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Monday, December 14, 2009

This is not a coffee moment: Canadian columnist advocates worldwide one-child policy - fast back to the Stone Age

A friend writes, shocked, that a premier columnist, Diane Francis, at Canada's National Post, recently wrote a column advocating a worldwide mandatory one child policy. She got plenty of attention. I replied,

In fairness, that is only columnist Diane Francis's opinion. I have not heard that it was endorsed by the paper's editorial board and doubt that it will be.

Hers would, of course, be a disastrous policy because there would not be nearly enough people to fulfill all the roles in society that make for modern progress, comfort, and longevity.

Population bombers have always failed to grasp this fact: If there were only 2 million people in the world, the pace of innovation would be very slow.

So population bomb-ism will, among other things, slow the pace of innovation.

Is that not a key reason that the pace of innovation in the Stone Age was in fact so slow?

The problem I see is this:

With a low population, you don't have enough people to draw from a large pool of highly specific attributes.

Lots of guys can wield a club, but who can invent trigonometry? Only a few guys could do that, and your chances of drawing one from the pool are higher if the pool is bigger - because the bell curve of achievement has a bigger right hand tail, as well as a bigger left hand tail (but that matters less, because an advanced society can afford to support minimal achievers).

So Stone Age people went from one millennium to the next with few advances.

By contrast today, there must be tens of thousands of nerds in India alone. Advances are so swift, I can't figure out what the kids are doing with those new devices they stare at or yak into on the transit.

Also, a slow pace of advancement feeds on itself.

If nothing has changed since Grandma's day, Grandma can be the authority even if she doesn't know very much beyond the subsistence survival skills she passes on - but does not add to.

So lore becomes doctrine, and the response to potential advances is, "Our people do not do things that way."

No. But maybe they should. Still, it would be impossible to discuss. People caught in this bind feel they are desecrating Grandma's grave when they move ahead.

No wonder an executive, frustrated with a similar problem in a moribund corporate culture, once shouted: "If it's not broken, BREAK it!!"
Out of consideration for my friend, I didn't mention other obvious points, like forced sterilizations, forced abortions, or predominance of boys due to selectively aborting girls. The latter situation leads to trafficking in women, prostitution, and forced marriage.

Also, later on, an unsustainable proportion of the economy mustbe given over to senior care or, alternatively, euthanasia - official or otherwise - becomes mandatory

The interesting thing is that Francis fancies herself a free enterpriser. I guess that applies to money, but not to what matters most - life. Not a recipe for better house and planet, I would say.

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