Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Limits to Growth

Limits to growth thinking is usually a bad idea but popular in many circles. Population control was a natural for China 20 years ago because it takes a communist economy to give credence to the Malthusian view of the world.

Economic and political failures can be disregarded if demographics are highlighted instead. "Too many mouths to feed," is a convenient way to change the subject.

The Chinese one-child rule is responsible for what James Q. Wilson, reviewing Bare Branches by Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, reports as 41 million Chinese men without women. I have not read the book under review but I have read the account of the same problem in Paul Rubin's Darwinian Politics. Rubin warns of the threat of social calamities -- and increasingly authoritarian rule as a presumed reaction.

Chinese prosperity would, under other circumstances, produce political liberalization. The fly in the ointment is central planning's awful sex-imbalance legacy.

The social engineering impulse is usually a bad idea and usually has awful consequences. The two books cited seem to suggest that the worst is yet to come.