Monday, 15 January 2007

There Are not too Many People, but too Little Wealth

One of the most durable misconceptions about development issues is the idea of “overpopulation” stating that many people and high population densities by themselves are reasons for missing development, poverty and degradation of the environment.

The Danish Sociologist Esther Boserup argued in 1981, that population increase is the main factor driving technological change creating a better world for many more people. In a location where everybody is well supplied by food, which can be hunted or gathered in a few hours pr. day, and where the climate is manageable by simple clothing and housing, it takes some pressure e.g. increasing population to get things going. In the early Stone Age in Denmark before year 4000 BC most of the Danes where living by the beach in a rather warm climate eating oysters all day. To some it may seem like living in Paradise. However, the life expectancy was less than 30 years, superstition ruled and there were no Rolling Stones. Then development of agriculture started and in a short period from BC4000-3900 Denmark was changed into an agricultural country will all its implications.

However, population increase is still seen by many people as a problem, which is eating up any economic progress. What actually happens is, that economic progress limits population through the “demographic transition”, which means, that the richer people are, the fewer children they want. This transition has been working in the developed countries and is now with some exceptions influencing the population in large part of the developing countries to the effect, that each consecutive UN population forecast is now lower than the former.

It leaves the question about the relative rates of population growth and economic growth. If the economy can not outgrow the population, there is a risk of a poverty trap, where the demographic transition does not kick in. Fortunately, economy can easily outgrow population. It’s very rare to see persistent population growth of more than 4 %, where as an economic growth over long periods of about 10 % is perfectly feasible. It means that in a wellgoverned country economy can easily outgrow population by a factor 2.

This implies that the only countries where population maybe a problem is countries with bad self-serving governments. These countries need all kinds of pressures from the international community to make them change their ways and not keep their people suffering from extreme poverty.

1 comment:

Qhispikay said...

Couldn't agree more with your ideas on human population. People who see the growth of population as a disgrace must love decadence