Chapter 4 - The Overpopulation Myth


A. UNFPA Is Saturated with Anti-Population Ideology

Mr. Humberto Belli, Minister of Education in Nicaragua since 1990, knows from first hand experience how thoroughly the myth of overpopulation dominates the ideology of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). Mr. Belli was the official delegate from Nicaragua to preparatory meetings for the UN Cairo Conference on Population and Development. The myth of overpopulation is simply taken for granted, he reports; no one there questions it. It is like a sacred cow, off limits for discussion, but is manipulated as an unquestioned dogma to make birth control appear as the only salvation to prevent an impending world catastrophe:

First, there is an anti-population bias - a conviction that the biggest problem in Third World countries is population growth. That dogma isn't questioned ...There is definitely an ideological front being promoted by the industrialized countries through UNFPA. There is now an unprecedented attempt to turn this approach into the prevailing ideology of all nations throughout the world... (Address at a conference sponsored by the Population Research Institute of HLI, New York, 14-15 April 1994; see The Cairo Examiner, Autumn 1994, pp. 15-17).

Shed a tear for Mr. Belli for having to endure the winds of propaganda and indoctrination at these UN Population Conferences which have been progressively hijacked by Planned Parenthood. Having myself attended the previous three World Population Conferences which took place before Cairo, in 1965, 1974 and 1984, I have the impression that the 1965 Conference at Belgrade was more productive for demography and science than the three which followed, which have been more thoroughly politicized. But despite the political maneuvering, much good surely comes from each of the conferences.

Although the first three days at the 1965 Belgrade conference were an unmitigated propaganda barrage imposed on the delegates by visiting Planned Parenthood pro-birth-control people, after their noisy group left, the meeting settled down to serious business. Solid scientific papers were delivered as the five printed volumes of proceedings show. The horizon-spanning research of Simon Kuznets for example, indicated that a so-called inevitable braking of economic growth due to rapid demographic increase was not at all reflected in the economic swings of the nations as a whole in past history. This impressive paper by the Harvard professor of economics, and subsequent works of a similar nature, effectively refute in academic circles the notion that population growth competes against economic development. No respectable scientist makes this simplistic claim today, unless he hedges it in with qualifying modifiers.

The 1974 Conference at Bucharest unfortunately gave impetus to UNFPA funding and to a world depopulation plan. A memorable feature of the Conference was the scorn which the China delegate poured upon western capitalistic countries which follow the Malthusian theory. His biting rhetoric resounded through the hall like machine-gun fire, challenging the interpreters to keep up with his pace. He said in effect that population growth is good in itself, but bad governments are responsible for making it into a problem:

The Third World now has a population of nearly 3 billion, which is more than 70 percent of the world's population. How to see this fact in a correct light is the first thing we must be clear about. One superpower asserts outright that there is a "population explosion" in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and that a "catastrophe to mankind" is imminent. The other superpower, while pretending at some conferences to be against Malthusianism, makes the propaganda blast that "rapid population growth is a millstone around the neck of developing countries." Singing a duet, the two superpowers [USA-USSR] energetically try to describe the Third World's population growth as a great evil. If this fallacy is not refuted, there will be no correct point of departure in any discussion of world population. Of all things in the world, people are the most precious. Once the people take their destiny into their own hands, they will be able to perform miracles. Man as a worker and as creator and user of tools, is the decisive factor in the social productive forces. Man is in the first place a producer and only in the second place a consumer... (See Population and Development Review, June 1994, p. 451).

Soon after the 1974 Bucharest Conference, however, China reversed its policy by 180 degrees. After adopting a totalitarian anti-baby policy, the pro-population rhetoric changed overnight, as swiftly as a Doctor Jekyll became a Mr. Hyde. But we look ahead to better times for China, when her government will again adopt the basic insight that "of all things in the world, people are the most precious." This is more in accord with ancient Chinese wisdom than the current madness of the "one child policy." For as sinologist Dr. Chen Huang-Chang observes: "From the example of Confucius the Chinese always think that the population is the chief element of the national assets." Confucius observed that the state ought to encourage immigration from foreign countries, and noted that if the ruler be of high quality, "the people from all quarters will come to him carrying their children on their backs" (see Chang, p. 180). Good government, then, is the key to turn population into positive national assets according to Confucian wisdom.

In the 1984 Conference at Mexico City, the USA insisted that abortion should never "be promoted as a method of family planning." The Conference accepted this article, but it was like a fish bone lodged in the throat of opponents.

The planners who wrote the preparatory draft of the 1994 Plan sought to reverse the Mexico City anti-abortion article; they also proposed massive contraception programs, and subtly maneuvered to discredit the traditional family and to favor loose sexual morality; the draft's general approach to solve all problems of development was to curb population growth. But a strong counter-drive by the Vatican, supported by some Muslim and Catholic nations, greatly diffused the radical anti-baby provisions and overtones of the draft Plan. I believe this has done much to discredit the entire anti-baby drive of the UNFPA in the eyes of the world, and has set the compass for new directions. An AP news release stated that:

In a key concession to the Vatican, the compromise restores language from the 1984 population conference that abortion should never be promoted as a method of family planning... Put on the defensive by Vatican accusations that the United States wants to spread its pro-choice policies, U.S. Vice President Al Gore insisted repeatedly during his conference visit that America did not endorse abortion as a method of birth control (Mainichi Daily News, 9 September 1994).


believe we will learn more clearly from the Cairo Conference that the Church and Planned Parenthood - whose ideology now dominates the UNFPA - have little common ground on which they can agree. The Church may wisely make fuller use of her own resources in future to protect the family, knowing how little can be expected from the UNFPA until it frees itself from the present stranglehold of anti-baby ideology. It would be wise for the UN, I believe, to separate entirely the "Development" body from the UNFPA which is an anti-population body. In the meantime the bearer of God's message cannot change divine laws against contraception and abortion, nor will she attribute to governments the right to decide on the number of children, a right which belongs to parents. The Church and Planned Parenthood are in a state of diametric disagreement. As the wise man said:

An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel (Prov 18:19; translation of the NIV Study Bible).

B. Slush funding feeds population myth octopus

What is to be feared especially as a result of the 1994 Cairo Conference is its recommendation for even more funding to curb demographic growth. The Plan calls for spending 17 billion dollars annually by the year 2000, up from the present 6 billion. Money tends to corrupt sound demographic policy, according to the Shylock law: "Greed corrupts morals." Three decades ago I asked a Catholic government official in South Korea why their Welfare Ministry supports contraception whereas all know that this leads to abortion. His reply: "Sorry to say, our welfare officials always have a tight budget, and are short of money; however we know that any and every proposal to fund a population plan obtains almost immediate approval and funding from the United States." If the UNFPA can henceforth pay a hundred thousand anti-population messengers to work in developing countries (i.e. $17 billion, an average outlay of $170,000 per person per year), look for much anti-baby fuss in these nations during the coming decades. The air is already saturated with an incredible onslaught against babies today in some of these countries. For example, Fr. Julian Kangalawe wrote from Paramiho in Tanzania:

We are alarmed at the neck-break speed of the anti-life drive in this country. Sterilization vasectomy, contraceptives, condoms, Norplants - all being pushed under very high pressure, aided by the USAID/UNICEF etc. All the radio programs are bombarding the people, brainwashing the masses. It is good that we do our part through the pulpit and other media... (Private correspondence, 8 August 1994).

The "overpopulation myth" is a message created largely by the media, and is of quite recent origin. Our grandparents were little concerned about overpopulation. The United States boomed with economic development while immigrants poured in from abroad. During 300 years the USA population increased from about 10 million to 265 million and became the lead engine to pull the development train for other nations as well. Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) celebrated the lively American experience of development with his exquisite "New World Symphony" to immortalize America's path through industrialization. There is no discordant note of population control in Dvorak's music, nor even of foreign aid. The US people and immigrants developed themselves. Why are we so concerned today, though we live better than our ancestors did? It cannot be denied that money, which buys advantageous access to media outlets, helps to forge and make credible the blatant lie which now prevails that overpopulation is our number one enemy. Bad money corrupts morals.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., revealed at Bucharest in 1974, during a meeting of the Tribune, an annex of the World Population Congress, that as a young man he had looked around for a goal to use optimally, for the good of mankind, the large financial resources at his command; he decided that the best thing he could do for the world was to convince peoples to control population. But now, he told an astonished Bucharest audience, after 40 years of activities, he had come around to the view that the population problem was linked inseparably to the problem of development. "He described this thesis as a change of mind after 40 years of working for birth control" (Bucharest, AFP, reported in Mainichi Daily News, 29 August 1974). Little change of action is seen, however, in the projects funded by the Rockefeller Foundation since the stated change of heart in 1974. Its anti-population projects eclipse development projects completely and consistently.

The critical nature of the work done by the Rockefeller Foundation in resonating a population scare through the media cannot be denied. We are easy victims. The specter of an overpopulated world in some future day haunts us when we think about it. Where will it all end, this process of increasing and multiplying which Adam and Eve initiated? Even if we are safe today, what about tomorrow?

Margaret Sanger also found willing audiences with her message that sex should be for pleasure, and that we should enjoy it without having children. Her disciples in the Planned Parenthood Federation now teach this even in schools, paid to do so by tax funds. Itching ears pick up that message only too willingly. The threat of overpopulation has been made into a sanctimonious excuse for sexual license. But is overpopulation a real threat, a real danger, now or in the foreseeable future? Or is population increase the best thing that ever happened to society, including ourselves who enjoy the gift of life, and who live quite well?

Some of the worthy scientists, not on the payroll of anti-population funds, give us quite another picture than the doomsayers have been painting. Julian L. Simon, for example, invites us to celebrate population increases, because humans are their own best resource who contribute to the betterment of life. We quote one of his articles in full from Population Research Institute Review, November/December 1993:

C. Julian L. Simon, Ph.D.: population growth is not bad for humanity

Once again there is hysteria about there being too many people and too many babies being born. Television presents notables ranging from the late Andrei Sakharov to Dan Rather repeating that more people on earth mean poorer lives now and worse prospects for the future. The newspapers chime in. A typical editorial in the 3 June 1989 Washington Post says that "in the developing world...fertility rates impede advances in economic growth, health and educational opportunities." Nobel prize winner Leon Lederman says in his statement as candidate for the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that "over population" is one of our "present crises" (2 June 1989 announcement). The president of NOW warns that continued population growth would be a "catastrophe" (Nat Hentoff in The Washington Post, 29 July 1989). The head of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology calls for more funding for contraceptive re-search because of "Overpopulation, together with continuing deterioration of the environment...." (The Wall Street Journal, 14 August 1989). And this is just a tiny sample of one summer.

Erroneous belief about population growth has cost dearly. It had directed attention away from the factor that we now know is central in a country's economic development: its economic and political system. Economic reforms away from totalitarianism and central economic planning in poor countries probably would have been faster and more widespread if slow growth was not explained by recourse to population growth. And in rich countries, misdirected attention to population growth and the supposed consequence of natural resource shortage has caused waste through such programs as synthetic fuel promotion and the development of airplanes that would be appropriate for an age of greater scarcity. Our antinatalist foreign policy is dangerous politically because it risks our being labeled racist, as happened when Indira Ghandi was overthrown because of her sterilization program. Further-more, misplaced belief that population growth slows economic development provides support for inhumane programs of coercion and the denial of personal liberty in one of the most sacred and valued choices a family can make - in such countries as China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

These ideas affect other public events, too. In 1973, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's vote in Roe v. Wade was influenced by this idea, according to Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong: "As Stewart saw it, abortion was becoming one reasonable solution to population control" (quoted in Newsweek, 14 September 1987). And in 1989, when hearing the Webster case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor again brought the idea of overpopulation into a hypothetical question she asked of Charles Fried, former solicitor-general: "Do you think that the state has the right to, if in a future century we had a serious overpopulation problem, has a right to require women to have abortions after so many children?" No matter how one feels about seems better that unsound arguments should not be adduced in the discussion; such idea pollution tends to cost dearly in the long run.

Unlike the earlier period of rampaging worry following Earth Day 1970, however, it is now well-established scientifically that population growth is not the bogey that conventional opinion and the press believe it to be. In the 1980's a revolution occurred in scientific views toward the role of population growth in economic development. By now the economics profession has turned almost completely away from the previous view that population growth is a crucial negative factor in economic development. There is still controversy about whether population growth is even a minor negative factor in some cases, or whether it is beneficial in the long run. But there is no longer any scientific support for the earlier view which was the basis for the U.S. policy and then the policy of other countries.

For a quarter century our "helping" institutions misanalyzed such world development problems as starving children, illiteracy, pollution, supplies of natural resources and slow growth. The World Bank, the State Department's Aid to International Development (AID), the United Nations Fund for Populations Activities (UNFPA) and the environmental organizations have asserted that the cause is population growth - the population "explosion" or "bomb," the "population plague." But for almost as long as this idea has been the core of U.S. theory about foreign aid, there has been a solid body of statistical evidence that contradicts this conventional wisdom about the effects of population growth - evidence which falsifies the ideas which support U.S. population policy toward less-developed countries.

The "official" turning point came in 1986 with the publication of a report by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences (NRC-NAS), entitled Population Growth and Economic Development, which almost completely reversed a 1971 report on the same subject from the same institution. On the specific issue of raw materials that has been the subject of so much alarm, NRC-NAS concluded: "The scarcity of exhaustible resources is at most a minor constraint on economic growth...the concern about the impact of rapid population growth on resource exhaustion has often been exaggerated." And the general conclusion goes only as far as "On balance, we reach the qualitative conclusion that slower population growth would be beneficial to economic development for most developing countries...." That is, NRC-NAS found forces operating in both positive and negative directions, its conclusion does not apply to all countries, and the size of the effect is not known even where it is believe to be present. This is a major break from the past monolithic characterization of additional people as a major drag upon development across the board. This revolution in thought has not been reported in the press, however, and therefore has had no effect on public thought on the subject.

There now exists perhaps two dozen competent statistical studies covering the few countries for which data are available over the past century, and also of the many countries for which data are available since World War II. The basic method is to gather data on each country's rate of population growth and its rate of economic growth, and then to examine whether - looking at all the data in the sample together - the countries with high population growth rates have economic growth rates lower than average, and countries with low population growth rates have economic growth rates higher than average.

The clear-cut consensus of this body of work is that faster population growth is not associated with slower economic growth. On average, countries whose populations grew faster did not grow slower economically. That is, there is no basis in the statistics for the belief that faster population growth causes slower economic growth. Additional powerful evidence comes from pairs of countries that have the same culture and history, and had much the same standard of living when they split apart after World War II - East and West Germany, North and South Korea, and China and Taiwan. In each case the centrally planned communist country began with less population "pressure," as measured by density per square kilometer, than did the market-directed non-communist country. And the communist and non-communist countries in each pair also started with much the same birth rates and population growth rates. The market-directed economies have performed much better economically than the centrally planned countries. Income per person is higher. Wages have grown faster. Key indicators of infrastructure such as telephones per person show a much higher level of development. And indicators of individual wealth and personal consumption, such as autos and newsprint, show enormous advantages for the market-directed enterprise economies compared to the centrally planned, centrally controlled economies. Furthermore, birth rates fell at least as early and as fast in the market-directed countries as in the centrally planned countries.

These data provide solid evidence that an enterprise system works better than does a planned economy. This powerful explanation of economic development cuts the ground from under population growth as a likely explanation. And under conditions of freedom, population growth poses less of a problem in the short run, and brings many more benefits in the long run, than under conditions of government planning of the economy.

One inevitably wonders: How can the persuasive common sense embodied in the Malthusian theory be wrong? To be sure in the short run an additional person - baby or immigrant - inevitably means a lower standard of living for everyone; every parent knows that. More consumers mean less of the fixed available stock of goods to be divided among more people. And more workers laboring with the same fixed current stock of capital means that there will be less output per worker. The latter effect, known as "the law of diminishing returns," is the essence of Malthus's theory as he first set it out.

But if the resources with which people work are not fixed over the period being analyzed, then the Malthusian logic of diminishing returns does not apply. And the plain fact is that, given some time to adjust to shortages, the resource base does not remain fixed. People create more resources of all kinds. When horse-powered transportation became a major problem, the railroad and the motor car were developed. When schoolhouses become crowded, we build new schools - more modern and better than the old ones.

As with man-made production capital, so it is with natural resources. When a shortage of elephant tusks for ivory billiard balls threatened in the last century, and a prize was offered for substitute, celluloid was invented, followed by the rest of our plastics. Englishmen learned to use coal when trees became scarce in the sixteenth century. Satellites and fiber optics (derived from sand) replace expensive copper for telephone transmission. And the new resources wind up cheaper than the old ones were. Such has been the entire course of civilization.

Extraordinary as it seems, natural resource scarcity - that is, the cost of raw materials, which is the relevant economic measure of scarcity - has tended to decrease rather than to increase over the entire sweep of history. This trend is at least as reliable as any other trend observed in human history; the prices of all natural resources, measured in the wages necessary to pay for given quantities of them, have been falling as far back as data exist. A pound of copper - typical of all metals and other natural resources - now costs an American only a twentieth of what it cost in hourly wages two centuries ago, and perhaps a thousandth of what it cost three thousand years ago.

The most extraordinary part of the resource-creation process is the temporary or expected shortages - whether due to the temporary or expected shortages - whether due to population growth, income growth, or other causes - tend to leave us even better off than if the shortages had never arisen, because of the continuing benefit of the intellectual and physical capital created to meet the shortage. It has been true in the past, and therefore it is likely to be true in the future, that we not only need to solve our problems, but we need the problems imposed upon us by the growth of population and income.

The idea that scarcity is diminishing is mind-boggling because it defies the common-sense reasoning that when one starts with a fixed stock of resources and uses some up, there is less left. But for all practical purposes there are no resources until we find them, identify their possible uses, and develop ways to obtain and process them. We perform these tasks with increasing skill as technology develops. Hence, scarcity diminishes.

The general trend is toward natural resources becoming less and less important with economic development. Extractive industries are only very small part of a modern economy, say a twentieth or less, whereas they constitute the lion's share of poor economies. Japan and Hong Kong are not at all troubled by the lack of natural resources, whereas such independence was impossible in earlier centuries. And though agriculture is thought to be a very important part of the American economy, if all of our agricultural land passed out of our owner-ship tomorrow, we would be the poorer by only about a ninth of one year's Gross National Product. This is additional evidence that natural resources are less of a brake upon economic development with the passage of time, rather than an increasing constraint.

There is, however, one crucial "natural" resource which is more scarce - human beings. Yes, there are more people on earth now than in the past. But if we measure the scarcity of people the same way we mea-sure the scarcity of economic goods - by the market price - then people are indeed becoming more scarce, because the price of labor time has been rising almost everywhere in the world. Agricultural wages in Egypt have soared, for example, and people complain of a labor shortage because of the demand for labor in the Persian Gulf. Just a few years after there was said to be a labor surplus in Egypt.

Nor does it make sense to reduce population growth because of the supposedly increasing pollution of our air and water. In fact, our air and water are becoming cleaner rather than dirtier, as Figure 3 and 4 show, wholly the opposite of conventional belief.

The most important and amazing demographic fact - the greatest human achievement in history, in my view - is the "recent" decrease in the world's death rate. It took thousands of years to increase just over twenty years to the high life-expectancy at birth from twenties. Then in just the last two centuries, life expectancy at birth in the advanced countries jumped from less than thirty years to perhaps seventy-five years. What greater event has humanity witnessed?

Then starting well after World War II, life expectancy in the poor countries has leaped upwards by perhaps fifteen or even twenty years since the 1950s, caused by advances in agriculture, sanitation and medicine. Is this not an astounding triumph for humankind? It is this decrease in the death rate that is the cause of their being a larger world population nowadays than in former times.

Let's put it differently. In the 19th century the planet Earth could sustain only one billion people. Ten thousand years ago, only four million could keep themselves alive. Now, five billion people are living longer and more healthily than ever before, on average. The increase in the world's population represents our victory over death.

One would expect lovers of humanity to jump with joy at this triumph of human mind and organization over the raw forces of nature. Instead, many lament that there are so many people alive to enjoy the gift of life because they worry that population growth creates difficulties for development. And it is this misplaced concern that leads them to approve the inhumane programs of coercion and denial of personal liberty in one of the most precious choices a family can make - the number of children that it wishes to bear and raise.

Then there is the war-and-violence bugaboo. A typical recent headline is "Excessive Population Growth a Security Threat to U.S." invoking the fear of "wars that have their roots in the unrestrained growth of population." This is reminiscent of the Hitlerian cry for "lebensraum" and the Japanese belief before World War II that their population density demanded additional land.

There is little scientific literature on the relation of population to war. But to the extent that there has been systematic analysis - notably the great study of war through the ages by Quincy Wright (1968), the work on recent wars by Nazli Choucri (1974), and a study of Europe between 1870 and 1913 by Gary Zuk (1985) - the data do not show a connection between population growth and political instability due to the struggle for economic resources. The purported connection is another of those notions that everyone (especially the CIA and the Defense Department) "know" is true, and that seems quite logical, but has no basis in factual evidence.

The most important benefit of population size and growth is the increase it brings to the stock of useful knowledge. Minds matter economically as much as, or more than, hands and or mouths. Progress is limited largely by the availability of trained workers. The main fuel to speed the world's progress is the stock of human knowledge. And the ultimate resource is skilled, spirited, hopeful people, exerting their wills and imaginations to provide for themselves and their families, thereby inevitably contributing to the benefit of everyone.

Even the most skilled persons require, however, an appropriate social and economic framework that provides incentives for working hard and taking risks, enabling their talents to flower and come to fruition. The key elements of such a framework are respect for property, fair and sensible rules of the market that are enforced compatible with economic freedom. There is justice in such an approach, and wisdom, and the promise of unlimited economic and human development.

Which should be our vision? The doomsayers of the population control movement offer a vision of limits, decreasing resources, a zero-sum game, conservation, deterioration, fear and conflict, calling for more governmental intervention in markets and family affairs. Or should our vision be that of those who look optimistically upon people as a resource rather than as a burden - a vision of receding limits, increasing resources and possibilities, a game in which everyone can win, creation, building excitement, and the belief that persons and firms acting spontaneously in the search of their individual welfare, regulated only by rules of a fair game, will produce enough to maintain and increase economic progress and pro-mote liberty.

And what should our model be? The population restrictionists say we should be sad and worry. I and many others believe that the trends suggest joy and celebration at our newly found capacity to support human life - healthily, and with fast-increasing access to education and opportunity all over the world. I believe that the population restrictionists' hand-wringing view leads to despair and resignation. Our view leads to hope and progress, in the reasonable expectation that the energetic efforts of humankind will prevail in the future, as they have in the past, to increase worldwide our numbers, our health, our wealth and our opportunities.


Population Growth Compatible with Economic Development

To demonstrate that Julian Simon does not stand alone, but that other scientists agree, additional authorities are cited here. As early as 1962 the paper of Professor Simon Kuznets of Harvard University indicating that rapid population growth is characteristically a twin brother of rapid economic development stirred the participants of the Asian Population Conference conducted in New Delhi. The fact is, he stated, that historically the high rates of per capita product growth characterizing modern economic development initially appeared, not because of population growth decline, but in conjunction with high rates of population growth. Both - the high per capita product and high population growth rates - were manifestations of the same underlying process: the application of new scientific methods and knowledge generally to problems of economic and social organization. The discussion leader drew the conclusion that one must question the assumption that a high rate of population growth is a major deterrent to economic growth and development. (From the writer's notes taken at the conference.)

In fact, a very rapid population growth is a factor which we should normally expect to find in a nation which successfully triggers economic take-off and then follows up with a powerful and prolonged drive to finally achieve economic maturity. The population of the USA increased 25 times over during the 300-year transition from the hunter-gatherer and subsistence agriculture economies to its present hi-tech super-economy. The contribution to the work force made by the many large families in the USA during that time, and by the millions of immigrants eager to work, powered the economy to ever higher levels of productivity.

In much the same way, young populations of developing countries are a natural mix for the expected national economic developments. It is not difficult for us to understand why a healthy, well nourished, disciplined, eager young labor force in newly developing economies, is just what is needed for industrialization. The older generation of laborers may be inhibited by tribal taboos from making technical innovations; very likely they are weakened because of poor nutrition, by seasonal attacks of malaria, by gastro-intestinal parasites and other debilitating diseases. Their technical know-how may be limited to primitive methods of slash and burn, of laborious manual cultivation by means of stick and hoe. 70%-85% of the labor force may be engaged in just producing enough food, fiber and shelter to remain alive.

All that can change swiftly today, when the younger generation can enjoy better health, eat better, go to school, learn new methods, and soon out-produce their parents by a ratio of twenty to one in output. Logically, the stronger and more numerous the new labor force is, the better are the national prospects for rapidly improving the economy, other things being proper. But - and this is essential - good government is needed, and proper education of the young. When free enterprise motivates people to work hard, to invest, to innovate, to migrate, to use their potential to the full, humans do make enormous progress in social well-being and rising levels of the good life.

The rapid increase of a healthy young population is the nation's best asset, and provides exactly that driving force needed to propel the new national economy. Eventually rural economies improve through feed-back from urban productivity, and a mere 15% of the labor force suffices to produce the food, fiber and essential shelter. 85% of the labor force, which has typically migrated from rural areas to urban, switches from work in the agricultural and extractive industries to build needed roads, lines of communication, factories; to operate hospitals, schools, postal services, printing enterprises, banks; to engage in broadcasting, sports, entertainment, do research, and engage in cultural pursuits.

In the USA, for example, only 1,226,000 farm laborers, that is, 0.5% of the total population, are today engaged in agriculture (955,000 men, 270,000 women, figures for 1989, in US Statistical Abstract, 1991, p. 644). They produce food and fiber for the 265 million Americans, and for other millions abroad, one person nourishing more than 200 people. And more: Barnaby J. Feder states that "300,000 full-time farmers account for 80% of production" (The New York Times Weekly Review, p. 3, 16 February 1996). That means that one laborer feeds 700 people. These are over-simplifications admittedly; and it is a great cultural loss that the family farm gives way to an agri-business directed by bankers instead of home-owners. But it indicates how easy it has become to feed people in this industrialized society, as contrasted with less efficient economies. We know that perhaps 10 million Indians once struggled for a living in the USA, where 265 million live today enjoying a comparative plentitude.

"For 2,000 years Japan had a stable population based on food production. When the population exceeded 30 million, famines and pestilence would get it down to a manageable 20 million. The people lived on a diet of two meals a day consisting of rice and some salty pickles. This was true well into this century." So writes Morse Saito (Mainichi Daily News, 13 September 1994). How, then, does Japan manage today to be the home of 125 million people, the healthiest population in the world if we measure by average longevity? The life expectation for men in Japan is now 76 years for men and 82 for women, and is still on the rise. The average annual income per person in Japan is currently $28,220, higher than the $23,120 in the USA (World Bank Atlas, 1994).

If the Japanese so dramatically increased their island population from 30 million to 125 million, while also increasing health, life expectancy and income so remarkably, what reason is there to prevent Kenya, with the present 29 million population, from doing the same during the next decades? The same holds for Tanzania with 29 million, and so many other nations and lands which cry for development, and for people to do the developing. As Julian Simon says correctly, the nation's greatest resource is its people, provided only that they and their governments maintain proper conditions for their own development. A prime condition, of course, is peace in the land; the second, I believe, is good government, one which maximizes the education and enterprise of its greatest resource - the people. The last thing needed is the UNFPA, Planned Parenthood and USAID, to direct a destructive depopulation of the young labor force by noisy cacophony on the radio about overpopulation and by sending in condoms. Containers at a pier in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, held 47 million condoms donated by USAID, when I visited there in 1993. Shame on the USA!

In Japan laborers have migrated steadily from the primary industries - providing nutrition, fiber and basic materials - to the secondary tier of manufacturing and construction and transportation, to the third tier of services, and finally into the fourth tier of entertainment and arts sectors. Where 30 million people had suffered periodic famines, and where small pox and TB periodically wiped out whole generations of children and young people, 125 million Japanese now enjoy relatively good health and enough food. The table shows how labor moved up the industrial ladder, from the primary to the secondary and tertiary industries. In 1948, for example, 49% of the labor force worked mainly for raising food and providing basic materials, compared with 7.2% in 1990. The rest of the labor force was freed to raise living levels, health services, education, possibilities of travel and human comforts in all areas of life.

Nathan Keyfitz observes that "contemporary academic economists, unlike those of the nineteenth century, find that although population growth and density can have bad effects on development, these will only be severe with wrong economic policies. Technical advance and substitution in free markets avoid major difficulties, for example, shortage of materials" (Population Index, Spring 1991, pp. 5-22).

As mentioned briefly above, the pioneering work of Simon Kuznets strongly influenced the Belgrade World Population Congress in 1965. He pointed out that history does not support a dogma that rapid population growth invariably inhibits economic development, and that the contrary may also be true, depending on various factors. He stated that:

There was, and is, no invariant and significant direct effect of population increase on the rate of rise of per capita product, if the latter is the accepted measure of economic growth. At least this is the conclusion for the range of rates of population increase observed in the modern past. In some countries, high rates of population increase were accompanied by high rates of growth in per capita product; in others, low rates of population growth were associated with low rates of growth of per capita product; and in still others, low rates of population growth were combined with high growth of per capita product. This diversity of relations is found in countries within both the developed and less developed groups, although the developed group, as a whole, showed a higher rate of population increase than the rest of the world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (World Population Congress, 1965, Vol. I, p. 307; a United Nations Publication).

The last sentence is specially significant: the data reveals that countries which are now developed economically rode to this success on an incoming tide of population growth.


ulian Simon ascertained from relevant data that population growth tends to support economic development in the long run: "These studies are consistent with the existence of a positive long-run effect of population growth upon economic development" (Population and Development Review, June 1989). That is, after the initial investments have once been paid for, demographic growth tends to reinforce economic growth.

The same Julian Simon, together with Herman Kahn, circulated a paper edited by themselves at the 1984 Mexico Conference, with contributions by 21 experts in their fields. This paper categorically denies that governments do any good at all with their population policies. That paper branded the recommendations of the 1980 Global 2000 Report as "unfounded and unacceptable, ignorant and arrogant" (p. 48). Their view is that the government should NOT take steps to make the public more "aware" of issues concerning resources, environment and population. "We consider that the public has been badly served by having been scared by a very large volume of unfounded and/or exaggerated warnings about these matters. Many of these injudicious warnings that have been unsupported scientifically have derived from government agencies. The results have been disastrous from the viewpoint of the allocation of social resources" (p. 46). These eminent scholars then radically rewrite the pessimistic 1980 Global 2000 Report as follows:

Our conclusions are reassuring, though not grounds for complacency. Global problems due to physical conditions (as distinguished from those caused by institutional and political conditions) are always possible, but are likely to be less pressing in the future than in the past. Environmental, resource and population stresses are diminishing, and with the passage of time will have less influence than now upon the quality of human life on our planet. These stresses have in the past always caused many people to suffer from lack of food, shelter, health and jobs, but the trend is toward less rather than more of such suffering. Especially important and noteworthy is the dramatic trend toward longer and healthier life throughout all the world. Because of increased knowledge, the earth's "carrying capacity" has been increasing throughout the decades and centuries and millennia to such an extent that the term "carrying capacity" has by now no useful meaning. These trends strongly suggest a progressive improvement and enrichment of the earth's natural resource base, and of mankind's lot on earth (p. 50).

The opinion of these experts, then, is that governments which "educate" the people about population problems are doing something worse than useless; that governments damage their economies rather benefit them by launching birth control programs. The Church has been criticizing birth control programs for their lack of morality. Now these economists criticize the same for their economic uselessness, saying in a nutshell that it is a mistake, from a viewpoint of the economy, to promote any kind of population control.

D. World demographic and economic growth are a partnership

A bird's eye view of the world economic conditions and levels of material living indicates gradual improvement all around. Although famines and malnutrition are still major problems in many parts of the world, and wars are a horror, nutritional levels as a whole are improving, and so are conditions of health and human comfort. Food production has been increasing quite consistently at a rate faster than population growth in recent decades, and promises to do the same in the future. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization announced, on 12 November 1993, that developing countries, for the most part, are steadily improving their nutritional situation and "world per capita food supplies are today some 18 percent above what they were 30 years ago" (AFP-Jiji). Despite all the warnings of the media that the world is going from bad to worse because of rapid population growth, the data tell quite another story. The world is going from bad to better as far as food and daily life advantages are concerned; and this is happening during the world's period of most rapid population growth; a population growth which is seen as a temporary demographic spurt registered while people live longer because of better health and nutrition while the transition from rural subsistence to a technological economy is in progress.

Why all the discordant opinions and policies about population policies? Nathan Keyfitz says it well: the think tanks are housed in separate quarters and do not communicate with each other to solve their differences. Governments, however, must choose their advisors, and find that any choice they make will have supporters:

In the modern academy, knowledge comes packaged in disciplines. Within any discipline the machinery for establishing what is right (referred professional journals, etc.) works moderately well most of the time; most differences are resolved. But for resolving differences between disciplines the machinery is inadequate. Many questions do not overlap... But population does spread over economics, biology, sociology and other disciplines. Separated by different perspectives, each using a language not readily comprehensible to outsiders, each with a body of knowledge too extensive for most of those not brought up to master it, and offering little premium to the academic who attempts to do so, disciplines do not take irreconcilable conclusions seriously, let alone resolve them.

This throws a problem too difficult for science as now organized to administrators who must make decisions about population and environment... Whatever they do, they have backing from scientists, choosing economists or biologists according to the advice they wish to receive (Population Index, Spring 1991, pp. 5-22; citation from p. 6).

Economists see it one way, biologists another way, sociologists in still another way, and the triune do not meet. This disagreement opens the way for promoters of birth control to use statistics selectively in order to obtain more and more funds for population control.

E. Ecclesial teachings on demographic policies

By and large Catholic spokesmen who believe that world population growth must be curbed by government action have a hard time to accept the Church's teaching against contraception. As one priest, the president of a Catholic university and a Harvard trained economist told me: it is undisputed that birth control is needed to halt run-away world population. But the masses of people in developing countries will not adopt natural family planning to halt their galloping demographic nightmare. To expect such a thing is naive, unrealistic. Therefore it is necessary to provide them with contraceptives; and the Pope's teaching in Humanae Vitae is out of touch with reality. So proclaimed that priest, who has since passed to eternity (RIP). Anti-Humanae Vitae cockle grows among the wheat in the field of the world (cf. Mt 13:25).

Not surprisingly, the Father Peschke text of moral theology, which is soft on contraception and abortion, is firm in its mistaken assertion about overpopulation: The need of responsible parenthood and the justification of a sober population control are universally recognized and not a matter of controversy in the Catholic Church. Controverted are the means by which the goal is to be achieved (Karl H. Peschke, II, 1987 edition p. 468; 1993 edition p. 501).

Another priest moral theologian goes one step further, stating that the Church has turned against large families:

The Catholic Church agrees in principle to the need to limit population growth... The Church supports educational programs which inform couples about the need for population control and appropriate means of birth regulation, and which seek to overcome the cultural biases which contribute to large family sizes (Fr. Mark O'Keefe, article in The Priest Magazine, August 1991).

This may be private theology taught by Fr. O'Keefe, but the new CCC directly contradicts him by stating in No. 2373:

2373 Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity (emphasis of CCC).

To support his anti-large family assertion, Fr. O'Keefe vainly quotes a passage from the 1967 Encyclical of Pope Paul VI titled Populorum Progressio No. 37. He bends to his own purpose the meaning of this passage, which is a re-statement of Gaudium et Spes 87, and ought to be understood in context with it:

It is true that too frequently an accelerated demographic increase adds its own difficulties to the problems of development: the size of the population increases more rapidly than available resources, and things are found to have apparently reached an impasse. From that moment the temptation is great to check the demographic increase by means of radical measures. It is certain that public authorities can intervene within the limit of their competence, by favoring the appropriate information and adopting suitable measures, provided these be in conformity with the moral law and that they respect the rightful freedom of married couples. Where the inalienable right to marriage and procreation is lacking, human dignity has ceased to exist. Finally, it is for the parents to decide with full knowledge of the matter, on the number of their children, taking into account their responsibilities toward God, themselves, the children they have already brought into the world, and the community to which they belong.

The above passage echoes Gaudium et Spes 87, and the latter certainly cannot be interpreted as opposing large families; in the very same document, in Gaudium et Spes 50, the Church approves parents "who after prudent reflection and common decision courageously undertake the proper upbringing of a large number of children." In the footnote Gaudium et Spes here refers to the address of Pope Pius XII, 20 January 1958. The Pope there had only words of praise for large families "those most blessed by God and specially loved and prized by the Church as its most precious treasures" (see more below).

Gaudium et Spes 87 points to the need of international cooperation to assist those countries to solve difficulties, which "are faced with the special problems arising out of rapid increases in population." Had the Church intended to declare that parents have an obligation to have fewer children because of such problems, this would have been the place to teach such a thing. That she doesn't do so in this passage shows that she remains consistent in her doctrine expressed in the earlier passage, in Gaudium et Spes 50, which approves parents who "courageously undertake the proper upbringing of a large number of children." The evident conclusion is that peoples and governments should take proper means to solve related problems, but these solutions must not impinge upon the right of parents to make the decision regarding the number of children. Gaudium et Spes 87 reads in part:

The government has, assuredly, in the matter of population of its country, its own rights and duties, within the limits of its proper competence, for instance as regards social and family legislation the migration of country-dwellers to the city, and information concerning the state and needs of the nation...

Since there is widespread opinion that the population expansion of the world, or at least some particular countries, should be kept in check by all possible means and by every kind of intervention by public authority, the Council exhorts all men to beware of all solutions, whether uttered in public or in private or imposed at any time, which transgress the natural law. Because in virtue of man's inalienable right to marriage and the procreation of children, the decision regarding the number of children depends on the judgment of the parents and is in no way to be left to the decrees of public authority.

The Church, in her doctrine, acknowledges no right of a government to decree that only one or two children are permitted to families (China). Similarly, Church teaching logically opposes "population target programs" which legislate disincentives against large families, and incentives to practice birth control.

F. Natural family planning is for families, not demography

Does the Church propose the promotion of natural family planning instead of contraception and abortion to implement government policies for birth control? Hardly!

Natural family planning involves periodic restraint of the use of intercourse on the part of parents. This engages strongly the energies of the parents to love each other, to love their children, to forego pleasures, to exert strong will power. For this conviction and motivation are needed. By and large parents who are convinced that their abstinence serves the good of their family and is approved by God, can succeed very well to abstain periodically.

But if the motivation of parents to abstain periodically from intercourse is not solid and genuine, is not dear to the heart of the parents and convincing to their minds, by and large few will make the effort, and fewer still will persevere in the long run. If many parents sense that "overpopulation" is real, that they cannot educate many children in their families properly for this reason, they can practice responsible parenthood in the natural way. The accumulated effects of widespread NFP would then affect national demographic trends. Parents, by and large, are equipped mentally to make every needed sacrifice for family welfare. But if governments ask them to do NFP for population control, when it is not evident to them that there is a real need for it, we do not expect NFP drives to achieve dramatic demographic results.

And that underlines the beauty of Church insistence that governments do not promote illicit means of birth control to implement demographic policies. The Church, not naive, must know very well that parents, by and large, will use NFP for the welfare of their families and for clear and urgent social problems. But she also knows that governments will not likely succeed to reduce birth rates by promoting NFP so long as parents are not convinced that overpopulation problems are for real, that they are not just a construct of ideology.

Do we need proof? 1) Never in Vatican documents is the advice given, even suggested, that families ought to use natural family planning in order to overcome overpopulation. 2) The Vatican has not requested funding from the UN or other agencies to promote NFP in order to achieve a goal of decelerating national or world demographic growth.

When promoters of birth control at the UN World Conference on Population Development held at Cairo in 1994 asked governments, foundations, banks and other agencies to increase funds for population control from the current $5.6 billion annually, to $17 billion by the year 2000 (see Population Research Institute Review, Nov./Dec. 1995) the Vatican Delegation did not request that a part of the funds be used for promoting NFP. Obviously, that would have been the place for the Vatican to make such a request or suggestion, but the Vatican Delegation did no such thing. It wants no part in the mistaken global effort to reduce population.

Even with the present funds of $5.6 billion per year, it would appear possible to teach the entire world about the simple techniques of natural family planning within one year; maybe within six months. Or, electronic devices to facilitate the use of NFP, which are already on the market, could be supplied to users globally with immediate and spectacular results. For example, devices already on the market in Japan which retail at $100 could be donated to the alleged 340,000,000 couples in the world who now supposedly use contraception; on a budget of $5.6 billion per year, a unit could be donated to each of the 340 million couples in less than ten years, before the next World Population Conference meets again. The UNFPA, Planned Parenthood and similar agencies would then have no more reason to meet nor to continue their presently misguided efforts. Perhaps 100,000 present promoters of contraception could lose their unholy jobs.

G. Population "targets" lead to coercive measures

The "population targets" glibly championed by many participants at the Mexico City 1984 World Population Conference did not meet the approval of the Vatican Delegation. Bishop Jan Schotte (now Cardinal), head of the Vatican delegation, pointed out that quantitative population growth targets invited coercive measures to meet the targets; that such targets might be used as a condition for economic assistance. He told the Conference that socio-economic assistance should not be based on a "demonstrated decline in birth rates." He added that it was "simplistic and unreal to identify population policy with population control: at the heart of population policies is the good health and well-being of the human person who must always be looked upon as an active participant in the life of society, as a precious good to be cherished, and not as a mere object of government policies" (Mexico City, 9 August 1984). In other words, the Vatican does not equate population policies with birth control.

The Philippine Episcopal Commission on Family Life circulated a scorching criticism of imposed population targets to participants of that 1984 World Conference. Experience in the Philippines has taught us a severe lesson, wrote Sr. Blesila C. Fabricante, ECFL Executive Secretary, blaming the World Bank with these words:

Since the late 1960's, the Philippine government has implemented a population program which has directly or indirectly affected family life in our country and this program seems to be the same with others existing in developing countries funded by the World Bank. Abortion is part of this program structure. We cannot fight abortion alone without confronting the whole structure of which abortion is only a part.

In other words, the World Bank pushes the Trojan Horse of contraception into unsuspecting developing countries: once admitted, a legion of abortion devils clatters out of its belly to overwhelm the nation. In the document itself Bishop Jesus Y. Varela, Chairman of the ECFL, told how population targets, like the AIDS virus, destroy moral defenses and freedom:

A national policy of population control officially began with Presidential Executive Orders 171 (1969) and 233 (1970) creating a Commission on Population...

The movement of the program has been towards the radical: from four-children-per-family as its goal, to three children, then two, and now, to one child by the year 2,000 (the third 5-year plan, 1981-1985). It has also moved from a "contraception-only policy, to sterilization for its main thrust. The IUDs, admittedly abortifacients, continue to be offered.

Manipulation has been indispensable to the program. When targeted results of human behavior are desired, freedom of decision becomes an obstacle. Thus, material incentives, social sanctions (maternity-leave without pay, limited tax exemption etc)...are applied.

With surprising candor, the UNFPA publication Populi admitted that the implementation of demographic targets set up by governments was sometimes "forced upon physicians as well as the women to whom they provide medical services." Because many women would refuse an IUD if asked, "some physicians insert the IUD's without informing them" in every woman who has delivered three children. Doctors are sometimes told to do this, or leave their jobs at the hospital (Populi, July/August 1994, p. 11). Notorious above all is the coercion practiced in China forcing medics to perform abortions upon unwilling women who have exceeded the government imposed legal "quota" of child bearing. Local officials run a considerable risk of fines, demotions, dismissals, if they do not adhere to enforcing the imposed quotas and exercising coercion upon their populations "by use of denial of food rations, salary forfeitures, threats and physical force to compel submission" (John S. Aird, "The China Model" in Population Research Institute Review, July/August 1994, p. 2). Incentives which have the force of compulsion are a regular part of implementing targets in India, Bangladesh and Egypt as well (Aird, ibid.). The Catholic Church, in season and out of season, declares that it is the right of parents to decide about the number of children, and that governments have no right to make this decision for them.

The Church and Responsible Parenthood

What is to be said about the passage in Humanae Vitae No. 10 which mentions duties toward human society as part of responsible parenthood? The passage reads: "Responsible parenthood requires that spouses recognize their duties toward God, toward themselves, toward the family, and toward human society, as they maintain a correct set of priorities." Those who believe that the world is really overpopulated may want to draw a conclusion from Humanae Vitae No. 10 that responsible parenthood uniformly forbids large families because the world is already assumed to be overpopulated.

Two responses must be given: 1) The Church has not acknowledged that there are too many people in the world; consequently she does not teach in Humanae Vitae No. 10 that parents ought to have fewer children today in view of such a supposed and non-validated problem. 2) Social obligations may oblige or influence parents to have fewer children if they have genetic defects which tend to make their offspring a burden to society; similarly, parents who neglect their duties to educate their children properly should not irresponsibly beget children whom they then impose upon society for their education because they themselves do not do their duty. Humanae Vitae No. 10 means, then, that parents must use foresight and prudence so that they strive properly to educate the children whom they bear.

Finally, a word should be said about social and economic pressures upon parents to have only 2-3 children, such as exist in Japan and elsewhere. Responsible parenthood has wide limitations of legitimacy here, I venture to say. If parents feel less inclined to stand alone against these pressures, and do not wish their children to be subject to ridicule by their peers if they have many brothers and sisters, these pressures may be reasonable motives for parents to have fewer children than the ideal would be for them. The biased and skewed social conditions and public opinion provide some excuse for parents to go with the general trend, provided, however, that they do not use contraception, abortion and sterilization. However, courageous parents should rather adhere to the truth of the matter, should exercise their God-given right to properly bear and educate a relatively large number of children (Gaudium et Spes 50) and so eventually correct the social pressures against large families which are objectively wrong in the first place.

After having consulted with the 1980 Synod of Bishops "On the Family," Pope John Paul II wrote that the ultimate reason for refusing new life is the "absence in people's hearts of God, whose love alone is stronger than all the world's fears and can conquer them" (Familiaris Consortio No. 30). The Church views an anti-life mentality as a departure from God's positive love, as a refusal to welcome the splendid gift of God's goodness. She is disappointed that many have become victims "of a certain panic deriving from the studies of ecologists and futurologists on population growth, which sometimes exaggerate the danger of demographic increase to the quality of life" (Familiaris Consortio No. 30).

Salva reverentia to Fathers Peschke and O'Keefe (see above) the Church, while advocating responsibility in the exercise of parenthood, does not promote population control. Quite to the contrary, she loves and approves large and well ordered families. Church documents, past, present and presumably in future, do not teach parents to have fewer children in order to limit national or world population growth. Despite all the propaganda in the media for birth control to solve "overpopulation" the Church, now as before, praises parents who "courageously undertake the proper bringing up of a large number of children" (Gaudium et Spes 50).

A statement was once drafted by a theologian that "when a nation is overpopulated, couples have a duty to bear fewer children; when a nation is underpopulated, couples have a duty to increase births." He withdrew the statement after reflecting that it conflicts with the Church's across the board approval of large and well ordered families. The statement was deleted from the draft of a book being prepared for distribution to the members of the 1980 Synod of Bishops: Natural Family Planning, Nature's Way - God's Way, (general editor Zimmerman, De Rance, Milwaukee, 1980). Had that offending sentence remained in the book, it would be the only statement even remotely connected with Magisterial documents which would approve parental birth control to solve a supposed overpopulation problem exterior to their family circle. That sentence was deleted under the eyes of the overseeing Vatican official. Hence there is no Vatican approval anywhere for parental birth control which purports to solve an overpopulation problem.

The March/April 1991 issue of Studies in Family Planning, notes that "Catholics who attend church more regularly are less likely to use contraceptive methods, have lower levels of pill and diaphragm use, and are more likely to use condoms and rhythm and be sterilized if male" (p. 111). Such data keeps alive the hope that Mass attendance and parish collections will look up again when pastors speak out more resolutely about abortion, contraception and sterilization (and often consequent divorce); and when more pastors engage their parish in the apostolate of natural family planning.

Opinions about population limitation policies change with seasons and governments, but teachings of the Catholic Magisterium are as consistent as the Rock on which she stands. We cannot master well all the opinions of demographers, economists, biologists, sociologists and others, about merits or demerits of population growth; that is not at all necessary. We stand on solid ground when we make our own the wisdom of the Church, and pass this on to our people; that wisdom of the Church which enlightens us to see that parents, not governments, have the right to make the decision about children: "the decision regarding the number of children depends on the judgment of parents and is in no way to be left to the decrees of public authority" (Gaudium et Spes 87).

No document of the Magisterium obliges parents who are healthy and who can educate a large family properly, to reduce births for the set purpose of reducing national or world population growth. The Church knows that families are the basic unit of society, and it is they who form governments to foster and protect the common good of the families themselves. Parents supply the population, and governments have the obligation to coordinate the efforts of this given population and organize them for the sake of their common good. Neither God nor families give governments a right to dictate how many children parents may bear.

H. The "Second Demographic Revolution" caps population growth

In the document "Ethical and Pastoral Dimensions of Population Trends" the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Family has coined the phrase "Second Demographic Revolution," (No. 8) to denote the falling demographic trends evident now in a large part of the industrially developed world. The first demographic revolution brought about major population increases when living standards improved so that infant and adolescent mortality were reduced. The second revolution occurs now in developed nations where, for many reasons, the growth of population has decelerated, or stopped, or even gone into reverse.

What follows is my assessment of this "second demographic revolution," not that of the Vatican document. Corrado Gini, a famous Italian statistician, in a series of lectures at Chicago University in 1929, asserted that many nations which flourished in the past are now either extinct or in decline, because they lost reproductive fertility. A loss of national fertility sooner or later appeared with the passage of the majority of the population along a social parabola rising from lower classes into upper classes. The fact that the upper class spouses listen easily to arguments favoring child spacing is an indication to Dr. Gini that the drive and power to reproduce is waning. This "upper class" mentality is associated with the extinction of many nations in past history.

Many nations have gone into decline or complete extinction in the past, Gini pointed out, despite the fact that natural resources were more favorable to them than to neighboring populations which were increasing. This led Gini to discard the theory of Malthus that reproduction always pressed upon the limits of living resources.

I. Developing countries need to grow in population

Gini spoke of a decline of human fertility which accompanied the rise of living levels as populations moved up from lower to higher levels. Without accepting or rejecting his theory of biological fertility decay during the process, we see today that fertility does decline along with urbanization and industrialization. The reasons are not hard to find. This observed decline of fertility, now so evident in the developed economies of Europe, the America's and parts of Asia, gives us reason to believe that world population growth will decelerate everywhere with economic development, without need of promoting birth control.

The replacement rate of population in Japan, for example, has dropped to less than 1.5; it means less than 75% replacement of adult population by the children being born. What may be the cause? Aside from the "flywheel" effect of anti-birth propaganda which stopped three decades ago, and which has excessively discredited motherhood, there are other natural factors by which progressive industrialization tends to effect the second demographic revolution, a decline in fertility. We compare conditions in rural subsistence or relatively undeveloped economies with those of highly industrialized nature.

1. In a rural subsistence economy, up to 50% of the children died before reaching adulthood. In today's marvelously developed conditions, 98% of babies born reach adulthood. Parents need to bear only half as many children to realize the same number of adults today, as they needed in conditions of high infant mortality in a rural subsistence economy.

2. When 50% of the babies died, perhaps nature selected somewhat the more robust. These in turn were relatively fertile. Today, the less fertile survive along with the more fertile, and dilute the birth rates achieved because of some loss of biological fertility. I have no figures, but this appears to be a reasonable conclusion.

3. The period of schooling is necessarily longer for children who prepare to enter their highly literate and technically skilled society. Whereas the median age at first marriage tends to be young in rural subsistence economies, this tends to rise along with the prevalence of primary, secondary and higher education characteristic of highly developed economies. Birth rates are highly sensitive to this median age at first marriage.

4. In a rural economy young children can help the parents from an early age and are thus considered an asset; whereas in an urban situation the children become a greater economic burden to the parents, motivating them to space births.

5. Parents in developed economies can serve society through professional contributions of high quality, such as teaching, medical services, research, and many find fulfillment and satisfaction in such occupations more than in rearing a large number of children.

6. The cost of education has been raised to so high a level in Japan today that this inhibits parents from having many children. It is evident that the more technical economic production becomes, the higher is the cost of educating the people who will live in that kind of environment.

7. Many women who have advanced education and can find good paying jobs are postponing marriage in Japan, or even planning to remain unmarried, to follow a career full time. Others combine motherhood with careers or part time jobs and tend to limit births and return to work when the youngsters are old enough for the nursery or kindergarten.

8. The rural to urban migration, which has practically completed its process in Japan, has at least temporarily torn apart the ancient and ancestral extended family; young couples form nuclear families in cities far from parents and grandparents, liberated now from bonds and social pressures which supported the extended family structure from time immemorial. Mothers who were honored when the children came in the ancient society, and assisted by parents and relatives, now find themselves alone, and every new child requires sacrifices without the usual rewards and support from an admiring relationship. The break-up of the extended families and formation of nuclear families is a major factor in decreasing the motivation for births in a large part of the world. In 1992 the population of the less developed regions was 35% urban, as contrasted with 73% of the developed regions, and 44% for the world (The State of World Population 1993, UNFPA, p. 48).

If ever in the very distant future the world's families would recognize convincingly that, for their own welfare, they must cooperate in birth quota's to prevent absolute overpopulation, to preserve the ecosystem, to close the ozone hole, to mitigate the greenhouse effect; and if there is really no other way to keep the world comfortably habitable than to put a quota on births; then, at that time, the Church may recognize that parents should rear fewer children than they can educate properly. That time is not now, and my presumption is that it will never be. Rather, we will find that more of us are better for all, if we keep the ten commandments adequately.

My own opinion is that our 20th and 21st centuries are witnessing so rapid an increase in material productive powers that many families, dazzled by the sight of consumer goods and the clamor of the media, lose a taste for the simple but great joys of family life with many children. Murphy's law that consumer wealth breeds family poverty goes into effect more and more when living levels rise. Many parents also honestly believe that three or four children suffice in their case, or even one or two, because they wish to educate them well, and because they prefer to have more time and energy to pursue professions and contribute to the good of humanity in other ways. All this combines to indicate that world population may tend to stabilize in the future when populations everywhere have achieved mature economic and social development.

In Japan today mothers complain that they cannot afford to have more than two children, because the cost of rearing them is too high: school, clothes, travel, toys. As things look now, Japan will top out its population from the present 125 million to short of 130 million in the next two decades, then begin a long decline. Consumer goods are crowding out the children. When families were large before and during World War II, parents could afford to raise the many children, but today they feel unequal to the effort.

Admittedly the Japanese media have undersold motherhood and parents and schools have combined to overprice the education of children. By such exaggerations the people have induced upon themselves conditions conducive to the low birth rate. But Japan and many other nations illustrate how very easily nations which are highly developed economically and culturally enter the "second demographic transition" of decelerating population growth and eventually into decline. The developed world has more to fear from future de-population than from overpopulation.

However, at least one sixth of the families in Japan have 3-10 children even today. For example, of 1,245,802 births in 1989, 242,193 were a third child or beyond, that is, 19.4% (The Japanese Journal for Midwives, October 1991, p. 22). And in 1993, out of 1,188,282 births, 203,221 were a third child or beyond; that is 17%, meaning one out of six families have 3 births or more in the family (figures cited by the Ministry of Welfare). The accumulation of more children in this substantial minority of the nation keeps alive and well the traditions of the good life in larger families. In large part, they will inherit Japan's future. This robust and persevering family population within the nation will not overpopulate Japan, but rather support the nation's vitality when the majority of families with few children gradually go into demographic decline.

And more. These and other considerations indicate why we expect populations to increase during the first demographic transition when infant and child mortality declines; and why we expect, in turn, a deceleration of the increase when levels of living have improved markedly for the general population. Gini theorized that fertility declined in nations when larger sectors of the population migrated from lower to upper class living levels. Today we see that the economically developed world which has migrated from the lower levels of living in subsistence agriculture economies, into affluent living conditions in high-tech economies, experience general, even dramatic, fertility declines.

If the experience of the already developed parts of the world, which have travelled along the trajectory of large population increases during the transition to higher levels of living, is a valid model for the developing nations of the world, then the latter's levels of living can be expected to improve as well, while their populations now increase. As a whole, the already developed nations achieved rapid economic development without need of national birth control drives. In fact, birth control policies might have decelerated the rapid pace of economic development in the USA and other developed countries in the past. Other things being equal, we would expect slower economic development to have occurred if the young labor force had been depleted by birth control during the transition to the high-tech economy. If that analysis is correct, then the UNFPA does economic harm rather than good to the developing countries by promoting birth control drives.

The once drafted and ill-fated Plan for the Cairo Conference, now at least modified in part, was not really a blue print for Population and Development; it looked more like a Plan for a UN Anti-population and Anti-development Palaver. If developing countries are permitted to peacefully follow the natural trajectory of population growth together with economic development, and if nations cooperate in brotherly solidarity, then developing nations can experience their own music of a New World Symphony much as the USA and other nations did.

J. A real need to curb world population growth not evident

The UNFPA states (The State of World Population 1993, p. 1) that the worldwide rate of population growth has been essentially the same since 1975 at about 1.7% per year. Fertility is actually decreasing from 3.8 in 1975-1980 to 3.3 in 1990-1995. Due to former growth the number of people added each year is still rising. In 1975 the annual addition was about 72 million, and in 1992 it was 93 million. "It will peak between 1995 and 2000 at about 98 million."

For the next 30 years, therefore, continues the UNFPA assessment, rapid population growth is still the dominant feature of global demographics. "The 1993 global population of 5.57 billion is projected to increase to 6.25 billion in 2000, 8.5 billion in 2025 and 10 billion in 2050; significant growth will probably continue until about 2150 and a level of about 11.6 billion" (ibid.). Despite all efforts to halt the growth, according to this projection, we should prepare ourselves to accept at least a doubling of the present world population. We may as well be happy about this and celebrate the Creator's plan and the goodness of the gift of life, rather than indulge in doomsday hand-wringing.

If eleven billion people inhabit our globe in the next century, they will almost certainly have a more comfortable life than our 5.7 billion enjoy today. In 1950, when the world had only 2.5 billion people, we scarcely imagined how well we would be living today with twice that population. In 1950 we could not travel by car on expressways as today, nor fly overseas by jet, nor did we have the heating and air conditioning as now; nor the supermarkets stacked with domestic and imported foods, nor the plentitude of cameras, radios, TV, printed books, magazines and papers, baseball and horse races as today. It appears that the good life for humans has just begun, if only we keep peace, have orderly family life, be moderate, school the youth and govern ourselves sensibly.

As Pope John Paul II counsels wisely: "It is essential to resist the temptation of a dangerous short-cut, which would be to direct every effort to reducing the birth rate, regardless of method" (Angelus Reflection, 5 September 1994, referring to the Cairo Conference). And as the wise man said: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way" (Prov. 19:2; translation of NIV Study Bible). The wise man might counsel the UN as follows: "Do not be hasty with birth control. There is a time and a season for all things. Tomorrow nations will be developed. Parents will know then, as they know now, what is best for their families. The natural methods can be followed by all who are of good will, are always adequate for reasonable family planning."

K. Large Families, Prize of the Church and of the World

Large families have been the cradle of rapid and wholesome social and economic development in all the countries of the world which are highly developed today, and enjoy the good life. The joy of love and zest for living so evident in large families have overflowed to give developed nations their much prized vitality. For developed and for developing countries alike, large families provide the passageway of rich humanity from one generation to the next. We therefore do well to make our own the wisdom of Pope Pius XII, great theologian of our century, who spoke approvingly of large and healthy families to the Association of Large Families on 20 January 1959. The Fathers of Vatican II made this address their own by referring to it in a footnote of Gaudium et Spes 50.

You are and represent large families, those most blessed by God and specially loved and prized by the Church as its most precious treasures. For those families offer particularly clear testimony to three things that serve to assure the world of the truth of the Church's doctrine and the soundness of its practice, and that redounds, through good example, to the great benefit of all other families and of civil society itself. Wherever you find large families in great numbers, they point to: the physical and moral health of a Christian people; a living faith in God and trust in His Providence; the fruitful and joyful holiness of Catholic marriage...

Surely, one of the most harmful aberrations that has appeared in modern society with its pagan tendencies is the opinion of those who are eager to classify fruitfulness in marriage as a "social malady," and who maintain that any nation that finds itself thus afflicted must exert every effort and use every means to cure the disease. This is the basis for the propaganda that goes under the name of "planned parenthood"...

Far from being a "social malady," large families are a guarantee of the moral and physical health of a nation. Virtues flourish spontaneously in homes where a baby's cries always echo from the crib, and vice is put to flight, as if it has been chased away by the childhood that is renewed there like the fresh and invigorating breath of spring. So let the weak and selfish take their example from you; let the nation continue to be loving and grateful toward you for all the sacrifices you have taken upon yourselves to raise and educate its citizens; just as the Church is pleased with you for enabling her to offer along with you, ever healthier and larger groups of souls to the sanctifying activity of the divine Spirit.

Our present Pope, who speaks so frequently at parishes, and at gatherings of families, has never, so far as I know, said so much as one word advising parents to have fewer children to help nations and the world to cope with population problems. His typical advice to parents is to be generous; to give their children extra brothers and sisters instead of extra toys. To Americans gathered at the Washington Mall in 1979 he said: Decisions about the number of children and the sacrifices to be made for them must not be taken only with a view of adding to comfort and preserving a peaceful existence. Reflecting upon this matter before God, with the graces drawn from the sacrament, and guided by the teaching of the Church, parents will remind themselves that it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety" (Homily on the Capitol Mall, Washington, 7 October 1979).

And to the Conference of Italian Bishops he said more recently: Especially if the family is established on a healthy base, it will find the way to accept children generously as a concrete sign of its love of life and as a clear witness of its trust in divine Providence, which never abandons those who entrust themselves to it with active serenity. This goes especially for young families who, if they are trained in a Christian spirit, will not let themselves be conquered by an unjustified fear of having children and will find a way to overcome the many groundless and selfish tendencies towards putting off giving birth, aware that "children are the supreme good of marriage" (Gaudium et Spes 50) and the sign of blessing from the Lord, the "lover of life" (Wis 11:26); (Address on 28 April in a Family Ministry convention sponsored by the Italian Bishop's Conference, L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 7 May 1990).

L. Conclusion

Natural family planning to space children properly, to enable parents to follow cherished goals helpful to society, is in harmony with Catholic principles. But natural family planning for decreasing national and world population is something which neither the Church nor couples with common sense can believe in.

St. Paul urged Timothy "keep away from" people who mislead weak believers by false doctrine (see 2 Tim 3:5 ff). We cannot always keep away from anti-population people, they are so insistent. We let them talk, but we don't do as they say.

The import of this chapter is summed up in the words which John Paul II wrote to Nafis Sadik on March 18, 1994. He gave this advice to the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund and Secretary General of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. As is well known, she champions government policies to reduce population growth. Directly in contradiction to her drive to reduce population, the Pope reiterated to her the eternal Catholic principles about the rights of parents which are prior to those of the state, and consequently their right to decide with a sense of responsibility before God to have large families. In effect he authorized parents to dismiss as human error the entire viper's nest of anti-population policies championed by Mrs. Sadik and by governments which attempt to usurp parental rights:

Today, the duty to safeguard the family demands that particular attention be given to securing for husband and wife the liberty to decide responsibly, free from all social or legal coercion, the number of children they will have and the spacing of their births. It should not be the intent of governments or other agencies to decide for couples but rather to create the social conditions which will enable them to make appropriate decisions in the light of their responsibilities to God, to themselves, to the society of which they are a part, and to the objective moral order. What the Church calls "responsible parenthood" is not a question of unlimited procreation or lack of awareness of what is involved in rearing children, but rather the empowerment of couples to use their inviolable liberty wisely and responsibly, taking into account social and demographic realities as well as their own situation and legitimate desires, in the light of objective moral criteria. All propaganda and misinformation directed at persuading couples that they must limit their family to one or two children should be steadfastly avoided, and couples that generously choose to have large families are to be supported (L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 23 March 1994).

That advice which the Pope gave to Mrs. Sadik is perennial good counsel for families; so it was in the past, so it is now, so it remains in the foreseeable future:


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