RH Bill’s Fallacy of Overpopulation-Poverty Connection
A statist proponent of the Reproductive Health bill, Rep. Edcel Lagman, published a highly fallacious, idiotic article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2008, defending his collectivist-altruist position on his anti-population bill. Lagman said, to wit:
[The RH bill] does not claim that family planning is the panacea for poverty. It simply recognizes the verifiable link between a huge population and poverty. Unbridled population growth stunts socioeconomic development and aggravates poverty. The connection between population and development is well-documented and empirically established.
UN Human Development Reports show that countries with higher population growth invariably score lower in human development. The Asian Development Bank in 2004 also listed a large population as one of the major causes of poverty in the country.
The National Statistics Office affirms that large families are prone to poverty with 57.3 percent of families with seven children mired in poverty while only 23.8 percent of families with two children are poor. Recent studies also show that large family size is a significant factor in keeping families poor across generations.
Family planning will not lead to a demographic winter. UP economics professors in their paper “Population and Poverty: The Real Score” declared that the threat of a so-called demographic winter in the Philippines is “greatly exaggerated, and using it as an argument against a sensible population policy is a plain and simple scare tactic.”
The National Statistical Coordinating Board projected that a replacement fertility of 2.1 children per couple could be reached only by 2040. Moreover, despite a reduced population growth rate, the effects of population momentum would continue for another 60 years by which time our total population would be 240 million.
To debunk this highly stupid claim by statist congressman Lagman, let me re-post the following excerpts from my previous anti-RH Bill blogs that deal with the fallacy of overpopulation-poverty link.
On why overpopulation is not a problem
According to its proponent, Rep. Edcel Lagman, this bill “simply recognizes the verifiable link between a huge population and
poverty. Unbridled population growth stunts socio-economic development and aggravates poverty.” Again, can the Congress legislate “unbriddled population growth?” This reminds me of the famous Simon-Ehrlich Wager in 1980. Economist and Libertarian Julian Simon and the so-called population expert Paul Ehrlich who authored “The Population Bomb” bet on five commercially important and highly scarce metals—copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten—over the decade leading up to 1990. Simon bet that their prices would go down, while Ehrlich bet they would go up. It is important to understand that during that period—1980 and 1990—the global population ballooned by over 800 million, the biggest jump in a decade in all of history. Ultimately, Ehrlich the “doomsayer” lost the wager. This only means that as the world population increased, mankind found some ways to survive. Today, we have found potential alternatives to oil and metals. Before, a computer was as big as a single-storey house, but due to man’s ingenuity and intransigent passion to discover new things we now have personal computers and notebooks. With the creators’ love of life and willingness to survive, they were able to find new alternatives better and more efficient than the ones which they replaced.
It is true that population is increasing, but I don’t believe it can be legislated. It appears that the main reason of the bill’s supporters is the unfounded fear that overpopulation is somewhat linked to poverty. This contention is highly debatable, and the burden of proof rests upon those who claim that overpopulation is a problem. It is wrong to totally attribute poverty to overpopulation, considering that fact that there are even worse social problems confronting this country, like corruption, people’s stupidity and faith-based fanaticism, and most especially massive government intervention. Almost all crises that took place in this country were caused by excessive state interference. Population must not be used as a scapegoat to correct an evil with another evil. We can’t solve poverty by expanding the powers of the government. Only Capitalism can save this country from poverty, and I have clearly and explicitly stated the reason why in my previous blogs. Population is not the culprit. It cannot be controlled with the use of political edicts. It can only be managed through proper education—by giving every family the right to choice and proper information. Like I said, these functions are part of our existing governmental system, thus there’s no need to pass this evil bill—more so, there’s no need to let this country shift to statism or socialism. It is not moral to coerce employers to extend reproductive health care services to their workers against their will. It is the free-market competition that can only make this dream of the socialists happen without passing the bill. For example, call center companies, mostly foreign-owned, competing for competent and skilled workers now offer competitive health care packages to their employees. This proves that even without the coercive power of the government, competent employers would be compelled by the free-market system to offer not only high compensation package but also good health care services for their workers.
Here’s a very interesting position from the University of the Philippines written by faculty members, students and alumni, although it cannot be confirmed whether it is endorsed by the university administration:
Population is not an obstacle to development. The bills assume that a nation’s population hinders its development that is why they push for the promotion of a two-child policy, massive distribution of contraceptives, sex education (to acquaint young people with contraception), and sterilization, all of which make use of taxpayers’ money. However, as early as 1966, Nobel Prize winner Simon Kuznets’ research has shown that there is insignificant empirical association between population growth rates and output per capita (economic growth). Rather, it is the rate at which technology grows and the ability of the population to employ these new technologies efficiently and widely that permit economic progress. Kuznets saw that the basic obstacles to economic growth arise from the limited capabilities of the institutions (political, social, legal, cultural, economic) to adjust. He argued instead that a more rapid population growth, if properly managed, will promote economic development through a positive impact on the society’s state of knowledge. His findings have been confirmed by similar studies by the US National Research Council (1986), the UN Population Fund Consultative Meeting of Economists (1992), Eric Hanushek and Ludger Wößmann (2007), among others.
However, I strongly disagree with their contention that the “government has to channel limited funds to job creation and education.” In reality, the government has no ‘economic capability’ to create jobs. A government that creates job is a contradiction in terms because in the first place, the government or the state is not a productive agency. It does not create wealth; it merely relies on the capability of the productive members of our society to create wealth. However, the state has the magical power to create paper money out of thin air, which is a power to destroy the wealth of every individual through inflation, which is in reality, a hidden tax. But the government has an ‘indirect’ capability to create jobs by protecting individual rights and guaranteeing economic freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines. That is, the government can ‘help’ create jobs by protecting property rights and intellectual property rights, and by faithfully enforcing the rule of law.
Economic development can only be achieved through more respect for freedom and of individual rights in this country. There can be no development with the proposed implementation of a fascist bill that seeks to control, enslave, and sacrifice the wealth-creators (businessmen and health care providers). Now you may disagree with the term “wealth-creator” here but let me tell you that without businesses and providers of job, this country would definitely be reduced to a stinking hellhole overnight! You must be familiar with the economic condition in Haiti. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the world’s least developed nations, scored 50.8 in terms of economic freedom, making its economy the 141st freest in this year’s index. Economic regulation is rampant in Haiti that starting a business takes an average of 195 days, compared to the world average of 35 days. Securing a business license also takes about five times longer than the world average of 218 days. Corruption is also rampant in Haiti as it ranks 177th out of 169 countries in the 2007 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Foreign investors are afraid to do business in Haiti because of its reputation as one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The fallacy of overpopulation
Relying on science and scientific principles, how do we know then whether there is “overpopulation” problem in the Philippines (suppose “overpopulation” were really a problem)? First, let’s get the updated population in the country, which is 97,976,603 (July 2010 est.). What’s the total area of the Philippines? The answer is: 300,076 km2. What is the country’s density per square kilometers? The answer is: 307.344 per square kilometers.
What’s the country’s fertility rate for the year 2010? The answer is 3.27, and we’re ranked 62nd. The country’s fertility rate in 2008 was 3.32. This shows a change of -1.51 percent from 2008 to 2010. The country with the highest fertility rate is Niger with 7.75, followed by Mai (7.29), Uganda (6.77), Afghanistan (6.53), Somalia (6.52), and Burundi (6.33).
Total Fertility Rate (FTR) is defined by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Factbook as one which “is a more direct measure of the level of fertility than the crude birth rate, since it refers to births per woman. This indicator shows the potential for population change in the country.”
According to the CIA World Factbook: “A rate of two children per woman is considered the replacement rate for a population, resulting in relative stability in terms of total numbers. Rates above two children indicate populations growing in size and whose median age is declining. Higher rates may also indicate difficulties for families, in some situations, to feed and educate their children and for women to enter the labor force. Rates below two children indicate populations decreasing in size and growing older. Global fertility rates are in general decline and this trend is most pronounced in industrialized countries, especially Western Europe, where populations are projected to decline dramatically over the next 50 years.”
On the other hand, annual growth rate from 2000-2008 is 1.9 percent, while crude death rate in 2008 is 5 as against crude birth rate during the same year of 25. There is also considerable improvement in life expectancy. Life expectancy in 1970 is 57 years compared to 65 years in 1990. Now perhaps due to modern medical technologies and better quality of life, life expectancy in the country as of 2008 improved to 72 years.
According to a scientific study, the world will reach a milestone wherein half of the global population will be having only enough children to replace itself. What does this statement mean? It simply means that the fertility rate of half of the world will be 2.1 or below. Take note that the Philippine’s current growth rate is 1.98, while the country’s fertility rate has been on the wane for years. This year’s fertility rate (2012 update) is 3.15. This figure—2.1— is described as the “replacement level of fertility”. Around 2.9 billion people out of a total global population of 6.5 billion were living in countries at or below this level in 2000-2005, according to the United Nations population division. The Philippines’ fertility rate in 2003 was 3.29, 3.16 in 2004 and 2005, 3.11 in 2006, and 3.05 in 2007. This means that we are 1.17 above the “replacement level of fertility” considering the fact that the country’s density per square miles is 307.344.
It was also reported that the global population will rise to 3.4 billion out of 7 billion in the early 2010s, which is today, to more than 50 percent in the middle of the next decade. The countries affected by this population “slow down” include not only Japan and Russia but also south India, China, Indonesia and even Brazil.
Global and domestic indicators show that the most touted and most abused word in this RH bill debate— “overpopulation”— is indeed a BIG myth. Scientific reports show that there is a foreseeable decline in global population in the next decades due to the fact that most countries are at or below the “replacement level of fertility” of 2.1. What then is the context of their “overpopulation” rhetoric? Is it local, global or both?
No logical correlation between overpopulation and poverty
Observe that the top ten countries with the highest fertility rate are Niger, Uganda, Mali, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Ethiopia, and Republic of Congo. What are the common characteristics of these countries? They are poor or third world countries. They have high population. They have extremely poor individual freedom and economic freedom (e.i lack of respect for property rights and intellectual property rights, poor justice system, and poor rule of law).
Now let’s see how the Heritage Foundation ranked these countries in terms of economic freedom. Niger was given the freedom score of 52.9 or mostly unfree; Uganda (62.2 or moderately free); Mali (55.6 or mostly unfree); Somalia (not ranked because of its chaotic domestic affairs); Burkina Faso (59.4 or mostly unfree); Democratic Republic of Congo (41.4 or repressed); Angola (48.4 or repressed); Ethiopia (51.2 or mostly unfree); and Republic of Congo (43.2 or repressed).
This simply exposes the fallacy behind Rep. Edcel Lagman’s (author of the RH bill) rhetoric: The RH bill “simply recognizes the verifiable link between a huge population and poverty.” Lagman simply failed to see and understand the full context of poverty. Poverty increases because individual freedom decreases. According to the Heritage Foundation, the Philippines was ranked 56.3 or mostly unfree due to state controls and regulations, corruption, and the continued repression of freedom in trade, business, fiscal, monetary, investment, etc.
The best and only alternative: free-market capitalism
The only social system that can save this country from worsening poverty is capitalism—and the only solution to overpopulation, which is not even a problem, is to reject the morality of altruism, the concept of statism, and embrace reason, individualism, and a philosophy for living on earth. This way, the Filipino can achieve a new renaissance for this country. In fact, the free-market system is the best form of birth or population control.
In his article debunking overpopulation myth and the evil influence of Thomas Malthus, Manfred Schieder wrote:
Capitalism involves, thus, an automatic system of birth control, a fact that the general population hasn’t considered yet but which adds a great deal to reduce the dangers involved in birth delivery for women. People who perceive a better future in their life are less interested in producing children as “sustenance security” for their old age and, besides, they are keen in providing their offsprings with a better education than they themselves ever had. Further on, less children free a female from the so-called “kitchen chores”. Now they can earn their own money, which increases the amount of money to be saved and so adds to life’s enjoyment. In addition they can now delight in their own body and sexual relations that are in themselves a tool of happiness and no longer the terror of unavoidable pregnancies that may mean their own deaths, quite separately from the possible death of the babies (all this beside the added security of the higher standards of hygiene and the increased amount of medicines invented). Wherever even traces of Capitalism are applied, a decrease of sexual practice as mere generators of more human beings and an increase of all kinds of sexual activity for personal satisfaction can be seen. The scholars of Capitalism already foresaw this fact, but it’s almost surprising that it appears on such an early implementation of some parts of the system, as we are facing nowadays. The only possible rational social system – Capitalism – solves, thus, the essential problems of both nature and the human being in a peaceful, self-respecting, productive way.