Bryan Caplan  

Good Question

Don't Call Me a Philistine... Fiscal Desperation in Mass. an...

From Fatal Misconceptions:

And why did organizations that proclaimed family planning as a human right fail to oppose increasingly coercive policies in India and China? Why, instead, did they provide friendly advice and support, and defend them to all the world?

Actually, I think that Connelly's fine book goes a little easy on population control. He's only got one reference to Mein Kampf, even though Malthusianism was at the root of Hitler's machinations. As I wrote a while back:

Linking views you don't like with Hitler is of course the ultimate political cheap shot. But as an economist, I don't mind buying cheap, especially if the quality is good. When someone says "There are too many Jews," we suspect that he wants to kill Jews. Similarly, it turns out that at the root of Hitler's propensity to kill people was his belief that there are too many people.

And if you're tempted to say that Hitler proposed a barbaric solution for a real problem, take a look at how Germany actually did feed its population since 1945: increasing agricultural productivity and increasing exports. The two methods that Hitler dismissed out of hand transformed Germany into one of the richest nations in history.

Comments and Sharing

TRACKBACKS (1 to date)
TrackBack URL:
The author at Jim's Blog in a related article titled Genocide and environmentalism writes:
    Religions that command human sacrifice are good at providing power to their priesthood. ... [Tracked on May 10, 2008 7:33 PM]
COMMENTS (5 to date)
Floccina writes:

Wow logical and thought provoking.

Fazal Majid writes:

The rhetorical trick is not just cheap, it's utterly fallacious. Hitler thought there were too few "Aryans" and too many "Untermenschen" of all sorts, which is why he set up the Lebensborne breeding farms for SS to mate with blond girls, while simultaneously exterminating Jews, Slavs, Roma and other people who did not fit in his world order, and why he wanted to depopulate Eastern Europe and Russia to create a Lebensraum for Germans.

The Chinese, on the other hand, did not apply the one child policy to non-Chinese or non-Han, in fact ethnic minorities in China like Tibetans or Uighurs were not saddled with the policy, so it's one of the rare instances where the dominant majority group practices self-restraint in a way that favors minorities.

Considering there were famines in China in the last century where tens of millions died of starvation in a single year, that the lag between the moment a child is born and the time where a population burst causes overpopulation and famine, the Chinese can make a perfectly valid argument that coercive child planning policies (that were mostly applied to urban populations) preserve more important human rights (the right to live) over lower priority ones (the right to have as many children as you want). They can claim empirical vindication by comparing themselves to India, where birth control was more haphazardly imposed if at all (although more brutally while Sanjay Gandhi held sway, so much for the benefits of Indian democracy).

Your use of incendiary comparisons only destroys your credibility. Sadly, it's people like you who discredit the argument for improving human rights and democracy in China in the eyes of the Chinese people. They aren't stupid or blinded by ideology, have long memories, remember the famines of the sixties, and don't want to go back to those dark periods.

James A. Donald writes:

Fazal Majid wrote

he rhetorical trick is not just cheap, it's utterly fallacious. Hitler thought there were too few "Aryans" and too many "Untermenschen" of all sorts.

In his book, Hitler argued that there were too many Germans to fit in Germany, that Germans urgently needed Lebensraum.

Similarly, today's greenies were pretty pleased when their ban on cheap, deadly persistent insecticides brought the return of malaria, and are now similarly pleased at the famine they have caused as we write.

Beth writes:

Having worked for organisations like Planned Parenthood in Canada and Brook in London (sexual health advice for under 25's), I'm pretty sure that none of these organisations support cohercise programmes that force people to submit to contraception or abortion. In fact, I think there was an outcry by sexual health organisations in the US over cohersive policies of the US government in certain states of forcing welfare moms to get implants.

Sexual health and reproductive rights MUST be a free choice.

The policy in China has been shown to have widespread ramifications - including a dangerously low ratio of girls to boys being born and, an increase in the kidnapping of young boy children. In fact, I think the Chinese Governement have recently indicated that they are re-thinking this policy although I'm not sure how far along this is.

Harry David writes:

From the previous post on Hitler's Mein Kampf:

"But we have to face the fact that the general standard of living is rising more quickly than even the birth rate. The requirements of food and clothing are becoming greater from year to year and are out of proportion to those of our ancestors of, let us say, a hundred years ago."

What does he mean in the first sentence? If the standard of living were increasing faster than the birth rate, wouldn't that make life easier, not harder?

And when he says that our "requirements" are "out of proportion to those of our ancestors," he seems to be adding a twist to the Malthusian argument: that not only is population growth incapable of being permanently outpaced by productivity, but human wants being never completely satisfied--and humans being somehow "required" to continually increase the satisfaction of their wants, regardless of how sustainable over time such behavior is--leads humans to consume at a faster rate of increase than whatever amount the productivity growth outpaces the population growth in any given time period, thus leading them to consume their capital and soon enough have to actually reduce their standard of living even where population growth and productivity growth are equal.

Or does he mean something different by standard of living than I'm thinking of? Or are the two sentences related in a different way than I'm thinking? (Or am I totally confused or incoherent?)

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top