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November 06, 2003

What the government touches....

The New York Times reports that India is taking a more aggressive tack in population control. Much of it involves demanding elites (members of legislatures and village councils) to limit their procreation. I don't think that's the right way to go personally-and as the article points out, some states have had success limiting population growth, but more through economic development and social awareness than by government fiat. Finally, note the wide variance in population growth in the different states of India. One good thing about the current policies are that they are locally directed rather than a federal project.

China's one child policy has been a success-but China is an authoritarian state. Nations where freedom is a central principle of organization can not it seems enforce something as draconian as the one child policy-even in a diluted fashion, without undermining their values and debasing the legitimacy of the political system.

Posted by razib at 09:57 PM




"Nations where freedom is a central principle of organization can not it seems enforce something as draconian as the one child policy-even in a diluted fashion, without undermining their values and debasing the legitimacy of the political system."

And, nations where freedom is a central principle of organization don't need to enforce something as draconian as a one child policy, or even an n child policy, because the free people in such nations will come up with ways to feed and accomodate the population, even if it grows far beyond what environmentalists claim is "sustainable".

Posted by: Ken at November 7, 2003 07:25 AM


The states in India with the fewest children per family are also those states which have higher levels of female literacy. This is even without western-style sex education. Alas, once again, India's Hindi heartland lags far behind other regions in female literacy.

Posted by: KXB at November 7, 2003 01:35 PM


a few more consequences of family restriction via gov. fiat:

1) cheaters at the elite level
2) corruption caused by bribes to "enforcers"

and of course, 3) increased sex ratio imbalance....

Posted by: razib at November 7, 2003 06:34 PM


Also, economic progress reduces fertility rates dramatically, so that most of the first world is below replacement levels.

The sex ratio problem can potentially lead to a lot of violence. The idea that a significant proportion of young males will never have a mate creates natural aggression, which may be useful to a state like China if it can control it, but in general seems like a really bad idea.

Even when there is no enforced population control, the sex ratios are starting to swing in those cultures which place much greater value on males than females, such as India. One wonders how the Muslim countries do in that regard... or do they prohibit abortion?

Posted by: John Moore (Useful Fools) at November 7, 2003 09:06 PM


I wish these articles would also point out that delayed childbearing, or increased spacing between births, can achieve the same population-slowing results as limiting the total number of children.

Simplified numerical example: if every woman has female twins at age 20, after a hundred years each woman will have produced 64 descendants. With the same rules, if the age of delivery is 25, she will have produced 30 descendants. If the age is 30, by 100 years there will be only 14 descendants.

This is one part of what happens in developed countries: we don't just have fewer babies, we have them later in life (probably because the opportunity cost is so high). If less developed countries feel they have to be coercive, I wish they'd consider the effect of timing, not just total children.

Posted by: Claudia at November 8, 2003 09:54 AM