, is any activity that leads to dependence.  Statists champion these as the absolute rights of autonomous individuals.

With sufficient exercise of such rights, especially but not exclusively in adolescence--e.g., to sexual activity, sexual identity, pornography, divorce, abortion, drug use, media of choice--people become docile, dependent and controllable.

Once self-control and character break down, once the person severs connections from others who nurture and sustain him, he will turn to the State in need.  Like any addict, he will do anything for a fix.

Apparently, the only thing capable of riling him up is the threat that those paying for it might stop.

McGurn is right as far as he goes.  Noman concurs and would simply like to add the following.  

Ultimately, both conceptions address an aspect of truth.  Not every person is a burden, not by a long shot.  Neither is every person productive, talented or resourceful.

Periodic outbursts of industrial genius keep the world advancing materially, and enable laggards and leaders alike to live in greater dignity by participating in greater bounty.

The resource-driven debates of our time concern the preferable political economy to accommodate the full range of personal capacities found in the populace, from competence to incompetence.

Noman and McGurn believe that the liberal, free-market system is preferable for reasons including that it encourages material self-sufficiency--it obliges personal effort and growth--thereby making that outcome more likely throughout society via character formation.

That is not to maintain that anybody is a self-sufficient being, an autonomous individual, which would be an anthropological error, an ontological misidentification of the fact.

It is merely to say that people will more likely develop and expend creativity, ingenuity and energy to sustain themselves and their loved ones if they are educated to consider self sufficiency an indispensable condition of responsibility, maturity, human dignity and the common good.

It is also meant to underscore the fact that people are capable of achieving, and quite often do achieve, more than they think they can, but only if they are encouraged to strive.

Conversely, Noman considers the Statist, public-sector-driven system anathema for reasons including that it encourages material dependence, thereby making that outcome more likely via character deformation.

In either case, the pedagogical function of the respective control system tends to create the reality that it views the human person to be.  The system, like any and every control system, is formative.

Ironically, those who protest for free markets, character formation, self-donation and procreation are considered mean and heartless.  Statists who encourage dependence are considered compassionate. 

Noman believes that is due to freedom advocates' incomplete articulation of principles, explanation of reasons and perhaps consideration of responsibilities to others on the one hand.  It is due to Statists' success in shaping the terms of the debate on the other.

It is undeniable that some people will fall through the cracks, whether freedom or tyranny reigns.  It is incumbent upon all of us to help them recover, and ameliorate suffering wherever possible.

It is not sufficient to champion liberal, free-market political economy and wash one's hands of responsibility to others who use freedom poorly.

The question is under what auspice is it incumbent that we help, ameliorate suffering, and exercise responsibility for others?

Here another dimension comes into play: civil society and its pluralistic moral order.

Liberal, free-market political economy depends upon the moral and cultural resources generated by robust intermediate associations, e.g., family, Church, schools, various groups of choice.  Pope John Paul II designated this aspect of social order the "subjectivity of society."

People who fall through the cracks, who cannot compete, who are not especially productive due to limitations need to be picked up, but not necessarily by the State.  Rather, they need the support of family, Church, community association, etc.

In the first place, those groups have a closer connection to the person.  In the second, the person is more bound to those groups.  He is not anonymous; neither are they.  Each is more accountable to the other.

Statist, public-sector-driven political economy considers the State responsible for the individual.  Accordingly, Statists feel entitled to control the minutest aspects of his life-- down to what light bulbs he may use, and what insurance he must carry--as well as the weightiest, such as whether or not he may procreate or open a business.

This model considers highly subjective society a threat.  As the State expands and assumes responsibility for ever larger swaths of human need, the subjectivity of society recedes.

Conservative silence on the matter, and discomfort articulating a vision of highly subjective civil society, leaves a population trained to depend on government largesse subject to demagoguery on the issue.

Thus, President Obama warned attendees at a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser yesterday that if Democrats lose the 2012 election, government will tell the American people, "You are on your own."

State assistance and isolated ruin are hardly the only two alternatives.  The suddenness with which this has become the mentally defined set of outcomes in crisis America, however, and the ease with which the President exploits it, is breathtaking.

Family, church and traditional groups have been redefined and relegated to the margins as the State has assumed control over matters formerly pertaining to their domains.

This has exposed economic activity to the ever encroaching impositions of a nanny state in need of resources, and consequently in predator mode.

The free market strain of conservatism will have to embrace the traditional sources of cultural-moral strength in order to survive.

The family-procreative-religious strain of conservatism will need to embrace free-market, low-tax, light-regulation economics in order to create conditions in which it can flourish.

The choice, simply put, is one between a culture of life and a culture of death.

In sum: (1) the Statist model is unsustainable, as eventually the dependent will overwhelm the capacity of the productive to provide; and (2) the social issues relating to individual rights and the generation of life are inextricably linked to economic issues of government spending, taxation, deficits, regulation and the like.

The UNFPA has done us a service by revealing its premises, encouraging fellow travelers to reveal their hands, and highlighting the various relations and connections on both sides of the debate.

Noman would like to thank them by encouraging readers to procreate often for the good of the economy, mankind, and especially of the human heart.

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