Thursday, November 11, 2010

Population Growth

I enjoy reading books that challenge my views on the world and that has happened tonight as I just finished a chapter advocating unfettered population growth in a book that is similar to Freakonomics. I've long advocated zero population growth for reasons to Warren Buffet; we have no idea how many people the planet physically support, but quality of life on earth would be better for the smaller population. A fault in this argument is that is assumes a zero-sum "happiness" level of the world when in fact happiness may be a compounding factor that actually grows at a rate greater than that of population growth. Furthermore, the greater the population, the great the number of geniuses who can develop the next big thing; agriculturally- to support the great population, technologically- to invent the next wheel or personal computer, medically- to develop the cure for _. Additionally, population growth is a key contributor to economic growth and thus would help sustain the unprecedented levels of economic success experienced over the past 150 years. These are the most robust of the arguments made throughout the chapter, but my optimism is much more guarded because of drastic assumptions made by the author. Foremost is the ability of the family to afford the extra children. There is no better argument against population growth for those who cannot afford it than to analyze the affect it's had on terror cells. In the words of Jed Bartlet, "they weren't born wanting to do this!" That is in reference to the fact that a baby is not born wanting to become a terrorist, but at some point, its innocence is lost and its potential for good is transformed into a potential for evil. Secondly, while things like happiness or wealth are not zero-sum commodities, there are some very valuable commodities that are; land and non-renewable resources (and yes, there is the counter argument that the increase in number of geniuses will solve that problem, but at what point does the earth become completely devoid of all resources?). I'm not completely sold either way, thus may wend my way towards moderation with continued family planning support.

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