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India’s Very Strange Discussion Of A Two Child Policy

An old argument from a less enlightened time seems to be arising in India -a legal ban on procreation in the form of a two child policy. That this is an abnegation of human liberty and freedom seems obvious enough but it’s made rather ridiculous by two other India specific points. The first is that force has already been used there to try to achieve something similar and it didn’t work. The second that not using force has worked and there’s no real point in the policy anyway. So there’s not even the argument of necessity left to curtail that liberty.

But still, the argument is being made:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Some politicians in India are clamoring for what they believe to be a quick fix to the country’s population problem: a two-child policy for Indian citizens. As activists and experts scramble to educate the public on the need for contraception and family planning, these politicians want to limit each family to have just two children. [/perfectpullquote]

Given the length of time it takes for humans to grow up and start producing the next generation it’s simply not true that such a policy is going to be a quick fix. The thing being that they’re being quite serious about forcing this change:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] A combination of rapid population expansion and technological change is threatening to stunt India’s development and even tear its society apart — at least according to growing circles of politicians and businesspeople who advocate strict controls on family size. In those circles, there are fears that villages and urban slums will become hotbeds of overpopulation. This year, in particular, calls are mounting for the government to clamp down on births to address problems such as air pollution and youth unemployment. [/perfectpullquote]

“Strict”, “clamp down” upon, these aren’t what we want to hear in India really:

The death of 15 women at two state-run sterilisation camps in Chhattisgarh has put a spotlight on India’s dark history of botched sterilisations.

T[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] he drive to sterilise began in the 1970s when, encouraged by loans amounting to tens of millions of dollars from the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Authority and the UN Population Fund, India embarked on an ambitious population control programme. During the 1975 Emergency – when civil liberties were suspended – Sanjay Gandhi, son of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, began what was described by many as a “gruesome campaign” to sterilise poor men. There were reports of police cordoning off villages and virtually dragging the men to surgery. [/perfectpullquote]

Really, no. However, the most important reason this isn’t necessary is in the original reporting:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]India’s fertility rate has dropped to 2.3 births per woman in 2016, compared to 3.2 births per woman in 2000, according to government data.[/perfectpullquote]

It’s already happened. India getting richer – yes, it’s still poor but 8% GDP growth per annum really does make a difference – has meant that precipitous fall in the fertility rate already. 2.1 is the replacement rate and it’s already heading there isn’t it? Thus any forcing through the law isn’t necessary.

India, just like every other place that’s ever achieved the feat, will have a fertility rate below replacement as soon as it gets even partially rich. We’ve seen this every other place that has got even partially rich and there’s no doubt we’ll see it here too. That is, everything that needs to be done to limit India’s birth rate has already been done. All we’ve got to make sure is that no one screws it up by, say, reversing economic liberalisation.

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3 years ago

As a former bureaucrat, I naturally agree with the first principle of bureaucracy, do nothing. I understand that one Adam Smith, when working as a commissioner of Scottish customs, came to the same conclusion.

I’m pleased to see that this obvious and sensible approach is working in India. I understand that the Chinese similarly found that their one child policy was also unnecessary.

Alas there seems no prospect though, that this simple and effective policy will be used to deal with the Covid 19 mess.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x