planned pregnancies, unintended consequences, and Uncle Sam's bad image

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 15, 2010

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking about economic growth to an audience in the Philippines, makes a remarkable statement: 

"You have a huge population, which is a positive..."

 A large resident population is the key to economic growth. Yes, statistical data will bear out that premise. 

Why, then, has US foreign policy aimed to curb population growth in undeveloped countries-- not just under Clinton, but under every president since Eisenhower? Does the US want to prevent poor countries from attaining one of the key factors needed for economic development? Not at all. The proponents of family-planning programs have more benign motives. They want to prevent babies from starving in the Third World, and the simplest way to do that (or so they say) is to prevent those babies from being born. 

Still the long-term result is the same: the population doesn't grow. The economy doesn't grow. Babies still starve.

It's true that every newborn baby imposes a burden on his family and on society. As the late, great Julian Simon demonstrated in The Ultimate Resource, those babies eventually become productive citizens. If you refuse to accept the burden of child-rearing in the short run, you can't enjoy the production of adult citizens in the long run. Sure, with a smaller population you need less food. But with a smaller population you also have a smaller workforce, a smaller market, a smaller chance of producing the dynamic growth that propels an economy out of poverty. The poor countries that have been accepting money and advice from Washington for the past 60 years are still poor. 

It's not true that American foreign policy is deliberately designed to keep the Third World in poverty. Still you could argue that continued poverty is an unintended consequence of the policies Washington has promoted. One can begin to understand why conspiracy theories about American intentions thrive in the Third World.

Again, this is not a partisan argument. Republican presidents have pursued the same policy, more or less as vigorously as Democrats. Nor is it exclusively an American problem; the UN and the European Union have been singing the same population-control song. In fact, for the past 60 years, the Vatican has been the one major institution on the international scene consistently preaching what should be an obvious economic truth: that you can't build a better future for humanity by refusing to welcome future humans. 

 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Bveritas2322 - Sep. 16, 2017 3:25 PM ET USA

    What is tolerated becomes mandatory over time. Of course the bishops will open Pandora's box. They never learn. No matter how many evil things occur when bishops turn to "experts" instead of God, they continue to do so. They just don't learn. A half century of downplaying the concept of the sin of pride has had its effects even among prelates.

  • Posted by: mary_conces3421 - Sep. 16, 2017 1:13 AM ET USA

    Since when is total opposition to the death penalty an orthodox Catholic opinion?

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Sep. 15, 2017 11:43 PM ET USA

    Pope Francis encourages adulterers to receive communion, his ultimatum to the Nigerian priests was ignored without anything happening, now the Belgian brothers are ignoring him. He has lost his moral authority within the Church.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Sep. 14, 2017 10:07 PM ET USA

    In my parish, we have the Novus Ordo mass in Latin. If any parish is troubled by translation arguments, I heartily recommend using the language which was singled out for continued employment by Vatican II.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Sep. 14, 2017 9:58 PM ET USA

    Durbin gets away with his nonsense because his bishop does not hold his feet to the fire publicly. Durbin is a disgrace but so is the Church leadership for letting him get away with what he does.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Sep. 14, 2017 6:41 PM ET USA

    You have until the end of August to stop murdering patients. As if to stop IMMEDIATELY is not possible? What has been going on here? But then, after all, it IS Belgium.

  • Posted by: stpetric - Sep. 13, 2017 7:54 PM ET USA

    The new missal translation has some undeniably clunky renderings. But like the previous translation, we ought to give it a full generation's use before jumping into another round of revision.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Nov. 16, 2010 9:55 PM ET USA

    About seventeen years ago I wrote an article for Culture Wars entitled "Contracepting Social Security." It's available here and there on the web, particularly at EWTN's site. Worth another read now that the chickens have come home to roost and SS is paying out more than it's taking in, five to ten years earlier than they expected. Demographics drives economics.