It seems so obvious to me.
Living in Africa, we get so accustomed to bad news that sometimes we don’t analyse the good news properly. Since the Second World War, many countries experience explosive economic growth, this has led to prosperity and luxury never before experienced. We have witnessed the progression of North America and Western Europe from being well off to being stinking rich.
We have also seen Japan, South Korea and a few other South East Asian countries transform from rural backwaters to fully fledged industrialised powerhouses. The latest, and possibly best, story of success is China which, within one generation, has progressed from being one of the poorest countries in the world to become the second richest.
What is the common thread?
All of these countries have experienced a “baby bust”.
The introduction of “the pill” in the early 1960s which afforded couples a cheap and manageable form of birth control, lead to end of the “baby boom” in the West and Japan. The impact of this was absolutely stunning. Women took control of their own bodies and so began the journey to Planned Parenthood. This meant that couples could now plan the size of family that they could afford and they leapt at the opportunity.
The nuclear family, as it became known, raised living standards as families with two or three children could manage their money far better than families with five or six. Governments were able to plan better as they no longer had to build more schools, hospitals, police stations and other infrastructure and they could focus on improving on the stuff that they had. Everybody got richer.
China achieved an even more dramatic outcome when their draconian one child policy slammed the brakes on their out of control birth rate. This policy imposed higher tax on families with more than one child and included uncomfortable social engineering. Certain minorities were exempt and rich people could have more kids than poor ones. It is estimated that 200 million Chinese that could have, were not born between 1979 and 2009.
Moral judgements aside, China’s one child policy arrested population growth, and despite the recent relaxation of this policy, young Chinese couples are not rushing to have the broods of children that their grandparents once did. China is now experiencing economic growth never before seen in the history of mankind.
We have started to see the same trend starting to take root in South Africa as it seems to me that our population growth is in direct proportion to the decrease in the population in Zimbabwe. The idea that your children are your wealth or your lottery ticket seems to be well on its way to being comprehensively debunked.
The most prosperous country in South America is Chile and it has the lowest birth rate on that continent. If you don’t believe me, look at the picture below:
So why don’t all governments advocate birth control? The answer is simple, insecure men.
Birth control empowers women and that doesn’t sit too well in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, where men stroke their egos with their physical control of women.
Given a choice, no woman, whether educated or not, is going to volunteer to have more children than they can provide for. In the modern world it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep information from people and I have no doubt that the paternalistic environments like those that prevail in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Muslim world will not prevail for much longer. This scares the hell out of some men, especially those that feel that women “should know their place” and that place is usually in the kitchen or the bedroom.
So what would I do if they made me King of the World?
- In addition to sex education classes, I would add economic classes for every child, especially girls, so that they can all understand the economic impact of having children.
- I would ensure that every woman that wanted birth control pills could get them immediately. Hand them out on street corners, McDonalds and KFC if necessary!
- I would make child grants available only to married couples. Nothing will get you reaching for a condom or morning after pill faster than the thought that you may have to get married to the person that you met at the pub last night.
If these basic steps were followed, we would see prosperity within a generation and we could stop spending money on building more schools and houses and concentrate on improving the ones that we already have.