One of today’s popular boogeymen, along with “climate change,” is overpopulation. It was a boogeyman centuries ago, too. The English cleric and scholar Thomas Malthus warned in 1798, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” Since then, the 1800 world population of one billion has risen to seven billion. And not surprisingly, the notion of an ever-burgeoning population as a clear and present danger has become a basic supposition, one creating perturbation and shaping policy.
On November 13, 2015 for instance, some celebrated “World Vasectomy Day” and held a “vasectomy-athon” in which men, many Western, trumpeted their newfound sterility. Precisely two weeks before, Bowdoin College associate professor of philosophy Sarah Conley, though doubtless a relativist, was quite absolutist in a Boston Globe op-ed entitled “Here’s why China’s one-child policy was a good thing.” Insisting “there is no moral right to have more than one child,” Conley wrings her hands as she warns that the “most recent estimate from the United Nations says we’ll reach a population of 9.7 billion by 2050” and justifies elimination of reproductive freedom by likening it to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. It seems the rallying cry “My body, my choice!” only applies to killing children in the womb, not birthing them.