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An argument against the old child policy in china

Whether or not Chinese parents decide to use their new-found rights to procreate, the move does raise questions. Would it be good or bad if more children were now born in China and the population grew? There are several reasons to think that more Chinese children would be a good thing.

They will enjoy the good things life has to offer and there is no reason to assume that they will suffer unduly. Whilst China is far from the perfect place to grow up, Chinese people born in 2015 have better expectations for health, education, and prosperity than at any other time in history. It seems hard to argue that these reasons do not make an increase in the number of children a good thing, at least in one respect. One thing we might believe that would strengthen this argument is that the welfare of currently-not-existing-but-merely-potential people does not make an outcome better or worse.

This view is consistent with the common intuition that having a child is neither good nor bad. Call this the intuition of neutrality. Unfortunately, this intuition is almost certainly mistaken.

  1. Policies directed at increasing labour productivity and labour force participation rates would directly tackle the ageing problem and provide additional sources of growth as well. At the start of 2016, the Chinese government formally abolished the one-child policy , replacing it with a two-child policy.
  2. Excess capacity caused by an absence of demand is, as many a rural parish will tell you, a much more grievous problem than having too many people. A hellish scenario Unfortunately, once again any intuitions we may seem to have supporting this view are clearly mistaken.
  3. In doing so, I am not in any way advocating that existing unhappy people should not be allowed to live, or should be exterminated as in the T4 programme.

Most of us would view it as terrible if human beings were to cease to procreate so that the current generation would be the last. Imagine that aliens were to offer humanity a choice.

  • The phrase suggests the terminology of the Nazi T4 programme to physically eliminate the handicapped, lebensunwertiges Leben, an individual life unworthy of Life itself;
  • But these impacts would be small — less than 0;
  • China wil increasingly resemble western societies, where only a tiny proportion of the population is happy, and society is arranged to maximise threat, lack of agency, and feelings of inadequacy;
  • If you are at all tempted to say that we should keep hold of our procreative functions in this case, then you must agree that the welfare of not-currently-existing-but-merely-potential people can make an outcome better.

We can exchange all our procreative functions for a lifetime of sheer bliss, or we can continue to live as we are and humanity will be guaranteed to thrive for generations to come. If you are at all tempted to say that we should keep hold of our procreative functions in this case, then you must agree that the welfare of not-currently-existing-but-merely-potential people can make an outcome better.

Another view, which would strengthen the argument that additional children would make things worse, is that whilst the welfare of potential people matters, the number of such people does not. This view is not consistent with the intuition of neutrality.

A hellish scenario Unfortunately, once again any intuitions we may seem to have supporting this view are clearly mistaken. Consider the following two cases adapted from Derek Parfit. In Hell One, there are many people who suffer and whose lives are very bad for them, worse than their never having existed.

In Hell Two there are even more people with very bad lives than in Hell One, but also many people whose lives, whilst still bad and worse than nothing, are not quite as bad as the lives in Hell One.

  1. For instance, man-made climate change does not result from the level of greenhouse gas emissions at any one time, but by the build-up of these gasses in the atmosphere over hundreds of years.
  2. A way to escape the strict rules of the one-child policy is for Chinese women to give birth to their second child overseas. Hong Kong is exempt from the one-child policy and the Hong Kong passport, which is different from a China mainland passport, provides additional advantages.
  3. Imagine that aliens were to offer humanity a choice. Possible social problems for a generation of only children.
  4. The Population Ethics project may be at fault, but also suspect that philosophy in general attracts right-wingers. Changes in fertility rates also affect the different types of skills in the labour force.

If the number of people in each case did not matter, then it would seem that Hell Two must be better. Most of the people in Hell Two are better off than the people in Hell One are, and only a minority have lives that are as bad.

If we believe that Hell Two is worse than Hell One, then the number of people in a population matters to us. We recognise that this minority of people in Hell Two represents a greater number of bad lives than the total population of Hell One. However, if you do not accept either of these views it is hard to argue that the costs additional children bring with them will outweigh the benefits.

This means that as you consume more the utility or welfare you gain from this extra consumption will tend to diminish.

  • That is clearly untrue;
  • This term was coined by economists to explain the per capita income gains from declining fertility rates;
  • Imagine that aliens were to offer humanity a choice;
  • That noted, what does the right say?
  • The phrase suggests the terminology of the Nazi T4 programme to physically eliminate the handicapped, lebensunwertiges Leben, an individual life unworthy of Life itself.

One implication of this is that it is almost always better, in terms of producing more welfare, for a resource to be consumed by somebody who consumes less than by somebody who consumes more.

However, this also implies that it is better for a fixed quantity of resources to be consumed by a larger number of people than by a smaller number. Existential risks Even if an increasing population is in itself a good thing, we might still view it as bad because of its wider effects.

External links and resources

Such arguments rely on the claim that existential risks result from the simultaneous global population, so that the more people live at any one time the higher the risks. However, for many plausible causes of existential risk this is not so. For instance, man-made climate change does not result from the level of greenhouse gas emissions at any one time, but by the build-up of these gasses in the atmosphere over hundreds of years. Such processes will continue whether global populations increase or decrease.

Undoubtedly, the simultaneous global population can accelerate the processes that cause existential risk, but it will also affect the number of minds, and hands, that can be utilised to avoid or respond to these risks.

Another effect of an increasing population in China would more people living in poverty and inequality. An increase in the birth rate of these people is likely to increase global poverty and inequality, and there is evidence to suggest that rising populations in poorer countries have completely cancelled out the effect of all efforts to eradicate global poverty.

So does this make this kind of population growth bad?

While the morality of the latter kind of inequality is hotly debated, the philosophical consensus is that inequality that results from mere addition is not bad. As Larry Temkin puts it: However, politicians and policy makers are seldom willing to contemplate that many lives could fall into this category. Unless we take the controversial stance that many lives are not worth living, then we should conclude that a growing population in China is not only good in itself but its effects are far less negative than we might think.

It follows that it is not only a good thing that the people of China have a choice to have more children but it would be a good thing if they chose to have these extra children as well. Angra Mainyu December 8, 2015 at 8: Would that be terrible as well? Granted, death still would eventually happen.

But for that matter, extinction will eventually happen too.

Debate: China "one child" policy

My point is that the event that seems intuitively bad at least prima facie is extinction without any successors, rather than lack of reproduction. Paul Treanor December 9, 2015 at 10: That is obviously incorrect: Simon Beard generalises the belief, without giving argument or evidence.

Hedonic Treader December 11, 2015 at 12: This is certainly true for quite a number of people and probably even more so for the animals used for their consumption. Paul Treanor December 11, 2015 at 3: It is associated with anti-environmentalism, climate scepticism, and growth-ism.

It is an example of a new right-wing ideology, but the political intent is rarely explicit. The Population Ethics project may be at fault, but also suspect that philosophy in general attracts right-wingers. This is then deployed as an all-purpose argument against environmental concerns. This type of anti-environmentalist argument is therefore somewhat misdirected.

That noted, what does the right say? They say, more or less: Now if we look at what Simon Beard is advocating for China, it is apparently a continuation of the current growth strategy, with ever-increasing production especially consumer goodswhich has associated environmental impacts.

Ethics in the News

The phrase suggests the terminology of the Nazi T4 programme to physically eliminate the handicapped, lebensunwertiges Leben, an individual life unworthy of Life itself. Simon Beard specifically claims that: That is clearly untrue. A large proportion will suffer mental illness, most will endure poor labour conditions and work-related stress, perhaps the majority will become obese, most will suffer ill-health due to diet, inactivity and pollution.

China wil increasingly resemble western societies, where only a tiny proportion of the population is happy, and society is arranged to maximise threat, lack of agency, and feelings of inadequacy. It is both rational and good to reject this kind of life, which is so typical of modern western societies. In doing so, I am not in any way advocating that existing unhappy people should not be allowed to live, or should be exterminated as in the T4 programme.

Certainly their health, on current trends, will steadily get worse, leading to declining life expectancy.

At least in secular form, that type of argument is, so far as I know, very recent. This should be about real lives and real people, and not facile assumptions that adding people adds happiness or well-being or good lives, or anything like that.