August 07, 2011

Human population: collectivism is alive and well

I have finished browsing the Science special issue on human population. I have even read whole some of its twenty articles. It's been an appalling experience.

First, it seems that many women in poor countries have more children than they prefer. Some argue that it is due to a lack of access to, or ignorance about, contraception. There are obvious ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies that are universally available, so I suspect the real reason for truly unwanted pregnancies is coercion. Coercion comes in several ways. In its subtler forms, it may come as a seemingly friendly encouragement by relatives and neighbors. At its most brutal, it may come as aggression by men wanting to have more children or simply sex - a behavior that is often socially condoned. Women are not means to the wants of men, relatives or neighbors. The collectivization of women is appalling. In some cases, outsiders making contraception more socially appealing, or at least less socially visible, help these women's case. As long as these outsiders do not use coercion themselves, they are doing good.

Second, every article in this issue agrees that reproduction is a matter of public policy. Starting from the dubious assumptions that both population growth in poor countries and population decrease in richer countries are bad things, they advocate without further justification, or citing pamphlets by the United Nations, that governments must intervene to change course. Here we have again the collectivization of potential parents and children. People are considered means to a higher end - a supposedly optimal population trajectory for the country, humanity, "the planet" or "sustainability." 

Third, articles are unanimous that government policies must consist of discouraging or encouraging reproduction, depending on the case. None of them considers the possibility of abandoning repressive policies. Namely, none of them denounces collectively-set restrictions on migration. None of them denounces xenophobia and racism, as in Spain's policy of forbidding nationals of certain countries from entering Spain unless they are descendants of Spaniards (i.e., white). All those authors that happily endorse population control and natalist policies without discussing migration restrictions are looking the other way on xenophobia.

I don't like community oppression of women, migration restrictions, and population control and natalist policies. I don't like Science endorsing, either directly or by default, the latter three policies. I can feel the stink of xenophobia, racism and eugenics. But I can end this post with an optimistic outlook. Crass collectivism is alive and well, but so are individual people looking for independence and freedom. Most women now live in cities, and the proportion is growing faster than ever. Moving from a traditional community to a city is the surest way of both escaping the social pressure to reproduce and accessing modern contraceptive methods. And cities are the best places to raise children.

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