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One-child policy began in 1979. In 1980, My mother hid in her relatives' houses and finally delivered her second child - me. I was very lucky because if my mother was caught, I can't sit here to type these sentences.

I do understand the one-child policy because there are too many people in China, especially in cities. The population should be under control. (However, as far as I know, one-child policy never really works in the very poor area. It's common to have 3+ children there.)

In recent decades, China becomes much richer and people have better education. Many families (in cities) get used to having only one child and don't want to have the second child because the cost of raising a child becomes very high. Two-child policy should come earlier.




Pretty much the same story here except I was the third child. I feel fortunate that my parents wanted to welcome another troublemaker into their life.

The scary part was learning later on that the policy pushed many Chinese families to discard their female offspring since boys could earn better.


Why is there too many people in China? What is the standard to determine the right population?


Ecosystems have carrying capacities. There is only so much water and arable land. There are only so many resources in the mines/oil wells waiting to be extracted.

Technology (like GMOs) can help you make incrementally more efficient use of those resources, but not as fast as unbounded exponential population growth.

At some point, the average standard of living has to come crashing down. The biologically necessary quantity of food and water is not available for everyone. Even with unlimited labor to supply factories, there are no more raw materials to make gadgets and medicine out of.

A country in that situation has basically one reasonable course of action: kill the neighbors and take their resources.

China is arguably being a good world citizen by trying not to put itself in that position.

You may find this statist interference with a natural process distasteful, but consider the alternative: only the fittest get to survive.


Arguably 1/2 of the molecules in our bodies come from the artificial nitrogen extraction process developed during WWI. Without that, Earth's human population would have been limited to half of what it is now back in the 20th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Haber_process


If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend the book, "The Alchemy of Air" about the invention of Haber-Bosch.. It was unbelievable what they went through to fix nitrogen, they literally invented new fields of study in materials science and chemistry. The perils of a Jewish inventor creating a new method for making explosives under the Third Reich is a side story in the book but another fascinating historical anecdote.


And also Zyklon which would become Zyklon B when the warning eye irritant was removed to make it a better weapon for murdering people. There was a RadioLab[1] episode that talked about how it was eventually used on some of his own relatives.

[1] http://www.radiolab.org/story/180132-how-do-you-solve-proble...


> under the Third Reich

I think you mean under the Kaiser, not the Third Reich.

Hitler was made Chancellor on January 30th, 1933. Fritz Haber died on January 29, 1934 in Switzerland. Carl Bosch was not Jewish.

Here is a quick intro to Fritz Haber: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEE5uvFhOM


I do indeed. Thanks for the correction.


HN is becoming the single source responsible for most of my total book spending... Anyway, just purchased it. Thanks for the recommendation!


The earth could probably support 100+ billion people at reasonable comfort levels with slightly better technology as long as we give up the idea of life outside of zoo's.

That said, past experience has demonstrated the Human population can easily grow at 5% per year. At that rate it's doubling every 15 years. Trying to double the universes food supply every 15 years is just not possible indefinitely.

PS: 2^n is crazy. It takes less time than you might think before the mass of humanity is growing faster than a sphere expanding at the speed of light could support.


Uh, the current growth rate is around 1% per year, and it's decreasing as countries enter the first world. That's a doubling every 70 years. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_growth

We've got a lot of efficiency left in terms of agriculture as well, so there isn't much reason to think reaching the carrying capacity of the planet is a particularly pressing issue. The amount of food that we already grow that we don't eat roughly 1/3 already, and the vast majority of land doesn't contribute to agriculture.


I don't disagree with what your saying.

The counter argument goes something like this. Let's double every 1,000 years for the next 1,000,000 years that sounds easy.

Let's see that's only 7billion * 2^1,000 or err ~7 * 10 ^ 310 people. Hmm, there are only ~10^83 atoms in the observable universe. I guess they must be really tiny people.

So, yea it's not a problem in right now and probably not for a long time yet. But, as soon as you start doubling something has to give.


population doesn't keep doubling over and over again. It follows a logistic curve (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logistic_function ). Human population probably reached the midpoint of the curve around 1980 (http://www.growth-dynamics.com/articles/Kurzweil_files/image... ) and is expected to become fairly level between 9 and 13 billion (http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Graphs/ select Population -> Total Population -> WORLD)


Yes, it follows a logistic curve because it hits carrying capacity. The top of that curve is not a pleasant place.


The top of the curve can be unpleasant. It doesn't have to be.

The worst is when population goes past carrying capacity and then crashes. That's when you get mass die-offs.

Population can settle down at carrying capacity simply through reduced birth rates matching up with death rates. That's the situation we see in much of the western world, with better availability of birth control etc.


The top of the curve is unstable. A new plant virus destroys a major crop and suddenly billions starve.


Every part of the curve faces that sort of instability. The number of crops actually growing isn't particularly higher than the number needed to sustain the population, and we can't just spin up enough food for billions of people even if we do have plenty of land to do it on.

With humanity, "carrying capacity" is unlikely to be food-limited.


The large number of overweight Americans is a huge pool of excess food and takes a lot of extra daily calories to maintain. As is the large number of livestock being produced and all that corn ethanol etc.

The top of the curve removes that as we can't pay for the inefficiency's of livestock or the extra daily calories to be overweight and feed 50+ billion people.


"carrying capacity" is set by a lot more factors than just food.

Human population is expected to level off at 10-13 billion based on factors relating to social organization, not the 50+ billion that could theoretically be fed.


Replace food with water, land, etc and you get the same instabilitys. Social factors at the limits can easily lead to war, revolution, and or the breakdown of society.


sure, but you don't need to be at the limit to have that sort of instability. It becomes a bit more pronounced when there's less leeway, but it's not different in kind, only a little bit in magnitude.


In this case, population isn't close to carrying capacity, but is following that curve anyways.


Several advanced economies like Japan have already hit the top of the curve. No starvation needed.


China is a very big country. But only a small portion of the land is suitable for living. Almost 94 percent of Chinese people live in the Southeast part of the country which covers 43 percent of its land area; while the other six percent people live in the northwestern areas which cover 57 percent of the territory. [1] And people like to live in cities. Can you imagine there are 23.9 million people [2] in Shanghai City?

[1] http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/country.htm

[2] http://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/shanghai-popul...


The problem isn't really population per se, it's population growth. China instituted the one-child policy so they could slow down their population growth to more manageable levels.

We could have 10 billion people on this planet and we'd be fine, so long as we were resource-efficient.


Lots of people alive now will likely live on a 10 billion person earth

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=world+population+1900+t...


> What is the standard to determine the right population

only someone who's never been to china would ask about the 'standard' for determining overpopulation. it's abundantly clear as soon as you step off the airplane and take a look around. it's just too damn crowded.

what is the standard for determining that water is wet?


When I visited China with my wife, she had told me beforehand her parents lived in a "rural" area. What I imagined was acres of farmland and long dirt roads. The reality of "rural" China was closer to the density of Bay Area. It was incredible how dense everything was, even in the less dense areas.


Here is an incrementing population tally; note how fast its growing: http://m.worldometers.info/world-population/

Its not current population so much as the growth rate. China is 2/11 of the World. That's between 1/5 and 1/6, so small changes they make have dramatic effects decades down the road. Our current population is almost certainly not sustainable doing things the way we are now, but we are changing that. Population growth is only sustainable with dramatic changes in the way we live, yet we are adding people by the billion.


The kinds of socio-economic figures measured by NGOs like per capita GDP and infant mortality and life expectancy. If you increase GDP you can give your people healthier/better lives.


> If you increase GDP you can give your people healthier/better lives.

Sort of. You'll still bump up against physical system constraints, at least until we're swimming in an excess of renewable, clean energy.

It would take many Earth's worth of resources to have the quality of life American's have. Clean energy goes a long way to solving that, but again, physical systems have limitations.


Malthusian catastrophe. Population tends to grow exponentially, but not the resources. Historically, the excess of population have been controlled through wars and famines. The CP wanted to control with laws instead...

The thing is that in developed countries this kind of laws are not necessary because people just don't have children because they are too expensive.


There are too many people on the planet to start with, and 1/6 of them is in China. The effect that they are having on the environment (both in "nature" and in their own living spaces) is atrocious, but there are too many people to reasonably switch to a sustainable model. Additionally, if you account for the fact that a gigantic portion of their land is basically uninhabitable (the Gobi Desert), they have an unreal population density (among non-trivial sovereign nations). If their population keeps expanding unchecked, they'll stop being able to feed everyone.


> There are too many people on the planet to start with

The issue isn't whether that's true. The issue is who gets to decide what the right number is and what we all do about it. To most of us, the moral hazards (and realities!) of coercive birth control are severe.


The moral hazards of uncontrolled population growth are far more severe. The only question is whether we control population via a statutory law (as China did), or through extreme costs-of-living (as "liberal" Western countries do). I'd argue a statutory law is far more humane.

Not only more humane, but more fair. Why should the people who provide the least resources to their children be the ones to create the most human progeny?


Given that coercive abortion and gender selection are realities and the problems of overpopulation are more theoretical, I wonder what your definition of humane is.

And again, who decides which is more humane? If you and your cohort wants to stop reproducing as a good example, nobody is stopping you.


> who decides which is more humane?

Your elected government? Isn't that what you elected it for? Or just hold a referendum or something.

The "who decides" question is a problem here. It doesn't matter who, it only matters that the decision has to be made and then carried out. The coordination has to arise or be enforced, but happen the coordination must. What you're implying by asking this question has many names. In politics, it's "total anarchy". In biology, it's "cancer". In infrastructure projects, it's called NIMBYsm. Imagine trying to run a large company with the rule "we're all equal, who gets to decide?" - how long would it survive?

Like it or not, Earth will have to have a "top management" layer. Run it top-down, run it co-op style, whatever - but after some size, you can no longer ignore the looming coordination problems and their deadly consequences.

Yes, as with everything, there are failure modes. Coercive abortion and gender selection happen mostly because of misalignment between "one child rule" and the economics, so the people selfishly prefer to spawn an offspring that will give better economic payoff. But incentive structures we can manage. We could manage it better if we stopped just asking "who gets to decide?" and instead picked someone to decide.

Also, the only problem with "coercive abortion" is the "coercive" part; if you believe that abortion is ok, then gender selection via abortion is also ok. If you don't believe gender selection via abortion is ok, then you also must disagree with general abortion as a practice.

EDIT:

Also2, we have a "who gets to decide?" problem when it comes to inconvenience ourselves and spawn less children, but we do not have that problem when it comes to decide who to bomb the living shit out of, killing their children, along with parents, grandparents, livestock and future. Strange, isn't it?


Also, the only problem with "coercive abortion" is the "coercive" part; if you believe that abortion is ok, then gender selection via abortion is also ok. If you don't believe gender selection via abortion is ok, then you also must disagree with general abortion as a practice.

Not at all. The entire point of this line of discussion centers around limiting an implied personal right to reproduce for the good of society. A one-child policy might serve society's needs as a whole. A one-child policy that allows prospective parents to, say, flood the world with a supermajority of male children does not serve society's needs.

I think that gender selection via abortion is ok in the general sense, absent perverse incentives that cause society-crippling gender imbalances, but if those incentives exist and are abused, I can certainly understand a desire to make that illegal, while still allowing (and supporting) gender-blind abortion.


You have decades, if not centuries of propaganda, that people need to have more children, that having as many children as you want is somehow a human right. Even recently in the past, there were yet vast undiscovered countries awaiting the world's population. The notion that one could have "too many children" and that this selfish behavior is intolerable will take time to catch on.

Even this thread is hopeful to me, a decade ago there wouldn't have been near as much disagreement about whether you have the right to burden society without limit.


What's theoretical about the high and unsustainable cost of living in high-population areas?

>And again, who decides which is more humane? If you and your cohort wants to stop reproducing as a good example, nobody is stopping you.

This argument is such a canard. If someone is blaring loud music throughout a neighborhood, the solution is to force them to stop, not to tell everyone else who finds it annoying to just be quiet.

EDIT: I can't reply to the below comment, except to question whether it is equating fines for extra children with being a murderous dictator. That is quite a hyperbolic comparison. The road to hell is already being paved by those who advocate a cancer-like approach to human population growth.


.... Said every murderous dictator when he decided a certain segment of the population was polluting the gene pool and he no longer wanted to see or hear them.

or in other words: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Reversed stupidity is not intelligence. "2+2 = 4" said every murderous dictator ever, and yet we don't ban arithmetics for being a tool that Stalin used.


Pulling out a Straw Man, is the last resort of the lazy debater. I never implied correlation or causation. I attacked a repulsive philosophy.

I implied the justification of "its for the good of society" in removing/restricting human rights (reproduction) and mutilating woman (forced abortions), is no different to the justification historical dictators used when they did the exact same things ... like for example the terrible things a totalitarian dictator did to Jews and homosexuals in your country during the 40s. In fact this same philosophy would have been used to ban your grandparents, and mine, from breeding had they been successful.

Adopting a policy of "anything goes because it is for my perceived good of society", without regard for society's wishes, allows for any manner of evils to be 'legally' imposed on that society by the ruling classes.

PS. To address the point you made: the US does in fact ban the export of arithmetics (cryptography, software) to a number of countries ruled by dictators (not that I think this is a good policy or that it has the intended effect).


A straw man is what you're pulling out here right now :).

> I implied the justification of "its for the good of society" in removing/restricting human rights (reproduction) and mutilating woman (forced abortions), is no different to the justification historical dictators used when they did the exact same things ... like for example the terrible things a totalitarian dictator did to Jews and homosexuals in your country during the 40s

That's my point - the philosophy may or may not be sound, but the fact that evil dictatorships used such philosophy doesn't matter. It doesn't reflect on its soundness.

There are reasons that humans shouldn't generally be allowed to go for "ends justify the means" though. Like you correctly observe, historically it ended up with people abusing the power to promote one group over another. But the philosophy is not in itself repulsive.


> there are too many people on the planet to start with

Earth doesn't have too many people. The people inhabiting it are just, currently, quite wasteful with resources.


Earth doesn't have too many people. The people inhabiting it are just, currently, quite wasteful with resources.

What's the goal here? We could have many more people each living in misery, crowding, and poverty. Or we could have fewer people with each one being rich and free and having access to parks and open space to breathe and relax.

More people isn't somehow good in itself. Children are great but one or two is enough.


> We could have many more people each living in misery, crowding, and poverty. Or we could have fewer people with each one being rich and free and having access to parks and open space to breathe and relax.

A false dichotomy. The latter experience can be given to the former's population.

More people isn't somehow "good", but it's not bad.


> The latter experience can be given to the former's population.

How? Keep in mind only a small fraction of the world's population is even capable of being a tourist. Imagine how that changes when everyone is well-off enough to travel at will. Imagine your favorite beach, favorite museum, or your favorite national park and multiply the number of visitors by 10, 20, 40, etc. Waiting-lists for years to visit the Louvre. Prices so high that only the 1% of the 1% can afford to visit Maui.

Maybe you are assuming that VR will solve these issues? Perhaps a Matrix-like future awaits us.


Most of us discussing this are already living a Matrix-like reality. 80%+ of life in front of a screen, with that last bit of time at the gym (with screens), cafe/bar (with screens), or maybe an inner-city park (with cellphone screen out). A diet primarily consisting of processed grain, factory meat and barren vegetation. Blaming our inevitable neuroticism on a chemical imbalance or moral failure, not the alienated zoo life we live -- or worse, distracting ourselves so thoroughly we don't notice it. Of course this kind of person is going to think we can fit billions more on the planet.

Our wellbeing probably does rely on technology like VR and automation, but with so many mentally ill, I would say our current situation is already unacceptable (and has been for thousands of years). Adding billions more to the equation isn't going to help.


At the trajectory we are going, there are too many people. Rather than simply assuming a solution would appear, China took action.





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