Population Growth and Future Generations’ Rights

Arguments in favour of a restricted population growth have often been put forward when scientists come up with a theory. Such a theory usually goes along these lines: an unrestricted growth of population will deprive future generations of the same opportunities that the current generation enjoys. Rights of unborn future generations would be severely impaired if we don’t impose some limits on the number of babies that families can have. Natural resources will eventually dissipate and future generations will be doomed. So they say.

Let us have a closer look at the problem. First, it is the State that causes the problem since it provides social benefits to some people who then have larger families than they would have otherwise had. This has severe consequences. By providing social benefits to people who refuse accepted standards of behaviour (e.g. the Romani people), the number of these people grows and cultural standards change. Therefore, natural evolution of culture is distorted.

World governments then go on to take some necessary measures to slow down the process of dissipation of natural resources in the name of saving natural and cultural heritage for the  next generations. State action sometimes takes a form of a family planning policy such as the one-child policy introduced in China.

However, the problem besetting such arguments is that there are no rights of future generations. Surely, if parents give birth to a child they are obligated to raise him as best they can. But rights have only meaning with regard to individuals since only they can argue and defend their rights. There is no such entity as a future generation.  Since only individuals can exercise rights, the whole concept of rights of future generations is thus rendered meaningless.

There is absolutely no reason to think that State action is the right answer or solution to this problem. On the contrary, by restricting the number of babies that families can have the State prevents successful families from procreating, thereby reducing numbers of people, who offer jobs, take care of the needy and protect the environment. The provision of social benefits to people who do not accept “traditional” standards of behaviour results in a sudden cultural change and social riots are inevitable.

It was Hayek who pointed out that a society based on the recognition of property rights will secure an order of peace. He writes: “This order is often based on the delimitation of territorial ranges or ‘property’, which serves not only to eliminate unnecessary fighting but even substitutes ‘preventive’ for ‘repressive’ checks on the growth of population, for example, through the male who has not established a territory being unable to mate and breed.”

Thus, it is the State that is the cause of the so-called population growth problem. If we adopt a truly libertarian view, this problem vanishes into thin air.

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