Population and Wealth

A magazine article cited, as one reason for improving safety in the home and reducing deaths and injuries to children, the argument that the deaths and injuries were a cost to the nation because of the loss of “production” of goods and services which those children, had they become healthy adults, would have accomplished in their lifetime.

The loss or damage to the children was thus seen as an economic “cost” to the nation which made it “poorer” than it could have been.

Taking the greatest care of children is a duty and a joy and needs no further justification. But the fact is that what those unfortunates would have achieved would have been throughput, not production, of wealth. A person’s whole life is a process of consumption, not accumulation of wealth.

In economic terms, the tragic loss of those children actually represents a saving, due to less throughput and slower depletion of wealth. This comes back to the point that people are agents of wealth throughput, not creators of wealth. The goods and services not structured by the children who were never able to take their place in the work force are not irretrievably lost; the wealth that would have gone into them is still there and may be made into goods and services later on. It is not a case of a great pile of human-created wealth being everlastingly smaller that it might have been had those children lived a normal working life.

The article’s argument is based on the misconception that people are a resource which may be harnessed to greater or less effect to create wealth. A nation with a greater population is assumed to be actually or potentially a wealthier nation.

In fact, people and their economic systems are part of the total ecosystem, a part that draws its activity from throughputting the other parts and depends on their size and health for its activity. More people, more throughput, eventually depletes the other parts, reducing the activity of the human component. There must be a limit to the human population consistent with the limits of the other parts of the ecosystem. There may be arguments as to what the limit should be, and one determinant is the level of world economic activity which it is desired to sustain. But there must be a limit.

More in relation to this subject will be said in a post “Stabilising the Human Population”. The concept of cost also requires further definition and analysis and this will take place in a post “Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?”.

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