Poverty and population control



The relationship between economic development and demographic variance has been a major debate and especially about poverty in a nation. In the recent past, economists and social scientists have researched on the effect of economic growth on a population’s birth rate and have subjected the findings to poverty levels to ascertain what needs to be done (Downie, 37). Such research findings have been used to formulate policies that affect the birth rate of a country. For instance, China which adopted the “one child” policy has achieved numerously regarding a sustainable population and improved living conditions. Furthermore, studies on overpopulation and economic development are used to identify the effectiveness of the anti-poverty policies. The paper evaluates the issue of poverty and its effect on the population control decisions while basing the arguments on Swifts “A Modest Proposal.” Also, the paper will offer an in-depth look at the two issues to ascertain how economic status is linked to population control.

Summary of Modern Arguments and Policies

China introduced the “one child” policy back in 1979 as a short-term program in which its citizenry was supposed to volunteer to control its escalating population. The reason for this undertaking was to ensure the country could sustain itself and offer better standards of living to its citizens. The Chinese government acted as a regulator to ensure that all families were entitled to the birth of one child unless in special instances (BBC, para.4). The target was aimed at the urban areas that formed part of the densely populated country and later extended to the rural areas. The policy structures encompassed on delayed marriage and child spacing, as well as family size.

Currently, the policy is in place, and it is not only restrictive on a single child but also stretches to the application of local strategies to curb the population growth. Surprisingly, the policy allows a second child for those living in the rural areas, as well as individual who come from marginalized communities of which the government is the regulating body (Suyin, 102). The Chinese government encourages mothers in their reproductive years to take up abortions as well as use contraception to avoid pregnancy with a second child. The married women using contraception exceeds a three-quarter of the women population which is relatively high as compared to their counterparts in the developing nations (BBC, para.4). Contraception is not a matter of choice but rather a government directive that is adhered to strictly to maintain the population and ensure it has access to the country’s scarce resources.

Whereas the government aim was to keep the population at a controlled level, the country faces an even major challenge of human labor in the future. The population growth target of 1.2 billion as at 2000 that was set back in the seventies has been reached and sustained (BBC, para.4). However, some demographers argue that this is an underestimation of the real figure which could be much higher. The reason for the discrepancy is that some children have not been registered in the national database as their parents broke the “one child “policy agreement. Regarding the sex ration, the urban population has had to select the sex of the child and hope for a boy as they have only one chance at parenthood. In instances where a woman goes for a scan, and the expected child is a girl, sex-selective abortion has been applied. As for the rural population, a chance to have a second child is allowed if the first child was a girl.

On the other hand, the American federal taxpayers are funding for Planned Parenthood and not necessarily abortions. However, the law allows for abortion to occur if instances of incest, rape or when the mother’s life is in danger. Title X is an example of the government funded program that seeks to offer family planning to individuals who would otherwise lack health care (Malthus, 87). The program is funded through Medicaid and the platform; the United States government has been able to avert millions of unwanted pregnancies. Due to the huge budget allocation on the Planned Parenthood, there has been a proposal to defund the program. This would disadvantage mostly the black community and possibly cause an increase in the American population.

Case Study: “A Modest Proposal.”

Jonathan Swift’s pamphlet proposed a cheaper and easier way of dealing with homeless and starving children in Ireland to avoid their overdependence on their country and parents. Its goal was to convert these starving children into useful members of the community by empowering their parents financially (Downie, 76). Swift proposed that children born to poor parents were supposed to be donated as consumption meat as early as when they were one year old.  In turn, the country would be safe from underemployment and overpopulation. The wealthy would acquire culinary skills on how to consume the children, and the trade would assist in the generation of wealth and thereby improve the nation’s economy.

In the proposal, Swifts outline the age, weight, price and even the number of children that each affected family would part with. He asserts that young children that were one year children would be nutritious and highly delicious whether the mode of cooking was baking, frying, roasting or even boiling (Swift, 32). The consumption patterns of the wealthy family were to be documented and special recipes taught to the on how to cook the new type of meat. His anticipation was that the sale and consumption of children by their parents would be a family planning strategy would have a significant effect on mortality rates. Furthermore, he anticipated that this child-eating culture would assist in the growth of respect among men for their women, and the parents would appreciate their children.

Swift sighted that the uptake of such a proposal would reduce the burden that tenants owe their landlords through the donation of children as their livestock was gone. Another possible solution arising from the suggestion would be the boom of the economy. He asserted that the profits of selling the children to the rich in society would introduce a new dish into the menu as well as increase the circulation of money through the trade (Malthus, 87). As for the cooks, they would have the liberty of pricing the meat as they pleased since the skills they chose to employ towards the recipe would vary. Another benefit of the infant flesh would be the increase in export of meat and hence the growth of the economy.

Argument Analysis

The uptake of infant flesh as a family planning method in Irish could have been a viable option for the growing population. However, reading through Swift’s suggestion, it is questionable is Swift had any ethical consideration on his proposal. Eating infant meat sounds inhumane and unethical as he classifies children as a necessarily in the world. Furthermore, the uptake of infant meat might not translate in economic development as people may not like the flesh (Carswell, 96). All in all, Swift’s proposal was a fight against extreme population growth and reduced economic development. In comparing Swift’s ideology and Chinese “one child” policy, they are both family planning procedures with the aim of reducing the massive population growth and increasing the growth of the economy.

The Chinese government’s demographic revolution has been able to contain population growth and reduced the fertility rate of its citizenry. However, another challenge facing the Asian giant is that of se-ration. Surprisingly, the urban population is more aligned towards having a boy child as their only shot at parenthood and hence the rising trend of abortions is linked to being female. The county has achieved its millennial goal of 1.2 billion citizens despite the crisis of unregistered children due to parents’ fears of the extra children (Rosling). Furthermore, the country’s economy has grown rapidly grown and is seen as the Asian powerhouse. With the rising economic growth and development, the country will require human labor. China may not have enough man power to run it economy and this was the unforeseen effects of the policy.


As long as the population growth does not match the available resources, there is a likelihood of a financial crisis. This was the case with China in the 1970s that resulted in its demographic revolution to ensure that the available resources would sustain the population. Although the move was structured to serve in the short-term period, it was embraced and is practiced to date. Furthermore, the country has been able to improve the living standards of its people and led to economic development. As for the American system, it simply funds for prearranged parentage and not selective abortion unless the mother’s life is in danger, or as a result of in incent and rape. In comparison to the contemporary family planning measures, Jonathan Swift proposed eating infant flesh to reduce population growth and argued that it inevitably cause economic development. Whether the move would work to control the global population and especially among the poor is a viable experiment. In my view, the global community needs to consider child birth and restrict it to two children. For any additional child to the firstborn, the subsequent child or children will attract a hefty tax payable by the parent.

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  1. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Population Control: Is It a Tool of the Rich? 2011. Print.
  2. Carswell, John. The south sea bubble. Stanford University Press, 1961.
  3. Downie, James Alan. Jonathan Swift, political writer. Routledge, 1984.
  4. Hans Rosling. The Overpopulation Myth. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eA5BM7CE5-8. 2014. Print.
  5. Malthus, Thomas Robert. An essay on the principle of population: or, A view of its past and present effects on human happiness. Reeves & Turner, 1888.
  6. Suyin, Han. “Family planning in China.” Development & civilizations 47 (1972): 102.
  7. Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Ireland from Becoming a Burden to Their Parents or Country. Voyagers’ Press, 1966. Print.
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