Over PopulationOne of the more extreme measures taken in an attempt to control population has been China’s one-child policy. Population advocate Garet Hardin suggests the rest of the world adopt similar policies. This paper is to show a country’s government acting on theories that Hardin is popular for and the ethical and environmental effects that it had on people and the land. Hardin fails to see the ethical problems laid out by governments that suppress peoples thoughts and beliefs.
Hardin states that throughout most of history there’s been no need for concern about population control. Nature would come along with epidemic diseases and take care of the matter for us. Disease has been the primary population controller in the past. Because widespread disease and famine no longer exist, we have to find other means to stop population increases (Spencer 1992, pp.61-2).
Mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon is a misnomer as Hardin routinely supports the actions of authoritarian governments who rarely seek consent for their actions. When asked about the one child policy Hardin said that the Chinese government didn’t go far enough. He gave the Chinese credit for officially recognizing that they have a problem and for having the nerve to propose the single-child program .. he thought the failure was by not making the directive universal throughout the country. The one-child policy is only enforced in congested urban areas. People in rural regions continue to have too many children — so the Chinese haven’t solved their problems at all. (Spencer 1992, p.60).
Before 1950, there was an old Stalinist custom in China of rewarding “heroic mothers” giving birth to the largest number of children. This was more then a custom it was a way of life in China till Ma Yin Chu began to publish some articles on population. Ma Yin Chu was the president of Beijing University and was one of the first people to voice his concern over the steady growth of China’s population.
Between 1959-1961 there was a great famine in China that got everyone’s attention. Resources for such a large population were scarce. The government recognized that something had to be done about the population. Distribution of contraception’s, promotion of late marriages, and two child families were all part of a post famine campaign by the government. This lasted less then four years as China’s population began to increase again.
The government began to release propaganda. The slogan Wan Xi Shao, Later – Longer – Fewer, ran through the streets of China. The efforts focused on the postponement of marriages, increased spacing of births, and the limitation of family sizes. The government’s efforts were vastly ignored in the countryside.
Around the time Ma Yin Chu began to publish articles on population, the Communist rule took over in China. The Communist were ruled by Mao Zedong. Mao directed most of his energy into the Chinese economy. In 1958, Mao created an economic plan called the great leap forward. This plan called for the people to use their will power to improve the economy. The lack of technology and capital made the plan back fire and lead the people into the great famine.
In the early to mid 1960’s the Communist party split into the radicals and the moderates. Mao gave his support to the radicals and tried again to focus on the economy. Coming off the great famine many wanted Mao to find a solution to the growing population. China still was not ready to recognize the stress the population had on the country.
The United States relations with China had been weak mostly because of the Communist view. In 1972, Richard Nixion decided to visit China. Both countries began to recognize the potential economic benefits of trade between the nations. This improved relationship gave China a better look of the modernization that was currently going on in the west. In 1978, China decided that they liked what they saw.
Having more than one fifth of the world’s population, China had very little power in the world. In 1978, China realized they already had the manpower, so they set out to modernize the country. The efforts to modernize made China take a hard look at their population. They saw that foreign trade of their resources were limited because of the demand they had in their own country. This held back the economy and finally got the attention of the Chinese government.
The one child policy began in 1979. It was China’s greatest effort to contain the population and to improve the economy. Economists stated that China needed to limit its population to about 1.2 billion by the year 2000 in order to achieve economic success.
The one child campaign and its effectiveness rested on a combination of rewards and penalties. Rewards for the one child families included cash bonuses, preferential housing, job, and school enrollments, and free medical care and schooling for the child in the cities. For peasants, rewards were less appealing because there were no real benefits for framing. Penalties for more than two children included withdraw of health subsidies and paid maternity leaves, reduced rations for foodstuffs, and workpoint reductions.
The one child policy often broke down in the country side. Urban families mostly followed the government rule but rural areas saw the laws enforced less frequent. In the countryside if your first child is a girl you can seek permission to try for a second for a son. The government accepts that in the countryside a son is needed to inherit the land and to look for the elderly parents. The cities were different mostly because they were in the transition to become a modern society. Here the government instilled the notion that it was for the good of their country to abide by the one child policy.
The one child policy philosophy places the importance on the welfare of the country as a whole instead of individual interests. A benefit of the policy has some Chinese saying that a smaller population leads to a country with bigger spaces which provide the Chinese people with greater opportunities for development. Such views were not widely shared in all of China.
The push by the government lead to a great deal of resentment and a wide spread evasion and defiance. Many cited the mental cost of the program ; the anguish, resentment, anger, depression, and regrets of those families who have to submit. An old Chinese tradition, the concept of duozi duofu , more sons more happiness, remains strong among the countryside.
Look at the facts, virtually no women in China (0.06-0.1 %) wanted to be childless, and fewer than 5 percent of families in the countryside wanted to stop at one child. Many believed that three of four children would be an ideal in a family.
It has seems that some people in the cities did infact accept the government belief on the one child policy. Some people think they bought into the propaganda and was manipulated into thinking that there is a better quality of life with modernization. While many in the cities obey the population standards in thinking that their communistic belief is helping the world they are now contributing to higher fossil fuels and pollutants. The trade off from the shifts of the way in life in China sees those who do not desire the large families desire things like automobiles which the demand has doubled over the past ten years. So while many agree that over population does lead environmental hazards such as food and fuel shortages the new way of life also seems to have a negative effect on the environment.
Hardins critique of the China’s failure in the one child policy is too broad and falls short. His thoery on the stratergy of having the rich countries serve as life boats for the poor is too narrow. He is iggnorat to any of the deatils of his theories. What defines a rich country or a poor country. Who is rich, who is poor? Are the people in China’s countryside all that poor? Economicaly spaeking they mirrior those of the thrid world countries. But, are they leading a poor life if they are allowed to act on their hertage?
Hardin fails to admit the ethical problem that the government poses on their people. His focus seems to be of lack of membership in urban or lack of policing those areas. He does not admit that part of the failure is that the policy was not a shared belief by the Chinese. It was imposed from above and with many contradicting and disrespecting the ethics of many generations.
? People’s Mouths. China’s Environment.
? Asia. Keeping China off the Rocks. The Economist February 10th 1996.
-Easterbrook Gregg. Inconceivable, The New Republic. November 23rd, 1998.
-Spencer, Cathy. Interview: Garrett Hardin. Omni, vol. 14, no.9, June 1992, pp.54-63.