I couldn’t agree more with Henry Barbaro’s letter in the March 20 issue of the JP Gazette (“Population surge threatens the environment”), where he states: “addressing human overpopulation is critical to assuring human sustainability and security in the 21st century.”
I offer a slightly different perspective on population control than that offered in Mr. Barbaro’s letter. In the current era of economic cutbacks, layoffs and burgeoning costs for the care of the lower class, it is imperative we reexamine policy as to how best to ameliorate poverty. Spending on health and human services is the largest portion of the US government’s annual budget at just over $700 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 (www.federalbudget.com).
Throughout history, the poor have garnered much attention, perhaps epitomized by an infamous biblical quote: “The poor you shall always have with you…” (Matthew 26:11, New International Version). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent. In 2007, 37.3 million people were in poverty, up from 36.5 million in 2006.
One overlooked aspect of the policy debate over poverty is that of limiting lower-class procreation through social engineering in Iceland, during the mid 1800s, Gunnar Karlsson noted: “The only obvious way to reduce the expenses of poor relief in the future [is] to limit procreation. At this time, marriages were restricted in Iceland in the same way as in Denmark: those who had received poor relief as adults needed special permission from the communal authorities to enter marriage” (“The History of Iceland,” 2000, 231).
Bioethicist Onora O’Neill noted: “Direct coercion of procreative decisions would not be unjust. Such emergencies would arise only when recklessly fertile poor people persist in having children whose needs could not be met by their parents or by others, either by increasing or reallocating resources….Preventing such reckless procreation would coerce less than would failing to prevent it” (“Faces of Hunger,” 1986, 158).
Using census data to determine poverty rates, families in certain income ranges should be restricted to a certain number of children (or none). The current federally established poverty income level of $21,200 an-nually for a family of four should be redefined to a family of three (one child). Those who are unexpectedly brought into the ranks of the poor through job layoff, injury or illness should still be provided human services and support as is the current intent of entitlement programs. However, once in poverty, strict policies on procreating should be enforced in order to avoid “spreading” the low-income status. Economists would likely need to develop charts to determine how many low-income workers might be needed in any given year, based on the prior year’s economic trends and job needs (unemployment rate and other usual economic indices).
Limiting the procreative tendencies of the lower income classes would benefit the larger society through decreased economic, political and social costs, including a reduction in those crimes that are correlated to poverty.