People love their children, and children generally are a source of pleasure. Some people even claim to derive deep satisfaction from a houseful of seven or eight youngsters. But it is true to say of most people regardless of ethnicity or location that, if they had a really free choice, they would rather have a manageable number – enough for pleasure and company – but not the heavy load of six to a dozen or more.
This is proven by the fact that couples in more perfluent nations, having in recent decades for the first time in history a large measure of choice and control in the matter of child-bearing, are mostly choosing to have just one, two or three, then stop.
Why then do people in the rest of the world have so many babies?
First, it is important to realise that there is not a lot of purposefulness in it – it just happens, is the main reason for it. Contraceptives are not as cheap and available as in more perfluent countries. Also, in these countries, most people’s lives are what more fortunate world citizens would regard as hard, uncomfortable, insecure, and monotonous. Frequent sex may be very important to make life bearable.
It is often said that the higher birthrate in these countries arises from the desire of people to have security for their old age in the form of grown-up offspring to support and care for them. It is more likely that this is a rationalisation, a perceived compensation for the burden of a large family, rather than the purpose for which the child-bearing is undertaken. Rather than husband and wife saying “Let’s have seven children so we can be provided for in our old age”, it is more likely that they say “Well, we’ve got seven children, we may have more, and it’s hard, but at least some of them might help us in our old age”.
If they had a free choice, as would be provided by cheap and readily available contraception and national pension and health schemes for those too old to work, then most people in less perfluent countries would prefer to have fewer children, enjoy them more, and not find them such a burden.
It is not quite as simple as that of course – religion is a powerful force opposing contraception in many parts of the world.
It might be said that contraception and social services are an “internal matter” for nations and that citizens of other nations have no right to intervene. Any economic or social injustice suffered by people anywhere in the world is the rightful concern of people anywhere else in the world. We must all come to regard ourselves as world citizens and artificial borders between people’s must not be allowed to maintain inequalities of rights, opportunities, and economic well-being. Such borders must be regarded as a temporary stage which must be overcome by any means. People must realise that they have a permanent right to intervene in the affairs of other nations if any wrong appears to need righting. This may not always achieve much, but the net effect will help human progress if it contributes to the process of weakening and ultimately dissolving national borders.
Posts in this Series
- Review of 1988 edition of Economics for a Round Earth
- Ends and Means
- Evolution Not Revolution
- Notes on Evolution Not Revolution
- Concepts and Terms – What is ‘wealth’?
- The Throughput Chain
- The Derivatives of Wealth
- Global Inequalities in Wealth
- Economic Growth Redefined
- Misconceptions in Practice
- Borrowing to Invest to Get Rich
- Environment versus Economic Progress
- Digression: Pollution Red Herrings
- Digression: Depletion and Inflation
- Value Inflation – the Trigger, not the Bullet
- Living Standard and Quality of Life
- Digression: Resource Consumption, Jobs, and Hands Off
- When the Boom comes
- The Effect of People’s Expectations
- Hard Work – Virtue or Vice?
- Who needs the Snail Darter?
- More Dollars for Conservation?
- Non-renewable Resources – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Digression: Fast Breeder Nuclear Fission Reactors
- Minerals in National Parks – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Population and Wealth
- Left, Right and The Environment
- Digression: “So Long As We Profit, Costs Elsewhere Aren’t Our Problem”?
- Limits to Growth?
- Solar Energy – a Special Case
- The Solar-Powered Car
- Money Supply, Throughput and Inflation
- Real and Money Wages: Living Standards
- Digression: Caution about “Increases” and “Decreases”
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages: the Great Depression
- Deficit Financing
- The Optimum Proportionate Flow Condition
- Digression: Thrift versus Spendthrift
- Digression: the Private Motor Car – a Basic Necessity?
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages – the Stagflation of the 1970’s and 80’s
- Excessive Wages Can Cost Jobs
- Fight Unemployment or Inflation First?
- Digression: Work and Jobs
- Other “Job Creation” Schemes
- Visual and Noise Pollution
- Digression: Renewal and Recycling of Resources; Wages and Jobs
- Ratio Distortion and Consumption
- Aggregate Demand – Components and Internal Ratio
- The Slave Economy
- Employment and the Steady State
- Consumer-Led Recovery
- Interest Rates and Ratio Distortion
- Demographic Trends and Living Standards
- Digression: Bad Economics Good for Conservation?
- Coping with Aging Populations
- Stabilising the Human Population
- Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?
- Digression: Other Comments on Statements in UN Report
- Discussion of Costs Resumed
- Budget Balancing Methods – Cost or Gain?
- Digression: Government Expenditure – Government Employees
- Expenditure on Weapons