Population control

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Population control is the practice of limiting population increase, usually by reducing the birth rate. The practice has sometimes been voluntary, as a response to poverty, or out of religious ideology, but in some times and places it has been government-mandated. This is generally conducted to improve quality of life for a society or as a solution to overpopulation. While population control can involve measures that improve the lives of poor people giving them greater control of their reproduction [1] some programs have exposed them to exploitation.

Given the nature of human reproductive biology, controlling the birth rate generally implies one of the following practices:


Surviving records from Ancient Greece document the first known examples of population control. Their initial response to overpopulation was the colonization movement, which saw Greek outposts being built across the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins to accommodate the excess population of individual states - roughly equivalent in effect to modern emigration.Template:Fix/category[citation needed] As the number of available sites decreased, the Greeks - beginning with the Cretans - turned to pederasty, the formal practice of pairing young adult males with adolescent boys for educational and bonding purposes.Template:Fix/category[citation needed] This was done in concourse with delaying the age of marriage for men to thirty.Template:Fix/category[citation needed] The Greeks also used abortifacients and some cities practiced infanticide, though the latter is considered to have been an early form of eugenics.Template:Fix/category[citation needed]

The Siwans also used pederasty and boy marriage until the early twentieth century in order to control population size in an environment with finite resources and no natural enemies. Men were generally not allowed to marry before the age of forty. Thus the overwhelming majority of men took adolescent boys as lovers, a social contract often sealed with a formal and public marriage ceremony - a practice documented into the twentieth century in a controversial book called Oasis, Siwa: from the Inside Traditions, Customs and Magic, by Fathi Malim.

Modern ideas and practices

An important example of mandated population control is China's one-child policy in which having more than one child is made extremely unattractive. China's population policy has been credited with a very significant slowing of China's population growth which had been very high before the policy was implemented. It has come under criticism that the implementation of the policy has involved forced abortions and forced sterilization. However, while the punishment of "Unplanned" pregnancy is a fine, both forced abortion and forced sterilization can be charged with intentional assault, which is punished with up to 10 years' imprisonment.

A prominent modern advocate for mandatory population control is Garrett Hardin, who proposed in his landmark 1968 essay The Tragedy of the Commons that society must relinquish the "freedom to breed" through "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon."

Another example was the study entitled National Security Study Memorandum 200, prepared by the U.S. National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger in 1974. This report stressed that only 13 countries are projected to account for 47 percent of the world population increase by the year 2050. This it argued due to its impact on development, food requirements, resources and the environment, adversely affected the welfare and progress of countries concerned. It further argued that this would undermine the stability of countries friendly to the US and therefore harmed the "national security" of the United States as well.[2]

Population policies, causes and responses

It is generally accepted that overpopulation is caused or aggravated by poverty and gender inequality with consequent unavailability, and lack of knowledge of contraception, institutionalized in a document misnamed the "Cairo Consensus", and third world evidence usually bears this theory out. However, first and second world fertility rates, in the Depression era United States, Modern Russia, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Estonia and France suggest that these populations are responding inversely to poverty and economic pressures especially on women [3]. Thus France is increasing social and women's services like childcare and parental leave, expecting the policy to stop the aging of its population. Italy is regarded as alleviating overpopulation more rapidly than Sweden as a result of less gender equality and fewer children's services.Template:Fix/category[citation needed]


  • Thomlinson, R. 1975. Demographic Problems: Controversy over Population Control. 2nd ed. Encino, CA: Dickenson.

See also

External links