On population control

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Population control – Sterilization?

I reject the age old religious and social ideologies that consider lots of kids the greatest gift. THAT world is over in this millenium. The only real solution I see besides mandatory sterilization after TWO CHILDREN is as follows. Any woman (not family but woman) may have TWO CHILDREN. At that point they may have another child but it will cost them a heavy income tax along the lines of 10% so if you are in the 25% bracket child #3 brings you up to 35% and #4 puts you in the 45% tax bracket and so on. You want it you pay through the nose. Poor people? Sorry 2 is ENOUGH. The govermnet can offer tax incentives for sterilizations and tax incentives for adoptions but in today’s world having 4, 5, 6 kids is INSANE and selfish and simply unacceptable in a civilized world as populated as ours and with all the impending global deterioration (i.e. warming).

Does anyone agree with this idea?

You are regurgitating Paul Ehrlich’s nonsense from 1970s. The reality is much more interesting. People have many children because (1) they live on a farm and have no other way of increasing the farm output (machines are out of their reach pricewise, and so are laborers), and/or (2) they expect to have no other means of supporting themselves in their old age. With increasing wealth, agriculture can be mechanized, the bulk of population moves into the cities, and a national old-age pension system can be established (not to mention the fact that contraception becomes readily available). The birth rates drop like a stone, and the problem takes care of itself. This has happened in many places around the world in the last 250 years. Demographers call it “demographic transition”. Many demographers believe that by 2100, almost every country of the world will undergo the demographic transition and the population growth will stop altogether.

Obviously, once that happens, another problem arises immediately. In China, where population control has been in force for a long time, it is usually referred to as “the 4-2-1 problem”: one working-age adult is expected to take care of two parents and four grandparents…

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