Monday, August 3, 2009

On the Failure of Population Schemes


What follows is a blog post that I wrote a few days ago for a (very minor) side project of mine, Statecraft & Security. I thought the readers of The Guild Review might enjoy it.

This blog usually discusses matters of security, but statecraft has other aspects as well. An article which caught my attention this morning underlined that point: "Shanghai calls on chosen couples to exceed China's one child limit".

The gist of the article is quite simple: China has too many old people and not enough young people, which will make taking care of the elderly a nightmare. "Shanghai is taking the dramatic step of actively encouraging residents to exceed China's famed 'one child' limit, citing concerns about the aging of its population and a potentially shrinking workforce," the Financial Times writes.

The only thing that prevents me from saying, "I told you so," is the fact that I wasn't around when the "one child" policy was first put in place in 1979. The problems that China is now or soon will be facing are the obvious consequences of their actions. "Shanghai's initiative follows campaigns to encourage more child bearing in other crowded Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, which had previously worked to promote small families only to see birth rates trail off..." Well, yes, contraception and abortion campaigns tend to have that effect.

In addition to creating a demographic and economic disaster, "China's decades-old one-child policy... remains a significant intrusion into private life." An added bonus.

What particularly tickles me about this story is that plenty of people pointed out the fact that these kinds of policies will backfire. In 1968 Pope Paul VI issued his highly controversial encyclical Humanae vitae, which articulated the argument that contraception runs contrary to the natural order. If that sounds a bit too philosophic for a statesman to worry about, let me point out that the true statesman must understand the order of nature before he can operate effectively within it. It is a basic test the Chinese leadership have failed.
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