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Western progressives have fretted since the late ’60s about the population explosion. Paul Ehrlich (the most famous population scaremonger) and John Holdren (Obama’s science czar) wrote articles proposing dosing the water with sterilization drugs to prevent mass starvation. In 1970 Ehrlich predicted that 65 million Americans would starve to death during the 1980s.
China did something about this in the late 1970s. Their One-child Policy severely punished violators, and prevented births by forced abortions and sterilizations. It was monstrous, but it fit the prescriptions of western progressives.
China’s problem was not population, but socialism. Every person is born with one mouth to feed, but also with two hands to feed it. When socialism binds those hands in order to, as Churchill said, “spread misery,” starvation often results. It is ironic that the disastrous policy was implemented under Deng Xiaoping, the man who said, “socialism does not mean shared poverty.” Deng saw the benefits of freedom in making market decisions, but not when making decisions in areas not usually classified as markets–such as child-bearing.
Over the next decades, couples aborted, killed, or abandoned girl babies so that their one child could be a son who could support them in their old age. The sex ratio tilted too far male. Twenty-five years later, young men could not find marriage partners and, like young men everywhere who do not have a wife and family to domesticate them, they became sources of civil unrest, with riots becoming common in the countryside. And the birth rate fell further.
Though the one-child policy was loosened in the past few years, the legacy will remain with China for decades to come, with an aging population supported by too-few young productive families. The linked article says that after the restrictions were lifted the birth rate did not increase as hoped. Perhaps socialism affected the culture in ways that cannot be undone quickly–or at all.
We can never count all the wonderful things that come from freedom or the bad things that come from restrictions on freedom (regulation). Those of us who have an ideology of freedom could have predicted that the One-child Policy would result in misery beyond its monstrous enforcement.
Not Paul Ehrlich, who is still a true believer. And not many progressives, like one of my good friends, a highly intelligent, creative, retired web designer. When I told her that I had arithmetically verified Sowell’s claim that all the world’s population could fit in subdivision-sized lots in Texas, she said, “Yes, but much of our land is not good for farming” and predicted future starvation.Published in