Author Topic: Should a country be able to legislate the maximum allowable children per family?  (Read 1428 times)

LetterRip

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Should any countries government be able to set limits on the number of children a family can have?  Or in some other manner cap the total number of births (ie auction off or allow trading of allowed number of children).

Such as one or two child policies,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-child_policy

If so what means of enforcement are morally acceptable?

Fenring

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Why should such an emergency measure be needed in the first place?

cherrypoptart

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Sure, by Constitutional Amendment.

That's to say should be allowed, but should it be done? That's another story.

There could be some scenarios in which it might be necessary such as if we literally run out of resources like food and water and cannot support our population.

Of course, it makes absolutely no sense to limit children per family while allowing in immigrants with their children.

TheDeamon

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Should any countries government be able to set limits on the number of children a family can have?  Or in some other manner cap the total number of births (ie auction off or allow trading of allowed number of children).

Such as one or two child policies,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-child_policy

If so what means of enforcement are morally acceptable?

This enters into some weird territory.

Although I'm also agreed with Fenring on there being a need demonstrated for why such a measure is needed. The world is poised to enter population decline in the next 30 years, Africa and a short list of third world nations on other continents is basically the only thing preventing it from happening sooner. We don't need population controls at this point.

But as to why it enters some weird territory?

"Or in some other manner cap the total number of births" is why. From a more libertarian perspective, having the government pay people for having more kids than they can afford through social welfare programs is, and always has been, screwed up.

But on the flip side, denying people access to birth control(more of a historical issue) was even more screwed up. (Abortion services are an entirely different ball game)

Also "punishing" the children for the errors of their parents is extremely screwed up. (As opposed to simply being "screwed up.")

 So while China's One child, then two child, then their brief 3 child policy before they shifted to "have as many as you want" policy was reprehensible, they initially did have a valid reason for it--they couldn't feed the population they did have. But once that was over, keeping it was a mistake they're going to start paying for very soon.

Britain's evidently recent discussion about possibly not providing government (Welfare) payments for anything more than 2 children is "interesting" from a Libertarian perspective. Some Libertarians would argue for providing support for 0. But others who are more moderate in their Libertarian leanings could get behind subsidizing 2 for encouraging population replacement at the least.

It does raise "interesting questions" about child number 3 and later, however. In that kind of scenario, if a family has 4 kids, and the parents lose their jobs due to factors outside their control. What happens with the other 2 kids? Do the parents have to "farm them out" to friends or family members or face having the state take custody of them? Who decides which 2 of the 4 kids get taken? If the parents get their employment situation back in hand, can they get the other two kids back?

Given that my mother was an instance of grandparents getting involved and having her permanently farmed out to an aunt/uncle as baby by way of adoption, and issues my siblings and parents have been addressing in dealing with a certain sister-in-law who wanted "a large family" that she was not suited to caring for(while they could afford them, properly caring for them seems to have been, and still be, another matter), it is an interesting issue to unravel.

LetterRip

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Why should such an emergency measure be needed in the first place?

Presumably carrying capacity of the country.  If your agricultural base can support X, then a population above X risks starvation (via disruption in agriculture such as famine or due to climate change or changes in water or soil quality or availability, or disruption of imports such as war or natural disaster).  It isn't clear why it would be an 'emergency measure', it might need to be permanent.

Many civilizations collapsed due to population exceeding agricultural capacity.

Another reason might be ability to care for and support one's children.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2021, 09:29:50 AM by LetterRip »

Fenring

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Presumably carrying capacity of the country.

Well, yes, I can conceive of a scenario where resources are strained. But my question was geared more towards exploring why this would be a relevant question to explore right now, since we are immensely far from exceeding planetary resources.

yossarian22c

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Presumably carrying capacity of the country.

Well, yes, I can conceive of a scenario where resources are strained. But my question was geared more towards exploring why this would be a relevant question to explore right now, since we are immensely far from exceeding planetary resources.

I think that's bit of an exaggeration. We are only far from exceeding planetary resources if we convert most land to agriculture and let the natural world go to hell. Transporting all the food from where it can be grown to where it needs to be consumed requires a great deal of energy as well. The economics of perpetually growing population are becoming strained. See water resources in the west for an example in the US. And as climate causes more disruptions having a world/national population that depends on optimal agricultural output on a yearly basis is a recipe for disaster.

"The west" has largely let economics solve this problem. We live in a society where children are expensive and also very likely to survive to adulthood with relatively easy access to birth control. As a result we see most families opting for fewer children naturally. China went with the totalitarian method. They may see a small population decline in the coming years (particularly because of the bias for male children). This may impact the growth of their economy overall while their gdp/capita continues to increase. For the average person gdp/capita is much more important than the overall gdp.

Fenring

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I think that's bit of an exaggeration. We are only far from exceeding planetary resources if we convert most land to agriculture and let the natural world go to hell.

How about the fact that in both Canada and the U.S. the population levels would actually be declining if not for the fact that people are imported in order to keep numbers up? And global birth rates are dropping as well.

Certain issues do require engineering and scientific advances to work, of course. Keep our population the same as it is now, but regress our tech by 200 years, and we'd have a problem. So the one cannot be discussed without reference to the other. If water on the west coast is a problem, it's chiefly a science and engineering problem. It is clearly not unsolvable to get more water to people, but perhaps we have yet to figure out ideal ways. If you went back 40 years you'd say there is no way humanity is up to distributing goods direct to customer all over the world on a daily basis; and we weren't even up to having a supply chain of the complexity of Walmart. Well, now we can. So use saying what the limitation is as if that will always be the case.

But since Canada and the USA are so thinly populated relative to the land mass size, and since most resources are plentiful, I'm just not quite sure where LR's question is coming from. It's hard to answer unless there's a bit of context given. I was hoping it wasn't the "overpopulation!" canard, which is frequently touted as being a global problem even though it actually isn't one.

LetterRip

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Presumably carrying capacity of the country.

Well, yes, I can conceive of a scenario where resources are strained. But my question was geared more towards exploring why this would be a relevant question to explore right now, since we are immensely far from exceeding planetary resources.

I was talking about country level decisions, not some 'global government'.  There are currently 34 countries that produce less food than consumed by their populations,

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-countries-importing-the-most-food-in-the-world.html

Projections for 2050 are about half of countries will rely on imports to meet their food demand.

Salt water intrusion (sea level rise creates pressure that drives salt water into aquifers) will make many aquifers brackish which could substantially reduce crop productivity and this isn't included in future estimates of global food production that I'm aware of.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2021, 10:08:43 AM by LetterRip »

Fenring

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Since you had originally asked whether governments should be able to it (in principle), in my head I was starting at the extreme end: if the human species would be exterminated otherwise, would it be a permissible stopgap against that? My answer would have been 'probably yeah' since saving the species seems pretty important. But then the question becomes, how severe a crisis would it take to warrant it being tolerable to make such a rule? In the first place we would have to agree that such a rule would be a form of atrocity against human will and freedom, probably just as severe as instituting permanent martial law or a police state. In fact, from a certain point of view, regulating human intimacy and sexual function is probably more severe than a mere political police state. I couldn't say, personally, where the law would be drawn about how severe a scenario has to be. I'd personally say it would have to be pretty damn severe.

As an aside, from a 'person's body is their own' social viewpoint - the same as argues for abortion rights - this would be a far more egregious interference with a person's right to determine what to do with their own body than would be banning abortions and requiring all pregnancies to come to term. So I would personally argue that advocating for a 2-child policy ipso facto destroys any capability of making a lucid pro-choice argument.

LetterRip

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As an aside, from a 'person's body is their own' social viewpoint - the same as argues for abortion rights - this would be a far more egregious interference with a person's right to determine what to do with their own body than would be banning abortions and requiring all pregnancies to come to term. So I would personally argue that advocating for a 2-child policy ipso facto destroys any capability of making a lucid pro-choice argument.

Interesting, so do you also then believe that any public health requirement such as mandatory vaccination also " ipso facto destroys any capability of making a lucid pro-choice argument"?

Fenring

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Interesting, so do you also then believe that any public health requirement such as mandatory vaccination also " ipso facto destroys any capability of making a lucid pro-choice argument"?

That sort of depends on the formal argument behind "by body my choice". While in theory one could draw an equivalence between one sort of medical issue (being pregnant) and another (receiving a vaccine), since both involve your physical person, the pro-choice movement and the pro-vaccine movement seem to be about different things in reality. So this would have to be unpacked in order to compare them. Like, for a staunch pro-choice person, why indeed would they not likewise be against any government rule of any kind dictating what to do with their bodies? For one thing, the former is about sexual and family stuff, while the latter seems a little more sterile in terms of its moral impact on your life. But there are deeper issues, maybe difficult to explore, making this (apparently) not equivalent.

So while your question is good, it also involves bringing in arguments that I'm even sure how to address precisely. Whereas my comment was meant to express that the exact same reasoning for pro-choice ought to apply to staying out of sexual/family stuff, since it's the same domain, same set of variables (babies, pregnancy, and parenthood). People have very particular feelings about that domain, compared to some others.

yossarian22c

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I think that's bit of an exaggeration. We are only far from exceeding planetary resources if we convert most land to agriculture and let the natural world go to hell.

How about the fact that in both Canada and the U.S. the population levels would actually be declining if not for the fact that people are imported in order to keep numbers up? And global birth rates are dropping as well.

I addressed how the west has largely "handled" population growth. I'm not sure how this impacts global resources when the global population is expected to increase by another 3 billion people in the next 40-50 years or so.

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Certain issues do require engineering and scientific advances to work, of course. Keep our population the same as it is now, but regress our tech by 200 years, and we'd have a problem. So the one cannot be discussed without reference to the other. If water on the west coast is a problem, it's chiefly a science and engineering problem. It is clearly not unsolvable to get more water to people, but perhaps we have yet to figure out ideal ways. If you went back 40 years you'd say there is no way humanity is up to distributing goods direct to customer all over the world on a daily basis; and we weren't even up to having a supply chain of the complexity of Walmart. Well, now we can.

But the technology and infrastructure needed to do those things in the next 40 years was already in built or in development. Computers were bulky and not nearly sophisticated enough to handle a complex supply chain, but roads, trucks, post office, and all the other infrastructure was largely already there. The sears catalog has been around for 150 years or so. Its not like mail order and the infrastructure to support it got invented with Amazon. It already existed and technology made it go faster.

The only feasible (in the next 40 years) science/engineering solution to water on the west coast is water desalination and pumping the water uphill to where its needed. Both take significant energy, so the solution is very expensive. Unless you are expecting fusion power to miraculously become an energy solution. And desalination has its own set of draw backs, like what do you do with the super briny water mix left over. Dumping too much in one place in the ocean can create dead zones. There are potential solutions but they all come with real costs that science and engineering are very unlikely to completely remove.

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So use saying what the limitation is as if that will always be the case.

But since Canada and the USA are so thinly populated relative to the land mass size, and since most resources are plentiful, I'm just not quite sure where LR's question is coming from. It's hard to answer unless there's a bit of context given. I was hoping it wasn't the "overpopulation!" canard, which is frequently touted as being a global problem even though it actually isn't one.

It depends on what type of world you want to live in. Rapid population growth makes climate change even harder to address. People consume energy. Agriculture consumes energy. Energy and mass transportation typically requires some type of green house gas emissions. If we don't care about habitats for wild animals and ecosystems then you are correct we could probably support 15+ billion people on the earth. Assuming that we don't extinct pollinators that are needed for agriculture while we're killing off the rest of the species by taking over their habitats for growing food. Also assuming we don't create more climate issues that impact agriculture in very negative ways.

In a best case scenario, both societal and climate wise the world population continuing to grow quickly isn't an issue. In the worst case scenarios, massive amounts of climate refugees, agricultural disruptions, famines and wars, the down side of an extra 3 billion people on Earth competing for the limited resources gets very ugly very fast.

This is why LR is posing the question. The US and Canada have sufficient agriculture surpluses and mostly big oceans on either side to insulate us if the rest of the world goes to hell. But a country like India may not have the same natural insulation from in country famine and regional instability.

All that said I think we are significantly far enough away from a population crisis that we don't need draconian measures to address it. However I do think the developed world should support providing family planning services and education through a high school level world wide. Most of the time when people can choose and don't start having kids at 15 the number of children and rate of population growth handles itself.

But I don't think that short term population declines as a result of people choosing to have fewer kids are something to fear either. At some point the world and countries need to reach some sort of equilibrium.

Fenring

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It depends on what type of world you want to live in. Rapid population growth makes climate change even harder to address.

Right, well this is the sort of context I was seeking. If the argument was, is a 2-child rule tenable as the sole means of combatting climate change, then at least I would know exactly why it is being proposed. Then we could compared the relative dangers of each and see if there is any equivalence. It's also possible that certain moral quandaries are incommensurable. For instance the classic trolley problem involves sacrificing humans to save humans, the implicit math being that more humans may be worth more than less humans. But if you take an apples to oranges trolley problem it may not even be computable at all. For instance we probably agree that puppy mills are horrible, as we care about the pain, suffering, and lives of (certain) animals. But what if a trolley problem came in the form of you have to sacrifice one puppy to save three dolphins, or eat three fish alive Japanese-style to save a frog from being boiled. At this point, if the problem could even be discussed at all, it might devolve into aesthetic preference with no possibility for an objective analysis. Do you turn the world into a police state to avoid suffering caused by climate change...I dunno? How do you compare these bad things?

yossarian22c

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It depends on what type of world you want to live in. Rapid population growth makes climate change even harder to address.

Right, well this is the sort of context I was seeking. If the argument was, is a 2-child rule tenable as the sole means of combatting climate change, then at least I would know exactly why it is being proposed. ...

LR proposed it as a kind of national security country by country policy. Being dependent on food imports could lead to very negative outcomes. Because if you are dependent on US grain and bad weather reduces crops by 30% one year we all know the US is going to feed its own and your citizens will starve. Starving people do desperate things. Societies break down. When societies break down all the infrastructure that is needed to support our current population becomes extremely hard to maintain. Countries collapsing into chaos is possible. And chaos is hard to break out of. See Somalia or Zimbabwe. Not that either of those countries had gotten a ton of international support consider the conditions in their countries in the worst case scenario where there is very little food aid to give. Just look at how vaccines are being distributed. A world with lots of countries living close to their carrying capacity is an unstable world.

LetterRip

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Right, well this is the sort of context I was seeking. If the argument was, is a 2-child rule tenable as the sole means of combatting climate change, then at least I would know exactly why it is being proposed.

I'm not proposing anything.  I'm curious whether others believe that a nation can have a compelling state interest in restricting population growth and if so what means are reasonable/allowable to enforce that interest.  You can construct specific scenarios - climate change, or population of the nation exceeds the current or projected carrying capacity of the nation etc. It is the abstract proposition though that I'm interested in.  I think national security grounds such as foreign import dependence are one way a nation might have such a compelling state interest, but there are likely others, for instance a libertarian country might have a compulsory contraception policy based on familial ability to care for and provide for children.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2021, 12:04:15 PM by LetterRip »

yossarian22c

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Right, well this is the sort of context I was seeking. If the argument was, is a 2-child rule tenable as the sole means of combatting climate change, then at least I would know exactly why it is being proposed.

I'm not proposing anything.  I'm curious whether others believe that a nation can have a compelling state interest in restricting population growth and if so what means are reasonable/allowable to enforce that interest.  You can construct specific scenarios - climate change, or population of the nation exceeds the current or projected carrying capacity of the nation etc. It is the abstract proposition though that I'm interested in.

For the most part I don't think most countries are in the position of needing to do anything forceful to restrict birth rates. High school level education and access to family planning typically will produce similar results to draconian measures. The carrot approach is typically effective enough to make the stick approach not necessary. 

But I don't buy into the philosophy that every country can just continually grow their populations and not expect a collapse at some point.

Fenring

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But I don't buy into the philosophy that every country can just continually grow their populations and not expect a collapse at some point.

Then the question becomes, does the state have any rights that can supersede what has thus far been the most important and private part of human life in history. In short, the question is whether the state owns you or not. In the case of human extinction the question becomes moot, because a state - or a species - that does not exist cannot have rights. Keeping us all alive is the more natural way to ensure that rights can even exist and be defended in the first place. But beyond that, you would have to take a position that individual human will (to procreate, let's say) is simply something that exists as a privilege at the good will of the state. In essence, it is pure fascism. Now can a fascist system work? Maybe. But that's not really the question, is it? The question is whether it's right. I assume LR's question is about absolute morality, because in a relative morality anything is permissible; and if 'rights' are merely defined as what the laws of a state say, then it's trivially true to say that a state can change your rights at will by legislation, and so by definition can do anything it chooses without violating your rights. So the only conversation to be had is in the realm of absolute rights that exist whether a state says so or not.

LetterRip

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The question is whether it's right. I assume LR's question is about absolute morality, because in a relative morality anything is permissible; and if 'rights' are merely defined as what the laws of a state say, then it's trivially true to say that a state can change your rights at will by legislation, and so by definition can do anything it chooses without violating your rights. So the only conversation to be had is in the realm of absolute rights that exist whether a state says so or not.

Fenring,

What about a country instituting a law that you can't have more children than you have the provable resources to support? - definitely not 'extinction' related but I can see a clear state interest.  It is unethical for a country to allow children to not be provided for, it is unethical to have children you can't provide for, so why can't/shouldn't society require you to have the resources to support any children you choose to have prior to you having said children?

What about a country instituting a law for national security purposes? Again - definitely not extinction related - but a clear state interest.

TheDrake

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Common sense measures would include contraception, including unsolicited mailing of condoms to all households, making condoms and birth control purchasable by EBT without counting against benefit totals. Fully covered by national health plans.  Except then you'd get religious zealots whimpering about their principles being violated.

More of a nudge would be to put child tax credit on a sliding scale - except it is unclear that this would serve to reduce population as much as punish the ones increasing it.

You could make it legal to pay someone to sterilize themselves in a private transaction, and you could fully cover the cost as above for contraception.

I'm not sure how much that would actually be viable in the countries in question, such as Mali or Syria. I know far too little about it.

Going the furthest down the scale is the China model with forced abortions and massive fines.

I don't recall any clarity of what happens to an unsanctioned "third" in Ender's Game, but I believe it fell along the lines of the China model.

LR the problem with the "means" test is that a vast array of economic fortunes can befall a person in 18+ years. For that model to make sense, you'd actually only be able to procreate if you had the money to raise them in trust - which clearly isn't viable. Or you could grant procreation licenses like giving out mortgages. You'd have a baby underwriter who would examine all your parenting and economic skills before getting there.

Then there's Heinlein's model in Starship Troopers. There you are only granted a procreation license if you have performed a Federal Service, proving your reliability and loyalty to the state and filling holes in a military that suffers from a lot of attrition.

LetterRip

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LR the problem with the "means" test is that a vast array of economic fortunes can befall a person in 18+ years. For that model to make sense, you'd actually only be able to procreate if you had the money to raise them in trust - which clearly isn't viable.

Insurance model would be one way,

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Or you could grant procreation licenses like giving out mortgages. You'd have a baby underwriter who would examine all your parenting and economic skills before getting there.

Yep, something like that.  Governments could choose to subsidize/incentivize to some extent if there is a expected population shortfall, etc.

I wasn't claiming that governments should do so but there is arguably a national interest there.  I don't think an 'extinction threat' is necessary to establish a compelling state interest.

Seriati

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I'm not proposing anything.  I'm curious whether others believe that a nation can have a compelling state interest in restricting population growth and if so what means are reasonable/allowable to enforce that interest.

I think Fenring's answer to you on this was very good, but I'd like to be more direct.  A state can have such a compelling interest, that's just a question of factual reality.  That's exactly the position China was in when they went with the one child policy.  As to what's reasonable or allowable that's primarily a question of the type of state that you're asking about.  Any kind of state first philosophy engenders a large number of solutions that ignore the rights of the people in question, whether that's China limiting the number of children, or the more traditional technique of allowing for arbitrary justice (like Samurai's rights in feudal Japan) and near constant warfare to strip off excess population and take resources.

If, on the other hand, you have a government that works for the people then all it can do is reflect the people's will (or something within a reasonable range thereof).  incentives for less children, penalties for more children, tax breaks, special privileges, with a full on Democracy a majority can easily push the case back over into the realms of the autocrats.

I mean heck if you're thinking this through that amorally, slavery, summary execution and forced execution would be on the table. 

I also find interesting the arguments on food security.  First of all, I note your link is about countries that lack the capacity to grow enough food, not just about countries that import more food than they grow (though Zimbabwe is the final entry that seems questionable given that they were previously capable of growing more food).

The current reality is that we, in the developed world, could use less land and water for farming than we currently do and have a greatly increased production.  Not all crops, but certainly many crops are able to be grown in green houses with production levels per acre greatly exceeding growing them in fields (e.g., lettuce production can be 50 times greater per acre).  We also grow things like corn at such an excess rate that we've had to invent uses for the stuff - which is partly why we have high fructose corn syrup in everything and both a weight and diabetes problem.  Long story short, we're no where near the capacity we could produce on a much smaller footprint, let alone our existing agricultural footprint.   

And oddly, population growth is negatively correlated with increases in food production.  Human nature apparently defaults to fewer kids when you have plenty and more kids when you have less.  Hard lives spur us to create genetic backups, where several kids may die in a family and wealth is heavily tied to sweat equity this makes perfect sense - extra children make the family wealthier.   Whereas when you're assured that it takes something extraordinary to end the life of a child and have plenty of resources, we instead focus on heaping as many advantages as we can on the fewer children we need, and extra children split the family's resources and hurt its overall wealth. 

Encouraging less kids in a developed society is unnecessary as it's come about naturally.  Doing it in a developing society ends up being cruel as you leave many older people without any support as their children have all died.  If you want less overall populatoin, focus on improving the situation on the ground in those communities. 

Of course, you have to do it well. Has anyone noticed that aid has been pouring into various countries for 60 or more years and they are still impoverished?  Fundamentally, that means aid is not being used to create self sustaining wealth.  Ask yourself why, especially when you realize the scale of the resources being allocated are enough that even minimally competent allocation should have placed those countries on their feet decades ago.


TheDeamon

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But I don't buy into the philosophy that every country can just continually grow their populations and not expect a collapse at some point.

Have you looked at the demographic trends in most nations in the past 5 to 10 years?

Even most of the developing nations have a pyramid inversion coming to them.

There are exceptions, but everywhere which is urbanized has shrinking demographics in the 20 and younger crowd. The only reason the population continues to go up is quality of life/care is improving in those nations enough that people aren't dying the rates they used to(well, without covid "helping")

In most of the world, the population is growing because people are living longer, not because people have failed to stop having kids. (Outside of Africa and a very short list of other nations)

To help you visualize what's happening in much of the world, you might want to look at this:
https://www.populationpyramid.net/world/2019/
« Last Edit: September 20, 2021, 06:59:13 PM by TheDeamon »

TheDeamon

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I mean heck if you're thinking this through that amorally, slavery, summary execution and forced execution would be on the table.

Reality is, considering the demographic data makes it clear the driver of population growth in most of the world(except Africa and a short list of other places) is being driven by people living longer and that birth rates have almost universally dropped to (near) replacement levels or below almost everywhere else. The only way you solve "a population crunch" on Planet Earth, assuming you believe 21st Century Earth has such a problem, is to start ending people's lives before they would have ended by means of natural causes. That or you drop the birth rate to basically 0 for a prolonged period of time... Which then means you're dealing with high risk pregnancies for those who can have children, and a population implosion where certain other demographic factors are involved.

Fenring

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What about a country instituting a law that you can't have more children than you have the provable resources to support? - definitely not 'extinction' related but I can see a clear state interest.  It is unethical for a country to allow children to not be provided for, it is unethical to have children you can't provide for, so why can't/shouldn't society require you to have the resources to support any children you choose to have prior to you having said children?

This is a bit of a trick question, only because if I argued that the state has no business doing this, the reply would be that child protective services already does this after the fact. So I would have to de facto be against taking children away from dangerous parents. And if I argue that the state does have business doing this, it looks like I agree that the state is the natural arbiter of who can and can't be parents, and in what manner. So I can take neither of those positions. One thing I will say is that I don't see a reasonable standard that can stand as absolute regarding what quality of life is the minimum below which we forbid people to engage in the most important choice in life. For instance, you can take a city whose standard of living is pretty good - most people have a TV, cell phone, even a car, and either an apartment or house. So now you have a family content to raise their children on beans and rice, Honduran style, with no electronic gadgets, and in a poor neighborhood. And they're content to do this with 3-5 kids, or name your number. Someone upper middle class and elitist would be rather likely to sneer at these 'lower class idiots' who keep reproducing, to deride their lack of being with the program (after all, a kid without a cell phone is practically child abuse), and to argue that they are 'irresponsible'. This is a type of argument I could not possibly tolerate as having any basis in first principles. It can't really boil down to much more than "I don't like them!" Now are the odds of the kids being sick higher if they don't have fancy vitamin supplements, and all the rest? Maybe. So this upbringing is 'substandard' by a mix/max perspective. Like, as a D&D player, you'd say their stat rolls are going to be low compared to kids with more advantages. And my answer would be...so?

It is a much more difficult question to answer than just 'yeah, you have to prove you're capable of bringing up kids.' What about rich people in top-notch neighborhoods who I think are morally bankrupt? How does my view on quality of life mesh with some other view, where poor people are once again the suckers being told what to do? Whose wins out? And I can see no sensible way of establishing a standard in any other way than by sheer force. Some majority, or some government elected, would make a choice, and force it down everyone's throats.

But I would likewise be hesitant to say that no one has the right to rescue kids from abusive situations. Like, I have read just the worst kinds of stories; cult-like families, insane scenarios, and of course drug dens and so forth. So where the hell does this leave us? Where indeed.

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What about a country instituting a law for national security purposes? Again - definitely not extinction related - but a clear state interest.

I suspect we don't share like views on what national security actually is, so this could be a hard question to define. For instance I don't agree that realpolitik gives anyone the right to pillage and plunder lands abroad in order to secure long-term national advantage, aka security. A war of defense, of course; and going after people in the active process of attacking you, of course. Beyond that you would find me far less tractable. And therefore in order to define some kind of national 'security' need that somehow involved a 2-child law...well let's say I'd have to hear the line of reasoning. I know you're trying to make it abstract to keep the floor open for ideas, but I would surely be on the defense in this particular arena, rather than the one making the propositions. In my experience, "national security" is the most dangerous phrase that can possibly be invoked in politics. When I hear it, I automatically assume that villains are afoot. It is almost impossible to believe any claim made once that term is used, as 99.9% of the time it will end up being an excuse for a permanent power grab. Even when in some sense it's well intentioned, it doesn't matter: increased security measures never go away, the bureaucratic changes make way for the worst of excesses, and the sorts of people who worm their ideas in the system during this invariably lower transparency, increase actual danger for everyone involved, and poison all the good things around them. I think most of the pernicious defects to enter the American system can probably be traced to moments of national 'emergency' where all the wrong people were poised to make a move.

But like I said, I've have to hear a particular line of argument. I'm dubious, but always open.

Fenring

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Has anyone noticed that aid has been pouring into various countries for 60 or more years and they are still impoverished?

I was hesitant to make any comment about the actual state of the world as a way of answering LR's question about whether countries such as the list of 34 might do well do institute a child-limitation rule. Primarily I really just wanted to know where he was coming from before venturing off on my own, but I also wanted to keep the discussion in the realm he intended, which I thought might have been the abstract (i.e. moral philosophy).

But having looked at the 34 countries in question, if we were really going to discuss them, I am truly confounded as to why a 1 or 2-child rule would be the first idea to come to mind to assuage the lack they experience. I mean, to take a blunt analogy, if you go to someone's house and kick their ass, take their stuff, knock the roof off the house, set fire to their barn, tell them they owe you damages for the bruises on your fist, and repeat the process every now and again, I would find it galling to then ask whether it would be helpful to forbid this poor schmuck to have kids because clearly he's in no position to raise very many of them. I mean, really? Surely there might be, oh, I don't know, a thousand issues that should come up prior to that as ways to address the real issues. I mean, look at #1 on the list: Afghanistan. Holy moly...so after all this we are going to suggest to them to have a 2-child rule to deal with their food importation issues? I know, the OP is more to ask whether if they chose such an option, it might be justified. Well, I don't personally find it terribly compelling to consider itemizing the actions of the Taliban to see whether each measure they enact is morally justified or not. I kind of don't care in a way. It seems to be beside the point.

Going down the list: Africa, Africa, yada yada...Iraq. Well, we can lump that in there with Afghanistan as far as I'm concerned. Then more Africa, Africa, Africa...and then North Korea. I am really even less interested in rating Kim Jong-Un's managerial strategy than I am in the Taliban's. Hey, at least the Taliban talks to people. Blah, blah, blah...Syria. Another recent target of CIA destruction - sorry, I meant civil war. And finally Africa.

So all the countries on the list are ones the U.S. has pulverized, or Africa, which EVERYONE has pulverized. I saved Africa for last because that continents has been the outhouse for all the major powers to take a dump on since colonialism. They can't get their s*** together? Well what a surprise, they have been used as a wealth factory for every interest but their own. How long it will ever take them to recover I don't know. The rumor was that Ghaddafi was trying to unify Africa for mutual benefit with its own currency...before he was removed. We can put aside that rabbit hole for the moment (although leaked primary docs revealed many shocking things), and ask instead what it would actually take to get everyone off their lawn and actually do something to help them get out of the cycle of violence and poverty. Seriati's question above is entirely relevant, and prior to asking questions about birthrate, I would ask questions about usurious large-scale loans, about the use of African countries for foreign purposes (I recently read this whole thing just about Liberia and Sierra Leone and power politicians using them as pawns), about propping up monsters because they supported the right major powers; the list goes on. I don't see how I could even speak intelligibly about the morality of very particular schemes like limiting birthrate, when the cancer goes so deep.

I didn't really want to get into all that stuff, and in a way I still don't, because it's an endless rabbit hole. But all this to say, if this list is meant to be a good example of countries that might find it justified to limit child births, I just don't know what to say. I guess worse things have gone on there, and no one cared anyhow. So even if it's not moral...would it matter to us anyhow?
« Last Edit: September 20, 2021, 08:42:22 PM by Fenring »

JoshuaD

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Regarding the original question: absolutely not. It's hardly appropriate for parents to engage in that sort of planning, and it is certainly never appropriate for a government or state to dictate it. 

LetterRip

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What about a country instituting a law for national security purposes? Again - definitely not extinction related - but a clear state interest.
I suspect we don't share like views on what national security actually is, so this could be a hard question to define. For instance I don't agree that realpolitik gives anyone the right to pillage and plunder lands abroad in order to secure long-term national advantage, aka security.

The national security purpose I had primarily in mind was a population size which the nation is capable of feeding without imports.  If your population exceeds your nations food supply, then you are trivially attacked by modest supply chain disruptions.  Fluctuations in strength of your nations currency have the potential for widespread food insecurity which can quickly lead to riots.  Variations in national food production can also resort in sky rocketing prices leading to riots.  Fluctuations in global food production again make you extremely vulnerable.

Fenring

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The national security purpose I had primarily in mind was a population size which the nation is capable of feeding without imports.  If your population exceeds your nations food supply, then you are trivially attacked by modest supply chain disruptions.  Fluctuations in strength of your nations currency have the potential for widespread food insecurity which can quickly lead to riots.  Variations in national food production can also resort in sky rocketing prices leading to riots.  Fluctuations in global food production again make you extremely vulnerable.

The interesting thing is that from these facts your suggestion is that it may therefore be better to eliminate the trade element of the food supply chain and become self-reliant. But can this same argument not really apply to any importation scenario? Right now the U.S. is heavily reliant on Chinese (and some other Asian) manufacturing, which in turn creates multiple issues that are even harder to manage than the food supply chain.

But as above, I don't see how it makes sense to inspect the grand scale of global trade and reduce it to a single variable. What networks of human activity would be disrupted, perhaps violently, if the food trade as we know it was cut off? How much more dangerous would this make the world stage, where incentive to avoid conflict is removed? How would this affect the fabric of human social structure, where dangerous interactions are a source of both danger but also strength and innovation? I could refer you to the mere fact of genetic mingling, and how restricting a gene pool to a local geography is always worse than creating a larger mixing; or that in terms of immunology our nature requires the spread of pathogens so that we can cultivate a strong immune system. There are other examples as well. In fact even democracy is analogous to the immune system, in that dangerous ideas are passed around along with healthy ones, but the mere fact of being mutually reliant and interactive means that greater things emerge than would in a more stifled system. We accept the dangers along with the benefits, with the belief that letting the system run loose will cause emergent gains. Now these are just analogies, but they involve complex systems that are really too mired in arcane detail but us to know how to micromanage. We have to kind of just let them run wild. When it comes to international trade, it's not quite running wild, but it is a complex network of interactions that no one can really track in detail. So I am really quite surprise that your example here requires as its premise that international trade (in food, at least) is eliminated, and then the resulting problem of food shortages could be addressed by procreation laws. Isn't that a bit putting the cart before the horse? It seems to me that understanding international economy should come before that (and I'm pretty sure no one understands it).

Grant

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Should any countries government be able to set limits on the number of children a family can have?  Or in some other manner cap the total number of births (ie auction off or allow trading of allowed number of children).

Sure.  But it would have to be one hell of an emergency and it would help if the people of the government had some say in said government.  I suppose if we're talking about the government on a generational starship for instance, where room and resources demand population control.  I suppose you could expand this to large scale resource scarcity such as a long term famine or whatever. 

The trouble starts when the eco alarmists take this to mean that we should be having population control NOW because global warming or climate change or whatever. 

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If so what means of enforcement are morally acceptable?

What is with the focus lately or "morally acceptable" questions?  As I stated earlier, morality is varied.  There are schools within schools within religions within sects.  You have moral objectivism vs relativism. You have Determinism and Hedonism and Utilitarianism.  You have some far out schools of morality where the greatest goods are liberty or love.  You have Deontological Ethics and Virtue Ethics.  You have offshoots of a million religions and their authors.  You have Thomism and Paulism and just plain Jesus and Calvinism etc etc.  Some people go as far as saying dancing is morally wrong.  You have Islam of different stripes and flavors.  Buddhism and Confucianism and Daoism and Shinto.  You got plain old Nihilsm. 

Being morally acceptable to one doesn't preclude something being morally acceptable to another group.  Simply asking if something is morally acceptable is just the same as asking "is it acceptable to serve cabernet sauvignon with fish"? 

Now if you're asking my personal opinion as to what is morally acceptable to ME, then I would say the just way to enforce population control is to imprison or confine those who break population control restrictions.  This would probably include making the children or dependents of said individuals wards of the state.  I would not find harsher penalties such as death or sterilization to be just since they are permanent. 

The deeper moral questions involved in population control includes euthanasia and state mandated abortion. 

LetterRip

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The interesting thing is that from these facts your suggestion is that it may therefore be better to eliminate the trade element of the food supply chain and become self-reliant. But can this same argument not really apply to any importation scenario?

Strategic reserves are fairly easy to do for most strategically important things.  Food less so.   If you grow enough calories to provide your entire population with a moderate meat consumption diet - than famine shocks can be met by reducing meat consumption and increasing grain consumption.  If your country is already incapable of meeting calorie needs directly than any shock is devastating.

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Right now the U.S. is heavily reliant on Chinese (and some other Asian) manufacturing, which in turn creates multiple issues that are even harder to manage than the food supply chain.

Mostly for luxury rather than critical infrastructure and goods.  However I agree that one country should never be dependent on any other country for strategically important needs.

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But as above, I don't see how it makes sense to inspect the grand scale of global trade and reduce it to a single variable. What networks of human activity would be disrupted, perhaps violently, if the food trade as we know it was cut off? How much more dangerous would this make the world stage, where incentive to avoid conflict is removed?

Conflicts are often due to countries already experiencing scarcity.  No country with military might has any dependencies that could dissuade it from military conflict.  Look at Japan - in 1942 it was perhaps the country most dependent on imports to sustain itself - 1/5 of its food (including its most important), almost all of its coal, oil, metals, and timber.  If the 'dependency dissuades military conflict' it would have been the least likely country in history to engage in conflict.

TheDeamon

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Conflicts are often due to countries already experiencing scarcity.  No country with military might has any dependencies that could dissuade it from military conflict.  Look at Japan - in 1942 it was perhaps the country most dependent on imports to sustain itself - 1/5 of its food (including its most important), almost all of its coal, oil, metals, and timber.  If the 'dependency dissuades military conflict' it would have been the least likely country in history to engage in conflict.

Different Trade Paradigm in play prior to WW2. If you didn't control a resource yourself, you were completely at the mercy and whims of somebody else. There was no "market" you could tap into like exists today. Bilateral trade relationships existed, and other trade was obviously happening(Yankee traders anyone?), but people fail to appreciate just how different things were prior to the fall of the colonial empires and the rise of the American led world order after WW2.

TheDrake

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Conflicts are often due to countries already experiencing scarcity.  No country with military might has any dependencies that could dissuade it from military conflict.  Look at Japan - in 1942 it was perhaps the country most dependent on imports to sustain itself - 1/5 of its food (including its most important), almost all of its coal, oil, metals, and timber.  If the 'dependency dissuades military conflict' it would have been the least likely country in history to engage in conflict.

I would say the issue is that there wasn't mutual dependence. The US was free to mess with Japan because we had no dependency on them. The US was free to cut off Japan's lifeline because there was little repercussion. One could say "why did Japan risk losing supplies by invading China" - but initially the US didn't signal we were willing to intervene at all in that conflict so the Japanese felt free to be aggressors against China. Because they had no dependencies on China and didn't suspect international repercussions.

Mutual assured destruction doesn't work when it isn't mutual.

Fenring

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Mostly for luxury rather than critical infrastructure and goods.  However I agree that one country should never be dependent on any other country for strategically important needs.

Part of this depends on to what extent you believe in local exceptionalism. I could easily fashion an argument that it would be better if all nations were mutually dependent in ways that they couldn't afford to break off. This is probably a necessary precursor to any kind of global unity. Countries are bombed or destabilized when their gain is someone else's loss: when the game is zero sum. Taking away someone else's trade to pursue your own self-sufficiency pushes things toward zero sum rather than the reverse: how well is your country doing on its own two feet, compared to everyone else. Long-term it would be much better if the metric verged toward "how are WE doing". We're not there yet, but the overtures to China in the 70's were perhaps an early indication that even strong disagreeing countries derive more benefit from open exchange than from sitting each on their own side of the fence. Dependency is only a weakness if it's asymmetrical and turns one power into a de facto ruler.