Thursday, September 18, 2014

Progressives and Population

There is only one legitimate reason not to discuss how too-rapid population growth creates poverty, but unfortunately it’s a good one.  A person living in a third-world country is not responsible for the policies that created that misery, but the past cannot be undone, and right now the only hope for that person is to grab resources from a first-world country.  But for the people living in a first-world country this would inevitably drag them down to a third-world level.  Policies maximizing population growth inevitably pit people against each other in ways that cannot be solved by cooperation (at least not in the short term).  The way to avoid this trap is to speak out before the situation reaches this level, but when it is too late for that then acknowledging the effects of rapid population growth will result in conflict and misery and hatred between different people.  When other people are a deadly threat simply by having been born this leaves little room for negotiation.   I offer no solution, but only point out that by avoiding unpleasantness today we hand the world’s destiny to the corrupt rich and condemn future generations to endless lifetimes of misery.

In Pakistan today the elites are pushing a debased Islam that treats women like slaves and children like cattle, and they are engineering an economy based on people having massive numbers of children that they sell into slavery – but we can’t talk about how this creates poverty because that’s not politically correct. No, let’s preach about ‘social justice’ without actually mentioning anything specific. In India the fertility rate has moderated in a few provinces and there are modest wage gains – and the corporate press editorializes about how essential it is to keep increasing the Indian population to maintain 'competitiveness' and prevent 'wage inflation' beyond a dollar an hour.  The Indian government has apparently classified much of its demographics data (suspicious, that), so I have no direct evidence, but I suspect that India is importing people from Bangladesh to cancel out regional falls in fertility rates in the native population.  Indian billionaires burble about how they now know that population control is a folly because ‘people are the ultimate resource’, they build skyscrapers as private residences, and there are currently 500 million people in India suffering from chronic malnutrition…   But if we talk openly about the root causes of poverty in India and Pakistan it is unavoidable that the influx of Mexicans into the United States be viewed as a threat to Americans. Speak truth and at this point you could spark a small civil war in the United States; be polite and condemn the world to purgatory.  And that civil war will occur in any event, for ultimately there can be no peace when there are too many people and not enough to go around.

So now the Iranian government is going to outlaw contraceptives and deliberately ignite a population explosion.  This policy will create dire poverty for the average Iranian, but of course progressives can't say anything about this.  So the vile Iranian government has a free hand to breed their people as if they were cattle, so that the profits and the power of the rich are maximized, and there is no debate, no pushback.  The silence on this issue is creepy.

Most modern liberals are nothing of the sort: they are wealthy anti-labor rentiers (or their lackeys) who use the liberal terminology as a smokescreen for polices that benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else (yes I am thinking of you, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton).  But there are still some people in public life that might be considered liberal in the old-fashioned sense of wanting to work for a society where everyone gets a reasonable share and has a decent life.   For the sake of discussion, we shall refer to honest liberals as progressives.  Apart from the difficulty that any honest person has in disentangling truth from our modern era of endemic disinformation, progressives have a genuine dilemma.  Much of past progressive accomplishment was generated by getting the average person to make common cause with their fellows.  Oligarchs will often play the divide-and-conquer game, and progressives have fought hard avoiding this splitting up of the common people against themselves.  Thus, when the rich import foreign workers to drive down wages, it is hard for progressives to avoid defending the interests of the foreign workers (they will claim that people opposed to forced population growth are “scape-goating immigrants”), and in effect taking the side of the rich.  It’s a difficult issue, one that turns the strength of progressives against themselves.    I offer no easy solution, only the observation that in the long run denial is a poor strategy.

Sometimes progressives will claim that talking about population is really a way for the rich to falsely blame the poor for their poverty when it is really due to other factors.  Correct!  The rich will falsely blame the poor for having too many children when that is not the problem!  And they will destroy the careers of anyone who blames the poor for having too many children when that really is the problem!

Ever since the end of slavery, the native-born American black population has had on average about as many children as any other assimilated American: about two per family.  Native-born American blacks are presently about 10% of the population, and a significant fraction of them are having two children before they have secured a stable family or secure job.  In the long run this collapse of family structure is surely a cause for concern, but that a fraction of a small minority of the population has an average of two children simply cannot be the cause of poverty here.  The numbers just aren’t big enough!  (Why, after all these centuries, are native-born American blacks still only about 10% of the population?  It is impossible that they could have had significantly higher fertility rates than the rest of the American population!).

The problem here is the influx of third-world refugees flooding the low-end of the labor market, coupled with the export of jobs and capital to high-fertility rate, low-wage countries, which has destroyed the ability of working-class black males to support a family.  And yet, everyone across the entire political spectrum is free to pile on and trash poor inner-city blacks for their alleged lack of family planning.  Presumably poor American blacks should all sterilize themselves or commit voluntary euthanasia.  On the other hand, in Haiti there is a history of everyone having five kids each with no hope in Hades of supporting them, this is clearly why the Haitian half of the island of Hispaniola is such a cesspit, but anyone daring to suggest that the Haitian people should have moderated their fertility rates – just like Americans of all races did during the great depression – will be vilified as a racist, blacklisted, and their careers destroyed. 

Or how about Niger, where women average 7.6 children each and a majority of the population is less than 15 years of age (i.e., are yet to enter or are in their child-bearing age, hello demographic momentum)?  For any economist to say that the people of Niger need to first limit their fertility rates before any progress can be made would be to commit professional suicide – but somehow American blacks can be slandered and vilified at will. 

Obviously, it’s only OK to blame population growth when it is not a problem because this would not endanger the poverty that the rich find so profitable, and vice-versa.  Again, is anybody paying attention?  Why is it OK to blame US blacks for having children that they can't support, and yet when even worse behavior occurs in Nigeria or Bangladesh, why, it's 'strong family values'?  This is insane.

There is also the issue of donations.  So often progressive organizations are tempted into a Faustian bargain: the rich will donate a hundred million dollars to your cause, but you can't talk about population any more.  It seems such a tiny thing, and think of all the good works  you can do with that hundred million.  (And think of giving yourself a raise and remodeling your office.  I'm thinking of you, Sierra Club).  And if you agree to this, the rich will put your smiling face on the evening news and treat you as a serious person and invite you to all the right parties - disagree, and the rich will tar you as a far-right extremist Nazi loon.  But when a progressive organization makes this trade, when they cede to the rich the ability to control the population, they have ceded it all.  Progressives can prattle about organizing and unions - and it is all swept away by the brute force of a hundred desperate people competing for every job.  They can lobby for extra funding to help the poor - and as the population explodes it will be as a drop of water in the pacific ocean.  When progressives turn a blind eye to population growth, everything else that they do will be just flapping their gums, and they are left impotently wringing their hands as the world is slowly but surely crushed into poverty and misery.

Old-school progressives like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, and Samuel Gompers, understood the power of population growth, and that it had to be limited if there was to be any hope of creating a widely shared prosperity.  They achieved successes.  Modern progressives seem to think that mindlessly chanting "think globally act locally" and "prosperity is a social construct" will somehow overcome the pressure of seven billion people and counting all competing for resources and jobs.  They are leading the world into a new dark age.

I respectfully suggest that those who care about more than the profits of the super rich, and who believe that anyone opposed to 'immigrant rights' is a Nazi, should re-examine their views.  While there is still time.

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