SA showing effects of overpopulation

Labour Q&A with Terry Bell

Fin24 user Glyn Morgan says there is one subject that is NEVER broached and that is overpopulation.

She writes:
The Chinese had their “One Child Policy” from the 60’s till it was amended recently. It was a very heavy-handed policy that was started just after the “Great Leap Forward” which caused the deaths by starvation of around 30 million Chinese. What would China be like if they had not had that policy? What would the Chinese population be now? What would be the state of their economy?
I believe that South Africa is showing the effects of overpopulation now. There should be checks on “un-earned income” for the super rich (The rich giving themselves huge bonuses while the economy is going down. Government politicians acting like they actually earned their fat incomes.) as well as efforts to raise the level of the poor. If the poor had only as many children as they could afford it would help immensely in reducing poverty.
What would be the effect of the government offering incentives to people to have fewer children? I am not saying we should have a “One Child Policy” but we should have as many children as we can afford. Maybe offer a once-off cash incentive for people to have “the snip” after full consultations?

This is NOT a race thing but an economics thing. There will be objections by people saying that if or when we can up-lift the poor they will naturally have fewer children so there is no need for a family planning policy.

Which comes first, prosperity or smaller families? I say both must be seriously worked on at the same time. One will aid the other.
What are your views on this contentious issue? Right now it is being swept under the carpet.
Just for interest sake, I have been to China numerous times and have spoken about Mao’s population policy. Mostly they seem to be positive about it but acknowledge that it was heavy-handed. They welcome the changes.
Terry Bell responds:

Hi Glyn

Thanks for your comment, but I beg to differ. This is a topic that arises from time to time and has done ever since the economic philosopher Thomas Robert Malthus first wrote in 1798: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man." Several people have raised it with me over the past week, but none used your very interesting example of China's population policies.

Of course, more than a century after Malthus, Mohandas - Mahatma - Gandhi noted:  "The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed."

Those two quotes, for me, sum up the opposing poles of the population argument.  I think the facts favour Gandhi.

It is certainly true that there is a population explosion on a global basis. But this is occurring in poor, less developed - and so-called developing - regions of the world.  

In established, relatively wealthy and therefore better educated regions, there are declining populations, with the rate of births not keeping up with the rate of deaths.  

Contrary to the theories of the Reverend Malthus, population does not "invariably increase when the means of subsistence increases". In fact, where the means of subsidence increases and is more fairly shared, the population growth slows down, sometimes quite dramatically.

In any event, we still now face a surplus of both production and capacity, even of food. But this is rapidly being eroded as a result of the waste, pollution and pillage demanded of the existing and brutally competitive economic system.

Policies such as China's one child, Sweden's earlier involuntary sterilisation and the "transistor radio for the 'snip'" offered on railway stations in India give too much authority to elite minorities.

Let the debate continue.

*Have a question for Terry? Drop us a line.
- Fin24

* Terry Bell is an independent political, economic and labour analyst. Views expressed are his own. Follow him on twitter @telbelsa.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on Fin24 have been independently written by members of the Fin24 community. The views of users published on Fin24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent those of Fin24.

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