Commentary

Democrats Once Again Embrace Population Control to Save the Planet

By Stephen Moore | September 10, 2019 | 9:01am EDT
(Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Is the left once again embracing Malthusian population control in order to save the planet?

Of all the preposterous proposals put forward by the Democratic presidential candidates during the CNN climate change town hall meeting last week, the dumbest wasn't outlawing plastic straws, incandescent light bulbs or air travel. It wasn't the contention that climate change is the globe's greatest threat since World War II. It wasn't even the fantastical hypothesis that hurricanes are racist because they target "communities of color" more than white areas.

No, the dumbest (and most dangerous) idea was a rehash of the widely discredited authoritarian idea from the 1960s and '70s: population control. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked by a schoolteacher whether it would even be possible to fight global warming given that "the world's population has doubled over the last 50 years." Would the senator be "courageous enough to discuss curbing population growth" as part of his climate plan? Sanders obediently blurted out "absolutely, yes" and then meandered into a discussion about a woman's right to choose and better access to birth control.

Here we go again. In the 1960s, biologist Paul Ehrlich of Stanford became the patron saint of the modern population control movement with his mega-bestseller "The Population Bomb." That book — which argued that the world was overpopulated by more than 1 billion people and the only way to save the planet from environmental doomsday was to force people to have fewer children — became the rallying cry for Stalinistic population control measures around the world. This led to tens of millions of forced abortions, involuntary sterilization programs, forced contraception and even homicidal infanticide — all in the name of saving the planet.

China took the population control crusade to a whole new level when it instituted its notorious one-child policy. To this day, there are tens of millions of females demographically missing in China. The homicidal environmental policy was cheered on by the United Nations and many of the same left-wing activists and organizations that preach "reproductive freedom" and women's rights. Similarly brutish population control programs were implemented in Africa, India, Egypt and many South American nations. To save the planet, babies had to be prevented.

Fortunately, scholars like the late Julian Simon of the University of Illinois proved that human beings do not deplete the world's resources but help discover and create them. A larger number of human beings — especially when combined with freedom and free enterprise — leave the planet materially and environmentally better off, not worse off.

Simon also showed that freedom and prosperity are the best forms of contraception. Population growth happened because we found ways to conquer early death — with infant mortality rates falling by 70% and 80% — and eradicate killer diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis.

The Malthusians were not just immoral; they were dead wrong on their population projections.

All of those population forecasting models that predicted standing room only on the planet over the next 25 to 50 years were lies. In the 1970s, the left predicted today's population would be more than 10 billion people. The number is closer to 7.5 billion. These doomsday demographic models of the future were about as accurate as the climate change models predicting catastrophic temperature changes.

What the population control crowd didn't see happening was that population growth has radically slowed down — and not because of government edicts. As people get richer and freer, couples have chosen to have fewer — but healthier — children. Today, in most countries, including China, the tragedy is not too many children but too few.

But at its core, the radical greens really do believe that the fundamental problem with the human race is that there are too many of us. People are the pollution. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Prince Harry are urging people to have fewer or no kids. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wondered earlier this year whether young women should feel ethically bound not to have children so as to help prevent climate change. At the end of the day, she rejected that lunacy, but the very idea that liberals had to ask the question shows how anti-human the left has become.

This is a fundamentally anti-Judeo-Christian ideology that disrespects human life and — as history proves all too well — can lead to dastardly consequences for basic human rights and economic progress. In regard to environmental problems and the constantly changing climate of our planet, human ingenuity is the solution, not the cause.

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He is the co-author of "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive the American Economy."

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