« China’s One-Child Policy—Posner | Main | Notice »

07/29/2012

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Yiming Chen

Professor Becker,
I agree with your idea that aging is an issue for this policy. However, to me, the problem is not about the policy itself(I‘m talking about the time between the 1980s and 2000), but the one-size fits all( i.e. it's universality and sometimes inhumane enforcement) implementation.

You compared China with other Asian countries with larger density, but the situation of China at that time was drastically different from those countries. Since the 1960s, Chairman Mao made policies to incentivize fertility, in his theory, so as to recover from the war, and having enough people for defense. At the same time, he raised this slogan of "learning from peasants and laborers, striking down bourgeoisie". During the Cultural Revolution, massive teenage students were driven to the countryside and "learning from peasants". After 10 yrs, as the market reform begun and took over immediately, we had all these middle-aged peasants and workers since they weren't well-educated when they were supposed to. So what were they doing? To their belief they shall have more boys so that after they could turn into a labor when they grow up. Then we saw a typical phenomenon where one child got admission to this university, but he or she could not afford it, either because he or she had to sacrifice for one's sister or brother for their education, or simply because the family could barely feed and clothe all the children.

At that particular time, I would argue that one-child policy was effective in alleviating this abnormal population growth, where a lot of children became victims of the excessive reproduction.

The economic world is not a zero-sum world. Instead it should be win-win where more people could produce more outcome, and employment. However, this is too ideal and could only apply when there is a healthy, and relatively affluent market, and it takes a long time to get there. In a short time scale, it is zero-sum, especially when resource( in this case are living necessities and education) is very scarce.

That being said, I do agree the coercion was too brutal and arbitrary. Government should have adopted milder methods, even though I'm not sure about the side-effects.

Since 2011 Chinese government relaxed the policy and gave some exemptions to people who met certain kind of criteria to have two children. At this point, when China is much better-off economically that thirty years ago, and higher overall educational level, it is time to get rid of this one-child policy.

There may be other alternatives to address the problem at that time, but I don't have em in my mind now. Anyway, thank you for this article and I'll always be willing to listen to your opinion.

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Christopher Graves

Professor Becker is certainly on the right track with his analysis of the China's perverse one-child policy. While I completely agree with him, I would go further in condemning China's totalitarian control of family life.

The foundation of all rights is the right to self-ownership. A government has no legitimate authority to regulate the reproductive practices of its citizens as long they are acting within the moral constraints shaped by the principle of self-ownership and the prescriptive traditions of the culture. Imposed contraception or forced abortions are certainly out of bounds as is pursuing a policy that encourages parents, in effect, to murder their female off-spring in order to make way for a male off-spring as their one child.

The one-child policy is also the worse sort of social engineering. The natural organic process of family life brings about a near equality in number of males and females for the next generation to form families from. As parents in China have killed off their daughters, a tremendous imbalance between the sexes is developing that will have a harmful effect on the natural mating process as well as producing a number of other unwanted social side-effects.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/11/world/asia/11china.html

More generally, it is a myth that increasing population necessarily has a deleterious effect on a society. More people can lead to more workers, more productivity, more wealth, more dynamism. The greater danger that many European and other developed countries are now beginning to face is a shrinking, aging population. The world will not only lose economically, but culturally as well, as we run out of a number of ethnicities with their unique ways of life. Globalization with its homogenizing tendency is also not helping on this score.

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Nothing wrong with a one child policy. Id say its even a good idea to have one in the United States. People using children to live off the state has become a big problem for everyone.

NEH

It's all about supply availability, demand and self sufficiency. Throughout history, nature has controlled regional populations by ecological disasters (that Darwinian thing), pestilence (that Black Plague or Spanish Flu thing), famine (that inability to grow enough crops - transport and store thing). As for wildlife they just take it all in stride and sometimes go extinct. As for us Homosapiens, we have a mind and the ability to think, forecast and take action to insure our survival (hopefully). As for the Chinese approach to population control (compulsory and otherwise), The Green Revolution is not going to solve their fundamental problem. Such that the population has outstripped their ability to produce in a self sufficient manner (that Cutural Revolution thing was a failure except in eliminating the opposition). Hence, the Government's desire to bring the population level into line with its ability to produce (that Malthusian thing including Erlichman's restatement).

Better that everyone gets a bowl of rice with a fish head a day. Than allowing massive starvation to occur. Much like what's occuring in Africa today...

mfm

How about allowing immigration of younger cohorts to address the shortage of the young. Subsiding adoption may be another way....

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Hard sell with so many people in one place. How can it be argued that more would be better?

Louise Martin

I guess there is still a solution to China's overpopulation. But the one-child policy is kinda intense if you ask me.

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Nothing wrong with a one child policy. Id say its even a good idea to have one in the United States. People using children to live off the state has become a big problem for everyone.
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Sandra Krisenvorsorge

I disagree with this opinion, because to many people in Chine will definitely decrease the stability. The people will not have enough money for food and also not for education. One well educated child is better than 3 hungry ones.
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st

(1) one child policy was implemented before 80.
(2) it is adjustment to the policy that followed to USSR more the kids the better after WWII.
(3) without looking back the history, the discussion is little relevance.
(4) The population mostly adjust by its resources of the country and culture change of the country. Increase the population at current Chinese state would possibly increase the concentration of the new labour force in the city, but little change in the countryside (already allow to have more than one kids in the countryside).
(5) In the farmland, more hands suppose promise more workforce and better harvest (specifically, back to the individually owned farmland now - changed from the gov central controlled fieldwork). Only that food production is not industrialized. Once it centralized via industrialization, the reduction of labour requirements would reduce the kids production. (rich parents would have less kids). Eventually, it would like Japan or other advance nation.
(6) China is in its nature developing stage, just like the wild, wild west. to use current western rule to judge it progress is not only unfair, but silly.
my 2 cents.

Sam

China is already struggling to maintain business profits while trying to maitain high employment rates. An even larger population would only cause further problems for them.
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Deandra MacDonald

I tend to agree that China's one child policy has long been due for an overhaul. However, sometimes seeing stories like James Holmes makes me think that maybe limiting the population isn't all that bad of an idea: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/08/06/alleged-killer-james-holmes-psychiatrist-liable/

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I am very fond of this topic.
Chinese have a great population number.
It's becomming a promblem with the nature source.
Every coin have two side, One child policity must Dialectical

Ken

The one child policy has always been a controversial topic. Yes, it is true that China is overpopulated. Being the most populated country in the world, it could only get worse if not controlled. The population increases exponentially. The one child policy seemed like a good law to help minimize population growth, but if you ask me, requiring people to get abortions for breaking the law is not right. Abortion can be very emotionally devastating to a woman. China needs to think of a new means to control their population. Or they can try to modify their rules and regulations regarding the one child policy

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