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Population policies

By Luc Loranhe (2007)

It is a common misperception that mankind has to implement policies to limit the growth of its population.

It is a misperception because it assumes that mankind could control nature.

Whether we want it or not, not we, but ultimately nature will control how many humans are too many humans. If we grow into too many people, there will, repeat: will, be events that downsize our number. No need to worry: we will never be too many per se.

We may be too many (by human judgment) for certain political goals. China imposed strict population growth restriction policies in the 1980 (which persist until today), because a restricted population growth is good for national development.

Raising children consumes a lot of manpower (or, more precisely: womanpower), as well as resources. Societies which have low population growth rates can, at least in the short run, achieve more economic growth, because women can easier be integrated into the workforce.

But economic development is a dubious quality. I very much doubt that people in rich societies are happier than in poor societies. Of course, it's good for anybody's ego to be richer than one's neighbor.

But all in all, rich human environments are boring and unentertaining. My own experience has been that to live among comparatively poor people, and among people with a comparatively high rate of unemployment, and in crowded conditions, and yes: in an environment with many children, is much more charming than to live in a comparatively rich environment.

Such a view appears to be against the grain. We all (or most of us) strive to improve our material environment. And while many of us have an obscure feeling that we were happier when we were poorer, most people probably can not articulate what went wrong when they became richer. They think that because they are richer, they should be happier, but they are not.

Let's observe the poverty / richness equation in specific settings.

Most young people who run away from home greatly enjoy their freedom. For many of them, life after running away is an exciting adventure, even if sleeping rough or in abandoned buildings isn't as comfortable as in the bed at home.

Many young adults go traveling, often equipped with backpacks, and sleeping in dirt-cheap, and dirty, accommodations. And still, when they think back later, they consider these travels as one of the best times in their lives.

Many travelers enjoy traveling to poor countries. They encounter there a friendliness that is different from the polite helpfulness of rich countries.

When we read books, we are often more attracted to tales of vagabondage than to tales of orderly, established lives.

So why do so many of us organize their lives in the orderly, uninspiring fashion? Why do we not avoid the wealth trap?

I assume that poor and crowded conditions are more appropriate to the human mental archetype than golden-cage conditions. And I assume, furthermore, that a generation mix in which children are most numerous, and youth are second most numerous, and young adults are third most numerous, and adults are fourth most numerous, and old people are least numerous, is what our minds feel is natural.

Of course, we have been very successful, at least in principle, in fighting premature death, so if we do not restrict our procreation, our numbers keep on growing.

But being alive is not a value in itself. As I have stated numerous times: a sexually satisfied life, free of major suffering, and a gentle death are the only real values. It is unimportant at what age death occurs, provided it is gentle. And yes, dying tonight in my sleep would be a blessing anyway I turn it.

I believe it is the wrong strategy if we focus too much on ensuring that everybody reaches the age of 79. Yes, I understand that we have an instinct to prolong our lives for as long as possible. But for a very large percentage of people, not dying earlier means not dying early enough.

I think that it is appropriate that women have children earlier than they do in current Western societies, and that they have several children so that a society will result in which the youngest people are the most numerous, and the oldest are the least numerous.

Such a society doesn't have to be sexually unbalanced. In as much as elder men may develop an attraction towards younger women, male youth have tolerance for elder women (and the capacity to satisfy more than one). When I was in my teens, I and all my friends agreed that a mature woman was much to be preferred over the chicks that were part of our clique.

And when I was in my early 20s, I experienced the highest degree of sexual desire with a woman in her 40s. I couldn't be in a 10-kilometer radius of hers without feeling pulled towards her home (she was a music teacher, but the lessons were never singing or piano).

Likewise, older women value young lovers more than younger ones, and young women have more tolerance for, and often actually feel attracted to, older men.

Human biological psychology isn't queer. The typical Western sexual order is, which prescribes that sexual partners ought to be of approximately the same age.

Yes, this model, my model, the model of societies in which each younger generation is more numerous than the previous one, will lead to "uncontrolled" population growth. I am not worried. Most probably, the earth can support 50 billion humans. In crowded conditions, not in golden cages.

Nature itself will decimate the number, in case the earth can't support it. There is no way (NO WAY) that mankind could prevent this... fully logically.

So, you ask: do you mean that you accept that nature will eliminate billions of people to correct overpopulation?

What a stupid question! Every century, billions of people die. They die anyway, always died anyway, and always will die anyway.

There cannot be a categorical (moral) imperative to prevent human death. The only ethical concern can be to prevent suffering.

It is immoral to kill somebody, sure. Human violence is immoral, because violence causes suffering. But resurrecting people with medical technology is also immoral. We ought to recognize that if somebody would be beyond life without medical technology, then we ought to leave him there. Going through death is probably the most difficult part of life, and if somebody is unconscious, and would be dead without medical technologies, we ought to do him the favor and let him be dead.

Even if a death was painful, a death that was passed through is not becoming better by reversing it. (Death is defined here as the moment at which unconsciousness is reached from an amount of damage to life that, in case of non-intervention through medical technology, leads to the permanent cessation of life.)

The greatest mistake of common current ethical theories is a lack of awareness that we all will be dead. It is stupid to pretend that life is a value in itself. Only the absence of suffering can be an ethical value.

Absence of suffering includes the absence of the awareness of the immanence of one's death (not just the experience of a death without physical suffering). Which is why the best fate that possibly can await anyone, is to suddenly be dead in the middle of one's life, and preferably during one's sleep. Medical technology that aims to eliminate this option is misguided.

On the other hand, I have great respect for medical technologies that help to preserve our physical attractiveness, as physical attractiveness is of great importance if we aim for a sexually fulfilled life.

Many people feel this way, which explains the popularity of reconstructive dentistry, Lasik operations, liposuction, and facelifts, even though people have to pay for such procedures out of their own pockets, while being kept alive on ICUs is paid by the government.

There are far too many ICUs. If, for example after a road accident, I am unconscious and could survive only in an ICU, let there be a blackout on the power grid and on the hospital's emergency power supply, so that I will be dead for good. I much prefer that over dying a prolonged death from cancer a few years later.

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Copyright Luc Loranhe