Less Kids in Africa Equals Better Security for America

Jeffrey Sachs who leaps over tall buildings in Bolivia and Russia in a single bound and lands in Africa to solve its many problems is at it again (read article in Scientific American). Where he once promoted the power of unfettered markets, advising the Russians on the ‘shock therapy’ that left a bulk of state assets in the hands of a cabal of crooks, he is now an environmental activist urging benign state intervention in economic development. His latest campaign involves helping the environment by helping poor people in Africa and the Middle East whose numbers are rising too fast according to this descendent of Thomas Malthus.

Allowing that people in the rich countries live on about $30,000 per year, well above the global average of $10,000, which itself is substantially more than most Africans consume and earn, his suggestion is that giving birth to less poor people is the best course of action in the future. Sachs is worried not about the suffering of the unborn poor should they live like their parents in scarcity and ill health but rather that they may actually manage to fulfill their economic aspirations. At present growth rates by 2050, according to UN forecasts (not usually worth the paper they are printed on by the way), world population will be 9 billion with 2.5 billion of this number born in the poor countries. If this ‘surplus’ somehow finds a way to earn and consume today’s $10,000 average, it would by Sachs calculations cause untold environmental stresses especially due to the fact that cruel fate has chosen to locate ‘biodiversity hotspots’ among the unwashed masses. He worries of the unhappy fate of these hotspots especially since they are a critical part of the ‘Global biological heritage’ a phrase that irritates me to no end because it consigns our part of the world to a perpetual poverty only relieved by the trickle of Birkenstock wearing nature tourists and their cousins, gigolo hungry European grandmas in Mombasa. Our economies are not supposed to grow, or if they do only slowly, according to this view. The African the environmentalist would love to see come to be is a gentle soul who wants nothing more than to live in rude but serviceable shelter, to consume a little food he has grown in the small plot out back, provided it does not kill off that rare species of caterpillar, and who in all things is guided by the desire to live ‘sustainably’. Sustainability for the west to be exact. Not for that African – who thank God will never be – access to the comfort and security that comes from building of wealth. They are going to have their nature even if it requires that they get rid of the hungry, ambitious, dare-to-want-to-survive poor’ – before they are born.

Sachs appeals to American national security and economic interest. His argument in summary is that the more poor there are the angrier the number of young men willing to take up arms against prosperous America. He bewails the Bush administration’s ‘religious right’ inspired refusal to support fertility control in the poorest countries. Better to invest in fertility control now he urges: it is the best use of dollars for a more militarily and economically secure future for America. He is kind enough to stress that this should be voluntary fertility programs. Heaven forbid that under the ambit of national security women and men in Africa should be led into little hospital rooms and rendered infertile. As usual Sachs is never one to pursue his arguments to their logical ends. Couched in his kindness is a kind of neo-eugenics: rid the world of the poor by ensuring that they do not give birth to more like themselves; we are running out of room for you especially if you are from the poor nations (which I read to mean brown nations.)

If it is really a matter of national security then under the present American administration’s pre-emptive doctrine against emerging threats, surely there is a need to limit the number of children that the poor have. Yes, this might be achieved by voluntary measures. But foremost will not be the issue of helping the volunteers improve their lives, it will be as was true in all eugenics programs, an attempt to protect ‘society’ from the undesirables. It might appear to be a bit much for me to be comparing this kind of well-intentioned policy advocacy with the eugenics movement, but I believe that Sachs’ call folds neatly into those of a century ago and that once the more hysterical and less politically correct types make it, all will be much clearer to you poor, over-breeding buggers.

The humanitarians of the day are like the European missionaries of the nineteenth century, providing justifications for colonial misadventure ‘for the good of the poor, native blighter.’ They increasingly join their mission with the ‘imperial’ promotion of the west’s interests. So much so that western NGOs are now a critical tool in their military’s strategy, helping to blunt the impact of the bombs and bullets poured into a target population. It does not surprise me in the least that with the likes of Sachs running around aid agencies are increasingly being targeted as non-neutral in many battle grounds. The toothless and rudderless left to which Sachs is an honored member has become the sheep’s clothing for a hawkish, domineering constituency that needs fodder for its military adventures. What could be more convenient and humane than to save the poor from themselves while being able to pursue imperial goals clothed in the Good Samaritan’s robes?

In 1807, William Hazlit accused Malthus of making himself ‘conscience-keeper to the rich and great, especially to those of them who are not of a giving disposition, all in coining or at least popularizing for their use the magical phrase or formula ‘surplus’ or ‘redundant’ population.’ Sachs too acts to promote the interests of the rich nations but, with a perpetual nod to political correctness and disingenuousness, he would rather he appeared to be regarded as promoting the interests of the poor themselves. He therefore urges the rich to give even more, despite much of this money coming to no good whatsoever and even being harmful in a lot of cases. The animating spirit of his ideas is a restless ambition to be counted first among the rich and great by opining as an expert on regions and matters where his knowledge is thin and mostly involves advocating policies that have been tried for decades and found wanting. Joined by the other hapless musketeers, Bono and Geldof, his is a media game joining concern for poverty with the celebrity bandwagon for the selfish pursuit of personal plaudits and the conscience cooling balm of the ‘feel good factor’. To hell with the poor made to swallow his bitter medicines no matter how ill it makes them.

As Samuel L. Jackson would say of Sachs: ‘How smart can he be? He’s peeing into the wind.’

About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

8 Responses to Less Kids in Africa Equals Better Security for America

  1. Anonymous says:

    Interesting those that consume most of the worlds resources, want the rest of the world to make sacrifices. Sacrifices so that they can live 60 miles from their jobs in their Mac mansions and drive to work in their gallon per miles SUVs by themselves and their dog.

  2. coldtusker says:

    Hold on!

    Look at the logic… and forget about the “West” & “Colonialism” for the moment…

    Is it better for the KID (not the parent, activist, economist, social worker & politician) to be #7 of 9 (hmmm… a little pause to dream…) than #2 of 3?

    For most parents in any 3rd world countries the struggle is to provide for the numerous kids. Therefore, most if not all kids suffer!

    I think Sachs (whatever his motivations) is right.

    Let’s look at(im)perfect examples:

    – Singapore: A properous nation-state that faces declining population growth but a much higher standard of living compared to Kenya, Ghana, etc. It handily beats out its neighbours, Malaysia & Indonesia, which became independent at around the same time.

    – China was derided for its one-kid policy but it poured more resources per kid into education. It still has lots of low-skill employees. A smart businessman (with interests in China) told me that China will run out of “cheap” labour in 20 years unless they back off the 1-kid policy. The Chinese are pushing for a slice of the “added-value” economy e.g. Lenovo bought out IBM’s PC & laptop business. Now the Chinese not just assemble but design the computers.

    China churns out engineers & scientists while Kenya barely manages more lawyers & BAs…!

    – India struggles with huge population growth that overshadows the recent gains in IT & finance.

    Why should the “West” want to share their wealth (except Gates & Buffett)with the poor folk?

    The “poverty” in Africa & parts of Asia is NOT always the fault of the “West”. Why?
    – Poor governance based on tribes/ethnic puppetry.
    – We can’t enable or nurture the creativity needed for breakthroughs

    For inspiration I look towards Asia. The Asians have inspired a “WOW” among the Euro-centric countries be it Japan, China, India, Japan, Taiwan or S. Korea. Even Vietnam & Thailand are making their economic presence felt.

    Not only have many Asian countries (pick from the list above!) beaten Africa to the punch since the 1960s but so have the S.Americans & E.Europeans!

    Whether you agree or not… I think Africa will do better with smaller but better educated/nourished families.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm… so I c…

    Either a) u have been busy thus haven’t gotten to the comments to moderate them OR

    b) u do not post comments critical to ur line of thinking (doesn’t seem like ya!)

  4. p says:

    Nice post. Unfortunately I think Sachs has long lost the ability to think rationally about things and accept criticism, probably due to the disproportionate amount of praise he has been given for taking up the banner of AIDS in Africa. I have been to his lectures and heard people stand up and tell him that all Africans would praise his name for generations. And now this abortion of an idea.

  5. MMK says:

    coldtusker – I hear you. Take a look at the ‘we can clamp down on antisocial children before birth…’ post and you will see that Sachs thinking is echoed in the UK by Blair. It is not a question of caring for the unborn poor but rather a conclusion that there are peoples and places that are permanently caught in poverty such that their solutions are different from any other that richer societies have ever used. Europe did not get richer by limiting births, they fell as a result of greater wealth. And I highly doubt that the one-child policy has much to do with the explosion of wealth that China is presently enjoying.

  6. coldtusker says:

    mmk – China made a concious decision to limit family size. Tough decision & derided by Human Rights organisations, laughed at by Africans, not supported by many Asian countries.

    The 1 kid policy (not perfect & morally wrong esp with forced abortions) has led to a BETTER educated generation, lower pressure on resources, allocation to other sectors (other than education) & higher standard of living.

    I think you are looking at this coz Sachs is “white”… Look at the logic. I agree with him coz I KNOW the effects of “splitting” limited funds so ALL the kids get an education instead of the BEST education!

    Not an easy choice! I cherish my siblings… just want to point out that in Kenya where most are financially poor, education is NOT free, malnutrition is a real problem… having fewer kids (3 or fewer) is the way to go!

  7. Thea says:

    Well, sure having fewer kids is great when you’re sure that your children are safe and sound with excellent healthcare because you’re rich in the U.S.

    When you have such a high infant mortality rate, it behooves each bloodline to…make a lot of babies.

    We all know this, right?

  8. coldtusker says:

    Groan… same tired argument…

    Well, let’s hope Africa keeps at producing more kids coz its better to have 5 unhealthy/malnourished kids then 2 healthy ones!

    One plus (for me in Africa, being selfish & all)… I won’t have to do my own laundry, dishes & mow my lawn!

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