China’s Rich Enough, Urban Enough, To Abolish The One Child Policy Now


If we were to view China’s one child policy through entirely utilitarian eyes we’d say that it is rich enough, and urban enough, to abolish it now. If we actually had any modicum of respect for our fellow humans we’d insist that it should never have been imposed but that’s another matter.

And so it is that China is getting rid of that one child policy:

The State Council of China, which implements and manages the country’s family-planning policy, is said to have commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the country’s controversial birth-control rule, insiders have told Bloomberg.

The reason to abolish is that it’s not going to make much difference to the number of children people have:

China is planning to scrap all limits on the number of children a family can have, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be a historic end to a policy that spurred countless human-rights abuses and left the world’s second-largest economy short of workers.

That it existed did indeed lead to those humans rights abuses. And a richer China is leading to increasingly vocal unhappiness about it, But that’s not why getting rid of the ban:

Shares in Chinese firms that make and sell baby products have jumped after a report said China is considering scrapping limits on the number of children a family can have.

That’s not the reason either, to boost the stock market.

Think, instead, with an entirely utilitarian calculus. We wish to reduce population growth. Therefore people must have fewer children. OK, now, what is it that also makes people have fewer children? Increased wealth and increased urbanisation. China is now rich enough and urbanised enough that average fertility rates aren’t going to rise above replacement anyway. The demographic transition has also already taken place. Fertility rates, when free, will be roughly what they are in Europe these days – yes, China is as rich as some parts of Europe. Under 2 snotdribblers per woman on average, most likely trending down to the 1.4 to 1.6 level that doesn’t even entirely replace the population over time.

So, if entirely natural forces are going to limit child birth why have oppressive rules – which piss people off – to achieve what will happen naturally?

Given the level of poverty of China when the rule was instituted without it population would be very much higher than it is now. But the rule is just no longer necessary, even by that utilitarian calculation. So, out with it.

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