Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Some common errors regarding the population issue
This article is more than a year old, but remains just as relevant:
By BERNARDO VILLEGAS
November 21, 2010
MANILA, Philippines – Over at least the last forty years, I have spent hundreds of manhours being interviewed by journalists and others interested in the issue of population growth in the Philippines.
I must have met more than a hundred journalists over the last two generations. In order to help the present crop of journalists learn from the mistakes of their predecessors in their profession, let me enumerate the common pitfalls I have observed as a business economist.
In the same way that I can accuse myself of ignorance in certain areas (like the most recent case of my not knowing about the UN protocol concerning the underenumeration of babies in population censuses), there have been some notorious cases of ignorance among journalists and other commentators who comment on the population problem of the Philippines.
The first I would like to cite has resurfaced in the current debates about the RH Bill. There are still reporters and commentators who claim, through ignorance, that the opposition to birth control is exclusively a Catholic position. For the nth time, I must remind them that some of the most prominent social scientists in modern times have concluded in their research that population growth is not the cause of mass poverty. The late Simon Kuznets, Harvard professor and Nobel Laureate in economics, was Jewish. He was the father of national income accounting and is responsible for such terms as Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product. As a student of long-term economic growth, he was convinced that population growth not only was not responsible for mass poverty but was oftentimes a most positive stimulus to economic development. Another Jew, Julian Simon--a famous resource economist of the last Century actually wrote a best-seller entitled The Ultimate Resource, in which he maintained that people are the most important resources in integral human development and that birth control should not be considered as one of the instruments to eradicate mass poverty. Gary Becker, another non-Catholic and Nobel Laureate, who teaches at the University of Chicago, has also questioned population control as a means to attain economic development in his many scholarly studies on human capital.
Then there is the late Mahbub ul Haq, the father of the Human Development Index (HDI), a muslim, and former Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Pakistan.
He publicly acknowledged his mistake of allocating large sums of money for birth control during his tenure as Finance Minister.
He later said that the money spent on population control could have been better spent in quality basic education, especially among girls (considering that in some Muslim societies the education of girls is not given priority). Another Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, a Hindu, has been very vocal about focusing on the education of girls, questioning the value of large expenditures on birth control. Another repentant supporter of birth control, Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and a self-proclaimed agnostic, has publicly announced that he regrets having pushed population control while he was Prime Minister of Singapore during the 1960s and 1970s. He has spent the last fifteen years exhorting Singaporean women to have more babies ("four, if possible more") because of the shrinking and aging population of this Number One tiger economy of the last century. To continue to claim that opposition to birth control is a "Catholic position" really smacks of ignorance.
Another manifestation of ignorance is the assertion that only non-Catholic countries have succeeded in eradicating poverty and attaining sustainable economic development. These ignorant commentators usually make the observation that the Philippines, like Latin American countries, have lagged behind in industrialization and economic progress because of their common Roman Catholic faith. They forget that predominantly Catholic countries like France, Italy, and Spain are highly developed economies.
Even in the strongest economy in Europe, Germany, the Catholic region of Bavaria (95% Catholic and from where Pope Benedict XVI comes) is the most developed in the whole country. What these commentators do not realize is that the common denominator we have with the struggling economies of Latin America that make all of us backward in comparison with many non-Catholic countries is the adoption of flawed economic policies in the last century based on an inward-looking, import-substitution, protectionist and ultra-nationalist industrialization model that sapped our respective economies of all the strength to be able to compete with the rest of the world. In fact, this was also the model that spawned mass poverty in India before their leaders, captained by then Finance Minister Mammohan Singh introduced more market-oriented policies in the 1990s. Since then, India has been growing at 8 to 9% annually and has succeeded in redeeming tens of millions of Indians from dehumanizing poverty.
The state of ignorance makes a good number of those who report on population issues rather gullible in swallowing anti-life propaganda.
With so much access now to information in the internet, I am surprised that a good number of those who are covering the RH Bill controversy have not heard of the National Security Study Memorandum 200, just a click away from several websites (google or wikipedia).
They are easy prey to propaganda because they are oblivious of the fact that in 1974, Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, issued a memorandum to President Gerald Ford recommending that the U.S. Government aggressively push for population control in the developing countries (the Philippines was explicitly included in the list of target countries) so as to assure continuing access to the natural resources of these countries for American consumers. Without mincing words, the Kissinger Report referred to population growth in developing countries as a threat to U.S. security. Since then, U.S. public agencies and private foundations have spent massive amounts of money to brainwash people in media, academe, legislative assemblies, and NGOs about the need to control population under the guise of "reproductive health," "women's rights," "poverty eradication," and "religious pluralism Given these circumstances, I am just being objective when I refer to some of the journalists and other commentators on the population issue as "ignorant" and "gullible." To continue maintaining that only Catholics oppose birth or population control and that Catholic countries are unable to attain economic development is prima facie evidence of ignorance.
Not to be aware that there are very selfish interests behind the aggressive campaign to introduce population control programs in the Philippines and other developing countries is the height of gullibility.