Conspicuous Benevolence and the Population Bomb

The one certain thing about population control is that we do not yet know how to achieve it. That needs a bit of explaining. If human beings do absolutely nothing about controlling their populations, nature will do it for us, simply because the world—our world—is limited. Sure, a few human beings might eventually be shipped off to the stars in a spaceship, but this could never be a feasible way in which to deal with unhindered population growth. At the present time, world population is increasing by a quarter of a million people per day. At a cost of tens of millions of dollars per astral passenger, we will never be rich enough to "solve" the population problem that way.

Never mind: nature will solve the problem for us. The high death rate in countries like Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Bangladesh will (if we sit on our hands) ultimately be great enough to produce zero population growth (ZPG). At present, all that nature is producing is misery. Bangladesh, with an area the size of Iowa, has a population 38 times as great, and each year it adds another Iowa's-worth of population. As miserable as conditions are in Bangladesh now, they are slated to become worse before ZPG sets in. That's not the kind of population control we are looking for.

Some of the European models appeal to us more. From time to time one country or another has been in the ZPG-mode—for a few years. Hungary. East Germany....

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