Of all the fantasies indulged in by a society speeding toward self-destruction, none is as consequential as the idea that continuing growth — both in population and size of our economy — has a happy-ever-after ending. Yet, when overpopulation is discussed at all, it is discussed as a problem limited to the developing world. Indeed, a growing chorus of “pro-natalist” or population growth ideologues insists that, in the U.S. and other parts of the developed world, population stability or decline represents a demographic crisis that needs to be reversed.
In order to ignore the patently obvious fact that unlimited population growth is neither environmentally or socially sustainable, one would have to be prepared to explain how a resource-gobbling U.S. of 500 million or 700 million people would work. (If you’re not prepared to do so, you’ve already accepted the reality that some limits exist and that the only question is what those limits should be.)
If, though, you really believe that predictions of overpopulation-induced catastrophe have been overblown, there are still two critical questions to be addressed, both of which are currently verboten as a matter of public debate.
First, even if ever-increasing population were survivable, is it really desirable? Second, are we really so inflexible that we can’t figure out any adaptations (beyond permanent crowding and permanent austerity for most citizens, that is) to enable a society that is becoming older to be economically and socially robust?
In fact, more isn’t better, and there are both market-driven and state-driven alternatives to be pursued.
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