[lit-ideas] Re: Does This Have Wings?

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2012 18:09:42 +0100 (BST)

 From: Thomas Hart <tehart@xxxxxxx>

>Are you serious? Maybe I'm not understanding you, or you're not understanding 
>me, but I regard every blessed one of those statements as MONSTROUS.

The first and second were:
"1. Population is growing at a 
steady rate, and threatens to overwhelm food supply, exhaust fuels, and 
lower the standard of well being for the population of this country and 
the world as a whole.
2. It is therefore in the interest of the general welfare to limit population."

It is hard to see either as monstrous: the first is a claim of fact; the second 
a normative claim based on the undesirability of the consequences of population 
growth, and hardly monstrous if the consequences are as in the claim of fact. 
Consider [as many parents have done down the ages]:- 1. This family has grown 
by two children in the last several years, if it were to grow at that rate for 
the next twenty years it would produce a family we would struggle to feed and 
provide for at even a most basic level. 2. It is therefore in the interests of 
this family that it does not grow at that rate - but is perhaps limited to 
another child. Monstrous or sane?

Even if we lived in a world of limitless material resources one might question 
whether having as many children as conceivably possible would be some moral 
imperative, even aside from the fact that there are other resouces than 
strictly material that would be limited - like the time and attention we spend 
on our children. 

We might conceive a world where the threat to human survival was such that 
maximising population would, to counter that threat, become some moral 

But we do not live in a world threatened by lack of population but by too much 
population and we do not live in a world with limitless resources, material or 

It is an ethics that refuses to face this world that is likely to prove 
monstrous. Unsustainable population growth points to an underlying conflict 
between quantity and quality of life: and arguments here in terms of being 
'pro-life' are likely to be fatally one-sided if they do not recognise this 
underlying conflict [which conflict applies not just to issues of population 
but to what steps we should pursue to extend human life-spans].

While historically it has not generally been questioned that couples of certain 
approved sorts [e.g. married] should have a legal right to reproduce, we have 
reached a stage where we might question the limits of that right in terms of 
"general welfare". In fact, the limits of that right has always been questioned 
though not in ways that in the West has given rise to legal restrictions [as it 
has in China]. But legal restrictions may prove necessary.

Clearly 3 is ridiculous as fixed policy, or if you want 'monstrous', in that if 
every woman were limited to one child that would lead within generations to a 
massive drop in population because women having more than one child is 
necessary to sustain population levels. But there may come a point when a 
massive drop in population is what "general welfare" favours.

People may have certain rights connected with their status as humans deserving 
of certain minimum kinds of treatment, but none of these are absolute: even the 
'right to life' - which may be removed from a person in self-defence against 
their threat to others' life. There is no absolute right to anything except in 
the talk of ideologues and what rights should be given (and within what limits) 
are questions to which the answers may change as the problem-situation changes.

The 'right to have children', insofar as it has consequences for sustainable 
population and other issues of "general welfare", is a good example of a right 
that may have to be curtailed or limited as the problem-situation we face 

There are probably more people who have had children than is morally in the 
interests of "general welfare" or children themselves. It is fatuous to think 
having children is, without qualification and irrespective of consequences and 
circumstances, an intrinsic good. [Having me as a parent is some of the best 
evidence here].



On Jul 10, 2012, at 10:21 PM, Paul Stone wrote:

>On Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 9:19 PM, Thomas Hart <tehart@xxxxxxx> wrote:
>Consider this argument:
>>1. Population is growing at a steady rate, and threatens to overwhelm food 
>>supply, exhaust fuels, and lower the standard of well being for the 
>>population of this country and the world as a whole.
>>2. It is therefore in the interest of the general welfare to limit population.
>>3. To achieve this it is legislated that no family may have more than one 
>>child. No woman may produce more than one child in her lifetime.
>>4. A woman known to be carrying more than one child must abort the excess 
>>children. A woman who carries to term more than one child must pay an excess 
>>child tax equivalent to 100% of her income for 10 years.
>>5. Freedom of religion refers solely to private belief or to public 
>>ceremonial practice and no further. 
>>6. As a consequence of 5 there will be no religious exemption from either the 
>>mandated abortion, or the tax.
>>Given the mandate to provide contraception which has been imposed, and the 
>>recent ruling by SCOTUS, how likely/unlikely is it that such a policy could 
>>be successfully imposed?
>All good ideas, but the US or North America in general is not the problem. 
>Europe is basically breeding itself into islamism, and India and China are out 
>of control - populations-wise. Africa is just a huge burden on the world 
>(cause they have nothing worth anything there, except starving millions) -- 
>that was tongue-in-cheek political humour a la Mike. The population of the 
>world is about 7 x its holding capacity at the moment. We are doomed, but I 
>have cold beer and food and I will be dead before the shit hits the fan, so I 
>don't care. And... you will NEVER convince any Western nation to do what they 
>actually need to do to control this fiasco. Happy fishing!

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