See, Conservatives Can be Naive and Stupid Too

Since it happens so rarely, I feel obligated to point out those rare occasions when a liberal organization is right, and conservatives that disagree with them are wrong.  Check out the following article from The American Interest.

The Gray Lady Falls For the Malthus Trap
In 1798, Thomas Malthus famously predicted that inexorable population growth would eventually surpass our planet’s ability to sustain humanity, leading to widespread famine, disease, and privation. He was wrong then, and he’s still wrong now, though there is no shortage of latter-day Malthus acolytes. Yesterday the New York Times wondered, “Might Thomas Malthus be vindicated in the end?” as it covered a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

[W]hat most stood out in the report from the panel, which gathers every few years to produce a synthesis of mainstream science’s take on climate change, was that it rolled straight into Malthus’s territory, providing its starkest warning yet about the challenge imposed by global warming on the world’s food supply. [...]
[T]he new report is much more pessimistic about the prospect of extra grain production in the globe’s temperate zones, where more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase the rate of photosynthesis, raising yields, and warmer weather would lengthen the growing season.

The IPCC’s latest report does raise some very real worries about humanity’s ability to cope with a changing climate. But the Gray Lady gives the Reverend Malthus entirely too much credit—and humanity too little—when she says that “Malthus’s prediction was based on an eminently sensible premise: that the earth’s carrying capacity has a limit.” But this limit is not fixed; it’s elastic. And recent data suggest that this carrying capacity is not strictly a function of natural confines, but rather is dependent on humanity’s ability to innovate.

Malthusianism is one of the most persistent delusions out there. It fails to grasp that people don’t just add cost—they add creativity and ingenuity. Population Bomb adherents think of people as bacteria on a petri dish that only eat their food supply, reproduce, and die. But people don’t just consume; they create. That creativity can never be predicted or measured in advance, which is why many projections into the future look like Malthusian doom scenarios. But thanks to adaptability and creativity, the human race always finds another way to thrive.

We aren’t prepared to say that human creativity is infinite, but there aren’t many signs that we’ve yet glimpsed its limit. Indeed, the rise of biotechnologies and gene modifications suggest that we are on the verge of one of the greatest revolutions yet as IT and biology meet.

Malthusianism is what you get when intellectuals lose touch with humanism, and forget just how creative and remarkable human beings are.

Although the author of the above article brings up the excellent point that people predicting a Malthusian apocalypse, often fail to take into account the creativity of human beings, he neglected to consider the fact that the very thing human creativity is dependent upon, is quickly becoming our most endangered resource and that is due largely to unchecked increases in population.

Sorry Russell, when it comes to Tommy’s theory, you can run, but you can’t hide. While the author correctly points out the fallacy of comparing human life to bacteria in a petri dish with a finite food supply, it is also quite obvious that he has no real world experience with what happens with higher organisms when you increase population beyond optimal levels, even if there is an unlimited supply of food, water, shelter, and other basic necessities.  On the other hand, I do.
Let me give you all a crash course in swine production...  
Rule number one:  Something bad is going to happen.  It could be anything, but it will most likely be something that either decreases the fertility rate of your breeding stock, or increases the mortality of piglets.  Either way, if you fail to account for rule number one, you will end up producing fewer pigs than the maximum of your facility’s capacity.  The only way your income will exceed your expenses is if you run your facility at maximum capacity.  What is a pig farmer to do?
Rule number two:  Breed a number of sows equal to 120% of your capacity.  If you have 50 farrowing crates, breed 60 sows, if you have 100 crates, breed 120 sows, and maintain that production schedule on a rolling basis.
Rule number three:  Sometimes rule number one doesn’t happen.  Now you have too many pigs for your facility.  This is a problem, but nowhere near as costly or difficult to solve as having too few pigs. How one deals with this problem is what separates the good managers from the poor ones.

There, now you know all you need to know about raising pigs, so have at it.  No, wait a minute, there was some reason that I wrote this, now what was it?  Oh yeah, the negative effects of overpopulation, even when there is an adequate supply of basic necessities.

The most tempting thing for the manager of a farrowing/nursery operation to do during times of excess production is to just cram all the extra pigs into his existing pens, while making sure to increase the amount of feed given to each pen.  You can get away with this up to a certain point, but you can’t push it too far, and the problem will become exaggerated as the pigs grow.

Pigs are not too demanding.  If you give them adequate food, water, and shelter, they’ll usually do just fine, but they also have another requirement - space. If you overcrowd them, their rate of weight gain per feed consumed will fall.  In addition, death loss will increase, much of it due to stress from overcrowding.  Dominant individuals will bite the ears and tails of weaker individuals making them susceptible to infections, and causing them to go off feed.  You are better off selling excess production as weaned or feeder pigs, or finding additional, temporary facilities to handle your overflow.

My point here is this.  Even if we are able to solve all the problems of taking care of the basic necessities of the world’s population, we will still suffer and fail if the population continues to grow unchecked, and if it does, little of that creativity that Russell is counting on will ever materialize.  Why?

Two reasons:  Governments and lack of freedom.  (Maybe that’s one reason, aren’t they the same thing?)  You may have noticed that the world’s most populated areas tend to be the poorest, and the fastest growing segments of the population of our own country tend to be our poorest.  Have you ever read an article explaining how there are too many rich children?  Excess human population is almost always skewed toward the dependant classes and a drag upon the productive classes.

Here is where the problem occurs.  Governments are always the “first responders” when it comes to any type of global or regional crisis.  What is the only way any government has ever dealt with a crisis?  We all know the answer.  It’s spending tax money and restricting freedom.  (Once again, aren’t those two, just about the same thing?)  Just look at how governments have been attacking an imaginary problem like global warming.  Have you ever heard anything from any of them that didn’t involve one or the other, or both?

Just like the pigs who do not do as well in an overcrowded environment, people will not do as well in an overcrowded world, so we are not necessarily talking just as much about survival here as we are, “quality of life”.   The decrease in the quality of life will mean more time of more individuals spent on “just trying to survive” than coming up with creative solutions to the world’s problems, and just to make sure they don’t come up with any, our world’s governments are going to be stealing the fruits of individuals’ labor in order to “solve” such problems.  

Just as pigs need an adequate amount of space to achieve their maximum growth rate potential, human beings need an adequate amount of freedom to reach their maximum potential of creativity.  With governments leading the way to solve our problems the only way they know how, the maximum potential of human creativity will never even come close to being reached.  

Freedom is and always was, our most precious resource.  It’s what got mankind out of the stone age, and is responsible for almost every advancement that we have made since.  Take away freedom, and you take away any chance of us being able to maintain a standard of living that we have been used to.

The ghost of Tommy’s coming, with his theory in hand, and we can run, but we can’t hide.  Not as long as governments are trying to solve our problems.

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