Last Friday, July 11th, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) “celebrated” World Population Day — not that the UNFPA finds anything to celebrate about populating the world, you understand. To them it was World (Over) Population Day with the usual spate of articles bemoaning the fact that there are too many people in the world.
This year the UNFPA argued that population growth can and should be restrained by “empowering women.” By this fine phrase they mean that women should be taken out of the home — and the business of bearing and raising children — and put to work producing goods and services for strangers. The UNFPA claims that only the wholesale employment of women will save us from being overrun by people.
Now I have to admit that this is a clever argument. To oppose it puts one in the position of seeming to oppose women joining the workforce and having a career outside the home. But that is not my position at all. Rather, I would defend the right of women to exercise their special gift — one not given to men — not only to bring new life into the world, but to nurture it on a full-time basis, especially through the vital years of infancy and early childhood. This is, after all, what most women want during this special chapter of their lives, even if they pursue careers before and after this time.
The population controllers have always feared that if women were to be allowed to act on their pro-natal impulses, the world would become overpopulated. But it is not overpopulated at present, nor is it likely to become so.
Let me give you an illustration I use in my book, Population Control. You could, as it turns out, put the entire population of the world in single-family homes in the state of Texas. Now, let me make clear that I’m not suggesting everyone move to Texas. I like Texas the way is. Rather, this is just a way of saying that the world is still a pretty empty place — and about to become emptier.
When I make this point in my talks, there are invariably people in the audience who ask about “the population bomb.” They have been propagandized into believing that the population of the world will just keep on doubling until there is no room for any of us.
Most people don’t know that the population of the world will never double again. Rather, according to the best estimates that we now have, it will peak in 2040 or so at around 8 billion, and then begin to decline. In other words, we are not facing a cataclysmic population explosion, but rather a population implosion, as entire peoples age and die. This thinning of the ranks is already well underway in dying Europe. This is why The New York Times has called overpopulation “one of the myths of the Twentieth Century.”
The UNFPA’s current call for empowering women seems fairly innocuous, but the UN agency has also been a principal cheerleader of China’s one-child policy. In China, women are arrested for the crime of being pregnant, locked up for weeks on end, and in the end aborted and sterilized against their will. The suffering that this policy has caused Chinese families and, especially, women, is almost beyond belief. Yet it is not just China. Many other countries have, with UN and U.S. encouragement and urging, adopted policies not that far removed from China’s.
In fact, it is the height of hypocrisy for the UNFPA to talk of empowering women, when its population control programs around the world invariably target and abuse young, vulnerable women. Take Indonesia, where a few years ago the military was used to herd young women at gunpoint into clinics for sterilizations. Or Mexico, where women in labor — experiencing the pangs of childbirth — are pressured by government doctors and nurses to accept sterilization. The only campaign focused on sterilizing men took place in India in the 1970s at a time when Indira Gandhi, a woman, was Prime Minister. And it ended eighteen months later when men by the hundreds of thousands rioted in the streets against it. Women are targeted because they don’t generally fight back.
The UNFPA also targets the poor, along with racial and religious minorities. Not everyone who advocates population control — or family planning, as it is often called these days — is racist, but look at the way these anti-people campaigns play out on the ground. The Chinese enforce their one-child policy on their “troublesome” Tibetan and Muslim minorities (despite claiming not to). Peru’s infamous sterilization campaign of the late 1990s focused on the Quechua-speaking Indians of the High Andes, not the good citizens of Lima and other major cities. And the Indian campaign mentioned above collapsed because the Untouchables and the Muslims realized that they, not the high caste Hindus who were orchestrating the campaign, had been targets for sterilization. The wealthy and educated UNFPA bureaucrats who direct these programs are apparently convinced that there are too many poor, too many minorities, or both, and set out to eliminate them.
The UNFPA also claims to be concerned about reducing maternal mortality. At the same time, however, their family planning programs undermine primary health care and lead to unnecessary illness and death. Population control programs always and everywhere divert scarce medical resources away from pressing public health concerns. Why this is, is not difficult to understand. The doctor who is doing tubal ligations cannot be prescribing antibiotics at the same time. Africa is the best example here. The neglect of primary health care in Africa has allowed malaria to come back with a vengeance, and is arguably responsible for allowing HIV/AIDS to reach epidemic proportions. The billions of dollars that have been poured into population control programs could have saved millions upon millions of lives, if it had been used to improve the general health of the population.
Neither is the UN Population Fund any friend of democracy. It has supported violently abusive anti-natal campaigns against women in numerous dictatorships, communist and otherwise. Think here of China under the Chinese Communist Party, the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, and North Korea under Kim Jong-Il. But the UNFPA also corrupts democracies by encouraging governments to violate the natural right of couples to decide for themselves the number of children that they wish to bear and raise. Such programs represent a retreat from the ideal of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Rather, population control programs are imposed by the government on the people, and thus undermine democracy.
In recent years, the UN Population Fund has also begun claiming that population control programs help to protect the environment by reducing what it calls “population pressure.” But it is not population, but poverty, that causes pollution. What I mean is that it is the very poor who cut down the last tree for fuel, who cultivate every square inch of land for food, and who pollute the streams they need for drinking water with human waste. It is when communities become wealthy that they are able to set aside funds to clean up their surroundings, to build waste water treatment plants, to create parks, and to plant forests. The right way to tackle environmental problems is to build wealth, and to build wealth you need people — along with such things as a free market and the rule of law. People are the ultimate resource.
The final myth propagated by the UN Population Fund is that its population control programs help poor countries to develop. This flies in the face of common sense. How could reducing the number of babies born create wealth, as the anti-people types claim? In the U.S., every baby born will contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars more to the U.S. economy than he will consume. Even in China, every baby born is a net asset.
Population growth is a multiplier of wealth. After all, the ultimate source of improvements in human productivity is the human mind, and the more minds you have at work, the more improvements you can expect.
Let the the UN Population Fund moan and groan over human birth. We rejoice over the fact that there are over six billion people alive in the world today.
(This article was adapted from the original.)