Saturday, October 21, 2006

On Population

WSJ COMMENTARY on population ($$):
"At bottom, the debate over population revolves around a single question: Are human beings a burden, or a resource? The former view is embodied by the Ehrlich and Nixon quotes above. More bodies mean more mouths to feed, house and provide for. At a certain point, in this perspective, you run out of stuff.

The latter view holds that people don't just consume things. They make them too. More bodies mean more minds, more innovation, more dynamism and more progress. The history of the world as America went from 100 million or 200 million to 300 million lends a lot more support to the humans-as-resource view than the humans-as-burden view. In the middle of the last century, the fathers of the population-control school of thought warned darkly that when world population reached seven billion, the 'carrying capacity' of the planet would be reached. Mass starvation and political upheaval would be the inevitable result. Well, we're getting right up there, but the bread lines are getting shorter, not longer.

Simply put, the reason is prosperity. For decades, economic growth has easily outstripped population growth, giving the U.S., and much of the rest of the world, both more people and more prosperity, something presumed to be impossible by the Malthusians. Meanwhile, the slowdown in population growth brings a whole new set of challenges. To meet them, America and the world will need more minds generating new ideas. Four hundred million, here we come"

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