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And overpopulation ?

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  • Harry Pollard
    Some Georgists argue that there is an overpopulation problem, contrary to the ideas of Henry George. I would argue that the problem is always the same – poor
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2006
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      Some Georgists argue that there is an overpopulation problem, contrary to the ideas of Henry George. I would argue that the problem is always the same – poor land tenure – monopolization and speculation in land so people can starve in the midst of plenty.

       

      I am fond of using Taiwan as an example. After Georgist land reform food production soared until at one point there was a net export of food.

      This with a population density more than 1,300 to the square mile.

       

      Malawi has about one fifth of that population density.

       

      No-one can do much about extensive drought or catastrophe – but it’s possible with a just system to get some fat on the bones – enough to tide through the emergency. In extremis, help from elsewhere is always available.

       

      As it is, the outside help becomes a continual subsidy to keep people alive – or to allow as few deaths as possible. There is nothing left to solve the problems. (This parallels the situation in developed countries where welfare is now a way of life rather than temporary aid to people in trouble.)

       

      Here is the note to Steve. His post is after mine.

       

      Harry

       

      --------------------------------------------------------

       

      Steve, old lad,

       

      There you go again.

       

      You said:

       

      “Stop with the straw man arguments (again) It's not either/or. It's and/and/and...”

       

      The straw man ploy is used by you all the time. It’s like ducking and weaving in boxing – moving quick to avoid a hit.

       

      This was the exchange. I wrote:

       

      “However, this is unimportant when compared with the danger of assuming so much significance to a “cause” that anything else is ignored. As with assuming overpopulation is the cause of starvation  .  .  .”

       

      You replied:

       

      “Who automatically assumed anything? You did!”

      “Neither I nor the author said that pop control was sufficient to remedy the problems. We both believe that it is necessary given the realities. Look at the aids stats & fertility rates & child mortality . . .”

       

      Steve, these three are concerned with population. Two of them with death – one with life. But let’s look at why I assumed as I did.

       

      You began with”

       

      “Overpop. deniers are abetting 4 horsemen.”

       

      Are you pointing to overpopulation? Seems so.

       

      Then you quote Elspeth.

       

      ”Bjørn Lomborg's economists fail to see the real problems of the poor counties of Africa (30 October, p 23). In Malawi the population has increased from 5 million to 11 million in 20
      years. The birth rate is still 6.6 children per woman, and family gardens are now too small for survival. As a report by the Malawi government and Oxfam says: "From 0.3 hectares of land you do not expect to grow enough food to feed the family."

      The resulting permanent famine could be solved now by a "two child" population policy. Will the Copenhagen Consensus face up to this human reality? International donors should give first
      priority to birth control programmes in Africa . International donors should give first priority to birth control programmes in Africa .”

       

      Can you forgive me for “assuming” that the problem she sees is overpopulation and the answer to famine is “zero-population” growth?

       

      Also that your quoting this is an indication that you believe as she does? That overpopulation is the problem?

       

      She doesn’t offer much else other than that more money is needed. That’s what they all say.

       

      Which is why I wrote of: “the danger of assuming so much significance to a “cause” that anything else is ignored.” Looks to me as if you and Elspeth assumed too much significance to overpopulation.

       

      In fact you underlined your belief when you added statistics on – guess what - on overpopulation! I particularly noted the bold type:

       

      Malawi is the most densely populated country in the SADC region, with a population density of 104 inhabitants/km2.

       

      When Taiwan was exporting food, their population density was 5 times greater than Malawi ’s “densely populated”. Yet, I don’t recall reports of starvation. Incidentally, Taiwan now has a density of 636 to the square kilometer – 6 times the population density of Malawi .

       

      However, I bet they now import plenty of food as many of their farmers appear to have lost interest in farming. (Factories pay well.)

       

      Yet, you say:

       

      Taiwan or any other place is not directly relevant to whether or not the most benefit per $ of aid to Malawi is x, y, or z.”

       

      Oops! You’ve changed direction. Now you are talking about aid. As did Elspeth when she wrote:

       

      “International donors should give first priority to birth control programmes in Africa .”

       

      My golly! Population fears again! However, she suggests more money for doctors, nurses, and teachers. Not as a first priority, you understand.

       

      Looks to me as if my straw man is made of bricks. There is no doubt that both you and Elspeth were describing the “overpopulation problem”. Why deny it?

       

      The problem with this subject is the one I stressed – that everyone knows there is a population problem because everyone knows there is a population problem.

       

      When Ed wandered around the teeming hordes of Sao Paulo – obvious evidence of overpopulation – he was in a country with a population density of 22 per square kilometer, about a fifth of Malawi .

       

      Heck, we could export the entire population of Malawi to Brazil and the density would only rise to 25 to the square kilometer. Of course, we know where they would end up – perhaps inevitably as favelados in Sao Paulo .

       

      Meantime, what would we do with an empty Malawi ?

       

      The reason why the Malawians would end up in the favelas needs an understanding of Classical Political Economy. Henry George wasn’t exactly anti-Malthusian, but he cut Malthusian contentions to pieces – particularly their assertion that ‘overpopulation’ is responsible for poverty and starvation.

       

      It was a little side excursion from his route toward the cause of economic problems. You should read his ‘Progress and Poverty’ to gain an insight into his thinking. Then you would understand.

       

      Harry

       

      **********************************

      Henry George School of Social Science

      of Los Angeles

      Box 655  Tujunga   CA 91042

      818 352-4141

      **********************************

        


      On Behalf Of Steve

      Harry,

      re:

      Each country has about a quarter of its area in arable land. So why aren’t things good in Malawi ? It certainly isn’t overpopulation. The trouble with automatically assuming an overpopulation problem is that no attention is given to other and perhaps more significant causes of deprivation - and worse.

      and

      However, this is unimportant when compared with the danger of assuming so much significance to a “cause” that anything else is ignored. As with assuming overpopulation is the cause of starvation,

       

      Who automatically assumed anything? You did!

      Neither I nor the author said that pop control was sufficient to remedy the problems. We both believe that it is necessary given the realities. Look at the aids stats & fertility rates & child mortality...Suffering alleviation would ensue from the family planning & health clinics (incl condoms for free ) The author referred to 'bang for the buck' Many aid orgs are not much more than carerer paths for the employees. (even UN as I posted)

      Taiwan or any other place is not directly relevant to whether or not the most benefit per $ of aid to Malawi is x, y, or z..Yes, comparisons can be instructive. But cultural traits, infrastructure, geography, trade routes, education & health systems, etc all vary.

      Stop with the strawman arguments (again) It's not either/or. It's and/and/and... Problem is most charities omit reproductive aid for reasons of church dogma (really breed larger flock) or govt restrictions (like US on anything remotely related to abortion). Your only valid rebuttal would be to evidence a better bang per buck in THIS case.

      Some stats FYI

      from:
      http://www.fao.org/ag/agl/aglw/aquastat/countries/malawi/index.stm

      In 2004, Malawi ’s population was about 12.3 million with an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent (Table 1). About 83 percent of the total population was rural. Malawi is the most densely populated country in the SADC region, with a population density of 104 inhabitants/km2. The population is not evenly distributed throughout the country, and the Southern Region has some of the highest population densities in the country. In 2002, 96 percent of the urban population and 62 percent of the rural population were using improved drinking water sources (Table 1).

      Though Malawi ’s fertility rate of 6.7 births per woman in the period 1990-1992 has dropped to 6.3 births per woman in 1998-2000, it still remains one of the highest in the world. This high rate is attributed to several reasons such as early marriages, early-age pregnancies, relatively short birth intervals and still little knowledge of and access to modern contraceptive practices.

      Malawi still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Its Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.464 ranked the country 163rd out of 174 countries in 2000.

      The rapid increase in population has resulted in great pressure on land. Fallow periods for restoring soil fertility have been reduced greatly in the smallholder farming systems, and cultivation is expanding to marginal and less fertile areas. This is leading to severe deforestation, soil erosion and a general degradation of the natural resource base. This problem is most serious in southern Malawi as compared to central and northern Malawi .

      from:
      http://www.gcrio.org/CSP/IR/IRmalawi.html

      Population and Economy

      Malawi has a population of about ten million with a growth rate of approximately 3 percent (Malawi Government, 1987). The resultant density of about 85/sq km makes Malawi one of the most densely populated countries in the sub-Saharan Africa .

      About 90 percent of Malawi 's population is rural and dependent on agriculture. Agriculture employs almost 85 percent of the labor force and accounts for about 43 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and nearly 90 percent of the export earnings. The income per capita GNP is estimated at US $230.00 (Myers, 1994).

       

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