Public Square & Theology 101

The Most Inhumane Way to Fight Poverty

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You are probably familiar with China’s one-child policy enacted in 1980 as strategy to remedy social, economic, and environmental problems in China.

Now Myanmar is trying to approve similar population control legislation requiring women to wait three years between pregnancies to improve health and well-being of women and children.

But even those strongly against such coercive government policies still believe the biggest threat to the earth is that we have too many kids.

Some believe controlling the human population, either voluntarily or by force, will remedy problems associated with the environment, human health, and poverty.

But this solution stands in paradox: limiting human life cannot lead to human flourishing, and it is certainly the most inhumane way to fight poverty.

The Most Inhumane Way to Fight Poverty

The population control approach to poverty stems from a Malthusian view of the world.

According to Merriam Webster, Thomas Robert Malthus theorized that,

Population tends to increase at a faster rate than its means of subsistence and that unless it is checked by moral restraint or disaster (as disease, famine, or war) widespread poverty and degradation inevitably result.

To many Malthusians, the logical solution to this problem is to slow, limit, or reduce human population growth.

This view is also rooted in the fixed-pie fallacy, that the economy is set at a fixed amount of wealth that can’t grow over time. Both of these views say the same two things:

  • People can’t create.
  • People are the problem.

Viewing people as the problem can encourage gendercide in countries like India. Baby girls are often aborted because they are seen as a huge economic expense for their families who are expected to provide them a dowry.

This view also encourages policies like China’s one-child policy and Mynamar’s current proposed legislation requiring women to space out their pregnancies.

However, according to PovertyCure, population does not cause poverty and Malthusian predictions have proven false over and over again.

Both the Malthusian view and the fixed-pie fallacy are rooted in a bad understanding of human nature and Imago Dei. It doesn’t account for human creativity, innovation, or our ability to adapt to changing environments.

People are not the problem. They are the solution. People are not only consumers; they are also producers.

People: The Ultimate Resource

In 2011, the earth’s population hit 7 billion people. The population is growing at an unprecedented rate, but humans are creatively adapting.

The BBC series Generation Earth, (currently on Netflix) highlights the remarkable way humans have adapted to life on earth today through innovation in areas of transportation, architecture, and basic resources like energy, food, and water. The presenter, Dallas Campbell, says,

The way we live on the planet is changing in ways that our ancestors would have thought impossible.

In ways our ancestors would have thought impossible.

We can’t even fathom what our world might look like in the few decades, let alone in the next century, and that might be a scary thought. But we should let our recent history be a reminder of the spectacular creativity humanity is capable of employing.

“I see people as the ultimate resource,” says Steven Mosher, of the Population Research Institute. To Mosher, more people means more minds to contribute to creative solutions.

God made us creative beings in his image, so instead of viewing 5,000 people as 5,000 mouths to feed, we should see them as 10,000 hands with the capacity to create.

Population control limits our ability to flourish because it limits human creativity. It is also the most inhumane way to fight poverty because it diminishes the value of human life and our Imago Dei.

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