Economist Debate: Too Many People? This house believes that the world would be better off with fewer people

August 22, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Many thanks to Jack Alpert for bringing this debate to my attention.

During the past few years, the size of the world’s population has become a matter of public debate in a way not seen since the late 1960s. At that time, books such as Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” (1968) forecast that the number of people would outstrip the world’s capacity to feed and clothe them within a generation; Mr Ehrlich advocated stringent population-control measures. This period was also one of soaring oil and commodity prices, and reflected worries about future famine and raw-material scarcity.

Today, when the total number of people is 6.7 billion and is forecast to surpass 9 billion by 2050, concerns about raw-material scarcities have re-emerged, albeit in a somewhat different form. Many observers now focus on environmental concerns and fear that a world degraded by climate change will not be able to support more numbers people. Support for population controls has also reappeared: half of Britons, according to one opinion poll, think people should not have more than two children.

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