Seven Billion People and Counting

October 31, 2011

 by Mario Rizzo  

There has been quite a lot a talk in the last few days about the coming (or already-here) seven-billion world population. It is a truly amazing number.

Many pro-market and orthodox Catholics  will say this is a good thing. Remember Adam Smith’s dictum “The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.” It is true that a large population implies, in a system of natural liberty, larger markets, greater division of labor and hence greater productiveness of labor. There are many other advantages as well.

The orthodox Catholics will decry “artificial” birth control, including the use of condoms. Whether the use of condoms to prevent HIV transmission is morally permitted is still not clear in the papal teaching.

And yet there are massive numbers of people unable to feed themselves, dying of HIV, and unable to govern themselves in a way that produces peace. Unfortunately, it is just here that population is growing most rapidly.

So I may be forgiven if I think that seven billion people is a mixed blessing, at best.

8 Responses to “Seven Billion People and Counting”


  1. Mario is too pessimistic. As he suggests, population growth is not a problem with free markets and the system of natural liberty. I side with Adam Smith and Julian Simon on that question.

    Additionally, we have witnessed in the last decades the movement of 2.5 billion people (India and China) from poverty to middle class (obviously a work in progress). Never have so many people moved out of poverty in such a short period of time.

    I leave theology to others.

  2. Allan Walstad Says:

    Population growth may not be a problem with free markets and natural liberty, precisely because the increasing affluence stemming therefrom causes population growth to level off. If I’m not mistaken, 7 billion is considerably less than what was forecast a few decades ago for now.

    I don’t think it’s any coincidence that population is growing most rapidly where people are doing worst.

  3. Crawdad Says:

    Let’s also not forget that the global population rate is declining. If you want to be pessimistic, think about what that means for the world’s welfare states.


  4. If there were only a hundred people in the world, a significant portion of them (likely, all of them) would be miserable, starving, disease-ridden, and subject to morbid vices.

    The difference made by the 6,999,999,900 other people is that SOME of them (including Mario Rizzo) can acquire the means to live lives of considerable ease, comfort, and productivity, even while helping others improve their lots.

    As the number of people increases, the number of people able so to live increases, at least proportionally. And maybe more than proportionally.

  5. Allan Walstad Says:

    I don’t think anyone is advocating a human population of 100. At the other end of things, I hope no one is advocating, or happy with the idea of, unlimited exponential population growth. It would take about 44 doublings from where we are now to where the entire mass of the Earth consists of human bodies. What doubling time shall we assume? If it’s a century, then we are talking about 4400 years, which is less than recorded human history.

    But we can expand into space? OK, 103 doublings brings us to where the entire mass of the Milky Way Galaxy has been converted to human bodies. So maybe 10,000 years. And that will be quite a trick, because the Galaxy is 100,000 light years across.

    I doubt many people want to live in a world that is wall-to-wall human bodies and structures. Within the paradigm of non-coercive human interaction and property rights, people can prevent that outcome by owning and preserving land where they permit natural landscape to persist and wild plants and animals to live.

    Anybody got a problem with that?

  6. Ghanshyam Sharma Says:

    I think HIV can be taken care off by the condoms. At least in India, people are not dying of hunger anymore. The new challenge is raising the nutrition levels of the population at the lower income levels.

    But I think we should be more worried about the falling population and ageing population levels in various parts of the world which is a kind of cause of concern

  7. Tor Munkov Says:

    One of man’s strongest impulses is to reproduce. What is the point of preserving a free market in trade if you agree to coercion in the even more essential interpersonal market of reproduction and sexuality? The pseudoscience of Garret Hardin’s coercive reproduction planning is indeed a deeply rooted weed.

  8. Allan Walstad Says:

    Tor Munkov: Is anyone on this thread calling for coercive reproduction planning, or are you just offering a comment about Hardin?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,715 other followers

%d bloggers like this: