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Subject: Voluntary Population Control rss

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Born To Lose, Live To Win
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I am currently reading the sci-fi novel Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman (which I am enjoying immensely and don't really get why people don't like it as much as The Forever War, but then again I haven't finished it yet) and it is steeped in politics and even has some interesting takes on sex. There is enough subject matter to spawn a half dozen RSP threads, but one thing that got me thinking was an off hand remark about voluntary sterilization.

In the book, if you choose to be sterilized, you get a check from the government until you are fifty. I wonder how my various RSP colleagues think that would work out? What are the pro's and con's? What are the unintended consequences? I could see poverty-level people taking the free check and the government might actually spend less money not having to maintain an as wide safety net for children born into poverty, but it seems ripe for the butterfly effect.

I should mention that in this particular vision of the future, nanotechnology has reached a point where the wealthy countries have no wants except for the basic raw materials for their "nanoforges" to make things with. The concept of money is just for "extras". It's kind of like communism without a lot of the work. In any case, he doesn't deal with the sterilization plan in our context, just the context he has created, so the book doesn't really illuminate any of the challenges such a policy would have in an economy of scarcity.
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I got snipped twelve years ago and have yet to see my first check. soblue

I'm all for greater incentive to control overpopulation, but any approach will potentially raise the specter of eugenics, so extreme care must be taken. (I firmly believe that in a free society, population control must be voluntary.) In the USA it is already considered unethical to offer more than token compensation for participation in medical research; offering large sums of money, so that the economically disadvantaged are motivated to join the study just for the compensation, is a form of coercion. Tax breaks would be a better way to go than straight-out checks (and we have them already, just in the wrong direction), but they'd have to be set up not to target a particular economic class.
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Michael Tagge
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Pretty sure that had a program in India for voluntary sterilization. The AAR showed that the only people who took them up on the offer were those men with five or more kids already, still good but far from what they were hoping.
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Jonathan C
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I am persuaded that the ability to have children is a gift of God, and that procreation demonstrates one of the ways we are made in God's image. So I guess I wouldn't be jumping at the opportunity to get snipped for a welfare bonus. But sadly, this would probably work to some extent in U.S. society, where our birthrate is converging on that of Europe's.

The Haldeman novels sound good, though, and I'd be interested in borrowing a copy from the library.

Edit: A possible unintended consequence of a policy like this could be the devaluing of life, in general. (ducks)
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Born To Lose, Live To Win
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looleypalooley wrote:

The Haldeman novels sound good, though, and I'd be interested in borrowing a copy from the library.


The first book is considered a classic, it's just about as good as hard-scifi gets for me. It really explores the interaction and effects between technology, realistic physics and the human condition. It's written very well and doesn't bog down in any one aspect as some books can, i.e overly technical or overly character driven. This second book, though not technically a sequel, is a little heavier on the character development, but I don't feel distractingly so and I actually think the setting is deeper, richer and less two dimensional.
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Paul W
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I actually don't think such a policy is in the best interests of most countries in the developed world. Contrary to all the population scare-mongering out there, if anything many developed nations would do well to have a fertility rate slightly higher than it is now.

Fertility rates drop as economic conditions improve...a few European countries are already taking measures to encourage families in order to bolster their below-replacement fertility levels.

In the developing world its a different situation, but the best solution doesn't seem to be to pay people to be sterilized, but to work to alleviate poverty. Once people don't feel they need several children to help support themselves, the fertility rate adjusts down of its own accord.
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Jonathan C
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robigo wrote:
I got snipped twelve years ago and have yet to see my first check. soblue

I'm all for greater incentive to control overpopulation, but any approach will potentially raise the specter of eugenics, so extreme care must be taken. (I firmly believe that in a free society, population control must be voluntary.) In the USA it is already considered unethical to offer more than token compensation for participation in medical research; offering large sums of money, so that the economically disadvantaged are motivated to join the study just for the compensation, is a form of coercion. Tax breaks would be a better way to go than straight-out checks (and we have them already, just in the wrong direction), but they'd have to be set up not to target a particular economic class.


You mention above that we have our current tax incentives placed in the "wrong direction" above. Reverse it, say offer every taxpayer a $1000 "no-child-tax-credit" for each child they don't have, maxing out to some number (e.g. the "average" number of children per household). Didn't we just implement, for all practical purposes, the scenario you outlined above borderlining eugenics, and is described in the Haldeman book (minus the actual "snipping")?
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