Amartya Sen, Bret Stephens, Chinese Family Policy, Eugenics, Fertility rates, Liberalism, Limits to Growth, Nicholas Eberstadt, One Child Policy, Paul Erlich, Progressive Left, The Club of Rome, The Population Bomb, Wall Street Journal
How could any self-described liberal believe for a second that China’s “One Child Policy” was anything but repressive? By utterly failing to live up to liberalism! The policy was “reformed” last week after more than 35 years by a Beijing government trying to face up to the huge demographic and economic crisis posed by an aging population. But as Nicholas Eberstadt reports, now it is a “Two Child Policy“, which is less tyrannical only by degrees. (The link takes you to a Google search to bypass the WSJ paywall — choose the top result there.) Here are some of the awful consequences of the one-child policy noted by Eberstadt:
“First came alarming reports that female infanticide, an ancient practice, had once again erupted throughout the countryside. China’s 1982 census, released some years later, showed an unnatural imbalance in the sex ratio for birth-year 1981 on the order of hundreds of thousands of missing baby girls.
Infanticide was then replaced by mass sex-selective abortion, made possible in the late 1980s by increased rural access to ultrasound machines. China’s sex ratio climbed to nearly 120 baby boys for every 100 baby girls, where it plateaued around 2000. Although a war against baby girls is evident in other countries—India and Taiwan among them—leading Chinese demographers have suggested that half or more of China’s imbalance may directly result from the one-child policy.“
Bret Stephens discusses the support historically offered by the Left for the one-child policy. (This piece is also at wsj.com and it’s apparently a free link, but use Google if it doesn’t work.) Stephens rightly calls the policy “the ultimate assault on the human rights of women and girls.” He traces the Left’s penchant for central authority over family autonomy back to Paul Erlich’s “The Population Bomb” and the Club of Rome‘s discredited “Limits to Growth“, but it also descends from an earlier Leftist fascination with eugenics. The ideas live on today. Stephens notes the Malthusian connection to another great Lefist shibboleth, our purported climate change crisis:
“For much of the 20th century it was faith in History, especially in its Marxist interpretation. Now it’s faith in the environment. Each is a comprehensive belief system, an instruction sheet on how to live, eat and reproduce, a story of how man fell and how he might be redeemed, a tale of impending crisis that’s also a moral crucible.“
Amartya Sen asks whether the one-child policy really influenced fertility rates at all, but I question the reliability of the figures she cites. The high ratio of male to female births contributes to my suspicions. According to Eberstadt, a number of Chinese demographers have been warning against continuing the one-child policy for at least a decade. Other reports give the strong impression that it has been a binding constraint.
Economic growth provides a voluntary and effective brake on birth rates. The continuing agitation for restraints on economic growth to reduce carbon emissions short circuits this mechanism. Not only is the climate change “crisis” ill-founded, these measures hinder the development and diffusion of technologies that would be more efficient in reducing carbon discharge, instead imposing immediate remediation that is often uneconomic. The unimaginative solution offered by the progressive Left is central control over our progeny and our production of goods. Repression is always their best answer. That ain’t liberalism!