Karl raises some interesting questions about the morality of bringing someone into existence. These are tough questions, but one group makes it a little easier to narrow the overton window by earnestly putting forth some clearly terrible answers. The group is “Population Matters” and they have some truly egregious views (pdf). For instance consider this argument:
It is also a fact that if two people with two living children have a third child, they will ratchet up the population of the planet, and thus: ratchet up damage to the environment; bring nearer the day of serious ecological failure; and ratchet down everyone else’s share of dwindling natural resources to cope with this. So individual decisions to create a whole extra lifetime of impacts affect everyone else (including their own children) – far more than any other environmentally damaging decision they make. We need to be aware of the ethical implications of having large families; and sex education in schools should include it.
You’ll notice the complete and puzzling lack of productivity in this formulation of scarcity. In this model of the world there is only resources, and they are directly consumed. Imagine, for instance, if your two people with two living children have a third child whose inventions increase the efficiency of solar power by 1%, or increases grain yields, or leads to a new low cost recycling technique. This person coming into existence has clearly increased the amount of output than can be created with the resources on earth. The way Population Matters has formulated the problem of scarcity only makes sense if… well, if you’re determined for some reason to try and argue that more population is a really bad thing.
Another massive problem with their ideas is they’re confused about what coercion means. They state repeatedly they are only for non-coercive policies:
“…the government should state a national goal of stabilising and then reducing UK numbers to a sustainable level, by non-coercive means…”
But when the chair of the group was interviewed here at Grist, he doesn’t shy away from the extremely coercive policy of drastically restricting poor people’s freedom to move to developed countries:
“Half our population growth [in the U.K.] is due to migration, so [we advocate] balanced migration to stabilize that — no more in than out. “
So they don’t want to coerce anyone except when it comes to their decision about where to live. And they’re not for coercive policies except the one that prevent more wealth creation than perhaps any other.
The interview ends with this puzzling appeal to doing things “the nice way”:
“On a finite planet, we know for a fact that indefinite growth in anything physical is physically impossible. So physical consumption of resources per person and the number of consumers will quite definitely stop at some point. It will either be sooner, the nice way, through fewer births, or later, the nasty way, through more deaths. But there is no third alternative.”
One wonders if they are completely blind to the reality that preventing people in poor countries from immigrating to better lives in developed nations is probably not seen as “the nice way” from their perspective. Or are they just that stunningly indifferent to their well-being?