Underpopulation—The Real Problem

Steven W. Mosher on the world’s demographic crisis

Underpopulation—The Real Problem

Population Research Institute (PRI) is a non-profit research organization with headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia and a global network of affiliated pro-life groups. The president of PRI is Steven W. Mosher. He recently spoke to CWR.

In a weekly online poll called “YouCut”—where US citizens can vote for the wasteful federal program they would most like to discontinue—the United Nations Fund for Population Activities was a candidate in May 2011, and it “won.” Representative Renee Ellmers introduced a bill to terminate contributions to the UNFPA, which has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Please comment.

Steven Mosher: More and more Americans are waking up to the fact that the UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) is involved with some of the most horrific population control programs the world has ever seen. In China, for example, we at the Population Research Institute have documented that the UNFPA’s “model country” program is rife with human rights abuses, including forced abortions and forced sterilizations. Not only that, but couples who have more than one child are hit with crippling fines equivalent to three to five year’s income. These “social compensation fees,” as they are called, are deliberately set high in order to bully mothers into having abortions.

It gets worse. The UNFPA directly supports and helps to manage China’s forced-pace program by supplying computers and sterilization/abortion equipment to China’s family planning police. The computers allow the police to track all women of childbearing age and target those who get pregnant “out-of-plan.” And [the UNFPA] promotes exporting China’s one-child policies to other countries.

I have fought to defund the UNFPA for 30 years, but it has been a seesaw battle all the way. We won the first round when President Reagan and his successor agreed that the UNFPA was illegally supporting forced abortions and forced sterilizations in China, but lost the second when Bill Clinton took office and turned a blind eye to these abuses.

We went on the offensive again with the election of President George W. Bush. Based largely on evidence that we had gathered, on July 21, 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell dropped the ax: “UNFPA’s support of, and involvement in, China’s population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion. Therefore, it is not permissible to continue funding UNFPA at this time.”

There matters remained until the election of Barack Obama who, ignoring the evidence, once again began funneling money to the UN organization. Meanwhile, the population control agency appears determined to mire itself even more deeply in the muck of China’s program. The agency continues to expand its program in China, and has signed a new agreement with the government there that will run through 2012.

Even if this UN organization were not complicit in human rights abuses, it would still make no sense to fund it. Overpopulation is one of the myths of the century now past. The reality of our present century is the growing problem of underpopulation. As birth rates continue to fall worldwide, we need to abolish the UN Fund for Population Activities before it does any more harm.

Demographers estimate that in late 2011 the world’s population will reach seven billion. It is said to have reached the six billion mark in October of 1999. Doesn’t this rapid increase vindicate the population control movement?

Mosher: Like other baby boomers, I lived through the unprecedented doubling of the global population in the second half of the 20th century. Never before in human history had our numbers increased so far, so fast: from three billion in 1960 to six billion in 2000. But the population alarmists, I came to see, glossed over the underlying reason: Our numbers didn’t double because we suddenly started breeding like rabbits. They doubled because we stopped dying like flies. Fertility was falling throughout this period, from an average of six children per woman in 1960 to only 2.6 by 2005.

Life expectancy at birth, on the other hand, was steadily rising, climbing from 46 years in 1950-1955 to more than 65 years from 2000-2005. The less-developed countries saw the most dramatic increases: life spans there lengthened from 41 to 63.5 years. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that, with everyone living half again as long, there will be more of us around at any given time. Longer life spans in fact account for about half of all population growth over the last half-century. The happy fact that billions of us were cheating death for decades at a time would seem cause to celebrate, not to mourn.

We will pass seven billion later this year [the UN marked the arrival of “baby seven billion” on October 31], but that doesn’t mean that human numbers are exploding; in fact, a close look at the real world reveals precisely the opposite. The unprecedented fall in fertility rates that began in post-war Europe has, in the decades since, spread to every corner of the globe, affecting China, India, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. The latest forecasts by the United Nations show the number of people in the world shrinking by mid-century—that is, before today’s young adults reach retirement age. Many nations, especially in Europe, are already in a death spiral, losing a significant number of people each year. Listen closely, and you will hear the muffled sound of populations crashing.

In 2010, the UN Population Division (UNDP) found that 79 countries, including 36 in the less developed world, had fertility rates that were below the level needed to ensure the long-term survival of the population. Most of the rest, the agency warns us, are likely to enter this danger zone over the next few decades. In this prediction, the UNDP is certainly correct.

According to the agency’s “low-variant” projection, historically the most accurate, by 2050 three out of every four countries in the less developed regions will be experiencing the same kind of below-replacement fertility that is hollowing out the populations of developed countries today. Such stark drops in fertility, cautioned the UNPD, will result in a rapid aging of the populations of developed and developing countries alike. With the number of people over 65 slated to explode from 475 million in 2000 to 1.46 billion in 2050, existing social security systems will be threatened with collapse. It will prove difficult, if not impossible, to establish new ones.

These sobering projections show that the population of the world will continue to creep up until about the year 2040, peaking at around 7.6 billion people. This is only a fraction more than the almost seven billion that the planet supports at present. Then the global population implosion, slow at first, but accelerating over time, begins. We fall back to current levels by 2082, and then shrink to under 5 billion by the turn of the next century. That population will be much older than we are today.

This is the real population crisis. This population implosion, by reducing the amount of human capital available, will have a negative and dramatic impact on every aspect of life.

Last summer the Population Research Institute co-sponsored a Demographic Summit with the World Congress of Families in Moscow. Were there many delegates from developing nations? Was there any funding for the event from Western governments?

Mosher: The short answer is, yes, we had a number of delegates from developing countries. Senator Kit Tatad from the Philippines attended, for example, and spoke to us of the efforts by the UNFPA, USAID, and other international organizations to pressure the Philippines into adopting a two-child policy. We all agreed that the Philippine archipelago’s most precious resource was its people, and pledged to help the good senator resist this kind of anti-natal cultural imperialism.

Western governments—not surprisingly given the anti-people bias of their foreign aid programs—did not find our pro-life, pro-family efforts worthy of support. In fact, the chief Russian sponsors were private corporations who were concerned about Russia’s falling population and consequentially dim economic prospects. I should mention here URALSIB, one of Russia’s largest banks, which offers low-interest rate mortgages to couples with children, and then reduces the interest rate on the loan by one-half percent for each additional child the couples goes on to have. Now this is precisely the kind of pro-natal policy that Russia needs in order to jumpstart its birthrate and that other countries should adopt.

The purpose of the World Congress of Families is “to defend the family and to guide public policy and cultural norms.” What threats to the family were discussed at the 2011 Demographic Summit in Moscow? What policy recommendations were formulated?

Mosher: As always, we started by reaffirming the natural family—a father, a mother, and their natural or adopted children—as the basic unit of society, without which civilization would be impossible. We agreed that the decline of the family was in large part responsible for the global depopulation that looms before us, where whole peoples with their unique cultures face extinction over the course of the next couple of generations.

The crisis in the family has multiple causes, from the weakening of conjugal and parental roles to the widespread adoption of contraception, from no-fault divorce to the spread of cohabitation, homosexuality, and abortion.

We ended the summit by calling upon all nations to develop a pro‐family demographic policy that would consolidate family and marriage, protect human life from conception to natural death, increase birth rates, and avert the menace of depopulation.

The former Soviet Union was the first nation to legalize abortion in 1920. Is Russia ready now to listen to the pro-life message?

Mosher: Russia was not only the first Western country to legalize abortion, it was also the country where the suction abortion machine—both the electric and the manual versions—was actually invented. Many Russians are now ashamed of this sordid history, and are working to help Russia recover both its traditional Christian morality and its reverence for life.

The recent action of the Russian Duma in placing, for the first time, restrictions on abortion is a step in the right direction. Also, the network of crisis pregnancy centers being established by Alexey Komov, the Russian representative of the World Congress of Families, will undoubtedly save the lives of thousands of Russian babies over time.

In recent decades China has been the world’s laboratory for centralized population planning. Does it deserve good grades for its unprecedented economic development?

Mosher: The first thing to say is that there can never be an economic justification for population control programs. A good end can never justify an evil means, and the forced abortions, sterilizations, and contraception that have characterized China’s population control program from the beginning are nothing if not an evil means.

But the tragedy of China’s one-child policy runs even deeper. For it is now clear that China would have modernized over the past three decades without the one-child policy. By eliminating 400 million of the most enterprising, intelligent people on the planet, the Chinese Communist Party has actually made the country poorer. China will soon suffer from a nationwide labor shortage as a consequence of this cruel and misguided policy.

China’s draconian birth control programs have produced the largest population of post-abortive women on the planet. Are they beginning to see the medical and psychological consequences?

Mosher: I have personally interviewed a number of women in China who were deeply distraught over the abortions they had been forced to undergo. Even though the abortions were not voluntary, they still blamed themselves for not being able to protect their unborn children.

It is a sad fact that China has the highest suicide rate in the world. And whereas it is most common in other countries for men to end their lives, most of the suicides in China are women.

Is there any substance to whispered reports of human trafficking across China’s borders or within the country?

Mosher: The mass killing of born and unborn baby girls in China has created a shortage of brides in that country. So there is now what can be called “bride trafficking,” both within China and between China and its near neighbors like Vietnam and North Korea. Young girls in North Korea, a desperately poor country on the brink of starvation, are often sold by their own parents to a bride trafficker, who in turn sells the girls to the highest bidder as a wife.

This is just one of the many social pathologies that the one-child policy has given rise to, and which the Chinese people will suffer the consequences of for decades to come.

PRI has warned about the growing phenomenon of sex-selective abortion, and not just in countries like India. Are there any plans to make the procedure illegal in the United States?

Mosher: We have proposed banning sex-selective abortion in the United States. The 2000 Census produced compelling evidence that certain immigrant populations, namely Indian-Americans and Chinese-Americans, were engaging in this practice. We are hopeful that the next Congress will ban it.

Why has the PRI taken a stance and mobilized its resources against Obamacare?

Mosher: Because Obamacare would cede to the government control over the health sector of the US economy. It would promote abortion, sterilization, and contraception and, worse yet, force people with conscientious objections to those objectively immoral practices to fund them. It would take end-of-life decisions out of the hands of patients and doctors, and invest them in panels of doctors far removed from the patient’s bed.

We should be moving in the other direction, away from centralized government control. Take the matter of electronic health records, which the federal government is spending tens of billions of dollars to develop. We, not the government, should decide which doctors, health care insurers, and health care providers are allowed to see our health records, and under what circumstances. We should be able to prevent the government or drug companies from carrying out using our data research that we find morally objectionable. We should be able to specify what kind of care we would like to receive if incapacitated and who is authorized by us to make those kinds of decisions. The technology exists today, developed by a Dallas-based company called Jericho Systems, to allow us to control our own health records. But will we be allowed to? The jury is still out.

We have to turn back Obamacare and replace it with a system that gives each and every one of us, not a cold and distant bureaucracy, but rather control over our health care.

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About Michael J. Miller 127 Articles
Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller translated Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Ludwig Müller for Ignatius Press and Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine? for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.