Open letter to Connelly part 2,
Dear Professor Connelly:

The rhetoric of people who set out to exert population control, as you point out generally on other people’s populations unless we indeed have a covert plot amongst us aiming to wipe us out (which I doubt, people being too dumb to bring something like that off), according to your book was generally of the form, “The inferior races out there do not have enough good sense to limit their population size to match their resources, so we have to help them.  In fact, since us bright people wisely limit our family size, we are obliged to help the inferior masses out there keep their family sizes down, else we will all be swamped with bad genes.”   This spirit was reflected by many people over a long time.

Of course it’s nonsense.  The reason the rich people had small families is the same reason that any animal (with few and statistically insignificant exceptions) has poor fertility.  Big gene pool.  Rich people could travel around and marry at whim, while poor people were obliged to marry close at hand.  Nowadays just about all of us are rich by historical standards and world fertility is falling.

The other thing about the rhetoric that bothers me, other than the self serving notion that the infertility speakers are wise, is that there has been birth control available for a very long time.  Really good birth control.  It consisted of two rules: 1) You cannot have sex unless you are married. 2) You cannot marry until you can support children.  This arrangement is subject to problems.  Suppose you marry and then change your mind?  And suppose you thought you could support children and then found you could not?  But generally speaking, the system is pretty good.  Nobody gets born until there is a place for them.  There should never be a lot of poor people. 

The real down side to the system of 2 rules is that it takes an enormous amount of effort to enforce it.  It means having everybody taking in interest in what everybody else is doing.  Of course they might well, since the survival of the community might depend on it.  But really the only situation in which this system can reasonably be expected to work is in a very traditional society.  Say there is a little village of 100 families with enough land for 100 farms.  When a farm becomes available, a couple can get married and take the farm.  There is probably more than one couple waiting.  Tradition supplies some sort of way to choose which couple. 

Suppose into this traditional society somebody comes along with a cure for infant diarrhea.  Splendid.  Now more babies survive to reach adulthood.  Is there a problem?  No.  There are a few more aunts and uncles about, but the number of mating couples does not change and the community is stable.  So it was to have been expected that the poorer countries, provided their traditional societies were not disrupted probably already had ancient time tested means to maintain stable societies. 

But contrast that with a modern, advanced society.  Now extra-marital sex is acceptable, practically the norm.  Now people take out a mortgage in order to buy a house and raise a family.  For most of the reproductive span of that family the family is in debt.  In short, people are having families who cannot afford them.  Maybe that mortgage will eventually get paid off, but there is no guarantee of that. 

So who is the irresponsible society now?  It is the traditional society that insists on marriage and financial competence before reproduction?  Or is it the advanced society that permits sex without any arrangement for the care of the children and permits marriage supported by a gamble?

This consideration annoys me as much as the odious racism of the people who were undertaking to control the birth rate and thus the future of populations they did not belong to.  And of course the malignant incompetence of thinking they could manage population control when in fact they could not.


Linton Herbert MD

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