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The Population Control Controversy

Many problems surface with this argument. Overcrowding may not be the root cause of such problems. Although the belief that too many people in a region outstrip vital resources like food and water may seem logical, it may ignore the fact that the resources were not adequate enough in the first place. Overpopulation might only be contributing to a problem that has many other deeper causes. In addition, governmental plans to control family planning may be unethical. Many people are stunned by China's policy of one child per family. Others view the United Nations' fervent implementation of birth control education in Africa as too assuming and arrogant, as imperialism at its worst. Many agree that human life is sacred to the extent that the right to life exists. The crucial question when analyzing the problem of controlling population is whether or not people have the right to create life. This essay will briefly explore both sides of the debate about population control as the solution for averting poverty in a nation.

Scholars and policymakers have linked overpopulation to poverty for many centuries. In the eighteenth century, Thomas Malthus articulated this belief the most influentially. He argued that when an area became overpopulated, its food resources became outstripped. In Christian Europe, late or postponed marriages served as a preventive check on overpopulation. In other less civilized places, according to Malthus, war, epidemics and abortion provided a preventive check on population. Malthus believed that in order to control the population, and thus poverty, marriage should be restrained so that families would not be limited in size. Malthus did not condone the use of birth control, however, as that he viewed as unchristian. Ironically, today, supporters of his thesis widely argue that birth control should be the measure taken to prevent overpopulation, especially in many African nations.

Other scholars have also supported and developed the thesis of Malthus. Mill did not accept that men and women had the right to procreate; consequently, no moral right is infringed by stopping a family from having children if indeed they cannot support them. If one were to examine that argument and extend it to China's policy of one child per family, would it still be reasonable? Many Chinese women have fled from home in order to escape forced abortions. Furthermore, children who are born without state sanction do not receive living rights or support from the state, including grain rations. Surely, one must conclude that such treatment of women and children is inhumane.

On the other side of the debate are scholars who do not believe that overpopulation is the main cause of poor quality of life. Poverty has a firm hold on society because those at the bottom of society do not have the same access to land, education and other sources of production as do those at the top of society. Therefore, the solution to poverty and environmental problems is politically based rather than controlling the population of a region. Perhaps, this solution is too general. Specific measures that outline how a political approach should be adopted to address a nation's poverty and environmental ruin would lead to quicker implementation and thus, results. Ultimately, the nature of poverty is complex.

Surely, many factors lead to the poverty of a nation. However, even if one accepts that overpopulation leads to poverty, one needs to think about the consequences of adopting any policy aimed at controlling population. The most realistic, humane route would be to first address any political causes of poverty, for example, by re--examining the education system or finding ways to encourage capital investment in a nation.

By: Gabriel