The ideas of Thomas Robert Malthus (1766–1834) are alive and well.
Malthus was the popularizer of the bogus idea that the population was increasing beyond the means of subsistence. He wrote in his 1798 book, An Essay on the Principle of Population, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man” because, so he believed, the population increases in a “geometrical ratio” while the means of subsistence increase in an “arithmetical ratio.”
The discredited ideas of Malthus were resurrected by Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb: “In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”
Now the problem with an increasing population is said to be not the lack of food but the supposed threat of anthropogenic climate change.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity,
The largest single threat to the ecology and biodiversity of the planet in the decades to come will be global climate disruption due to the buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. People around the world are beginning to address the problem by reducing their carbon footprint through less consumption and better technology. But unsustainable human population growth can overwhelm those efforts, leading us to conclude that we not only need smaller footprints, but fewer feet.
During CNN’s recent “climate crisis town hall” in New York, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was asked a question about this very thing by a teacher named Martha Readyoff:
READYOFF: Good evening. Human population growth has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The planet cannot sustain this growth. I realize this is a poisonous topic for politicians, but it’s crucial to face. Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?
SANDERS: Well, Martha, the answer is yes. And the answer has everything to do with the fact that women in the United States of America, by the way, have a right to control their own bodies and make reproductive decisions. And the Mexico City agreement, which denies American aid to those organizations around the world that are — that allow women to have abortions or even get involved in birth control, to me is totally absurd. So I think, especially in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies, and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids they have, it’s something I very, very strongly support.
Conservatives, naturally, had a field day with Sanders’s remarks, with some accusing him of supporting eugenics and population control via abortion.
The “Mexico City agreement” mentioned by Sanders is the “Mexico City policy” of the U.S. government (so called because it was introduced there in 1984 by the Reagan administration at a population-growth conference) that prohibits U.S. international family-planning assistance provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that fund abortions or provide abortions or abortion-related services. President Bill Clinton reversed the policy, President George W. Bush reinstated it, President Barack Obama reversed it again, and President Donald Trump reinstated it again. Since then, the Trump administration has twice strengthened the policy, first, by making it applicable to all U.S. foreign health assistance, not just funding for family-planning programs; and second, by also withholding funding from NGOs that give money to other NGOs that promote or perform abortions.
If a Democrat wins the White House in the 2020 election, one of the first things he (or she) will undoubtedly do is to reverse the Mexico City policy again. All of the Democratic senators who are or were seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination co-sponsored legislation introduced back in February to permanently repeal the policy.
But it’s not just the reinstatement and strengthening of the Mexico City policy that has conservative pro-lifers cheering.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said that the State Department will fully enforce a 1981 legislative amendment that prohibits the use of U.S. funds “to lobby for or against abortion.” As a result, the fiscal year 2019 “assessed contribution” to the Organization of American States (OAS) was “cut” by $210,000 because of “abortion-related advocacy” carried out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an autonomous organ of the OAS.
But some other things that Pompeo said inadvertently reveal the true nature of conservatism.
He said that the total in dollars allocated for women’s and global health under the Trump administration remains unchanged — “we’re just ensuring that those dollars aren’t used to underwrite abortion.” And he also said that “this administration has shown that we can continue to meet our critical global health goals, including providing health care for women while refusing to subsidize the killing of unborn babies.”
That shows that regardless of how many times conservatives recite their mantra of the Constitution, limited government, private property, and individual freedom; and no matter how much they talk about the private sector, free enterprise, personal responsibility, and the free market, they only selectively believe in those things.
U.S. foreign aid takes many forms — from food distribution and infrastructure projects to literacy programs and family-planning assistance — and goes to more 100 countries at a cost of more $40 billion a year. But regardless of the form, the recipients, the cost, the purpose, and the reason, the nature of foreign aid is still the same: the looting of American taxpayers.
Foreign aid is simply money confiscated from American taxpayers and sent to countries that many Americans couldn’t locate on a map and may never even have heard of. No American should be forced to “contribute” to the aid of foreigners, their governments, or NGOs working in other countries — just as no American should be forced to “contribute” to the aid of any other American. The decision to aid foreigners, like the decision to aid Americans, is a decision that should be left up to each individual. All charity should be private and voluntary. Charity that is not voluntary is theft.
Conservatives have no philosophical objection whatsoever to the looting of American taxpayers as long as it serves their political agenda. The fact that the government has no business having global health plans and goals and providing family-planning services is immaterial to them.
Conservatives are no different from liberals when it comes to the looting of American taxpayers. When Trump broached the idea late last month of canceling “more than $4 billion in unspent foreign aid,” there was an immediate “bipartisan uproar from Capitol Hill, lawsuit threats from stakeholders and pushback within his own Cabinet.”
As I have said many times before, the only limited government wanted by conservatives is a government limited to control by conservatives.