1. Introduction To Population Dynamics
No matter how much people may want to deny it (Georgists included), Overpopulation is a serious concern for humanity. If we don’t regulate our population by ourselves soon, then the world population will exceed its carrying capacity, and humans will be doomed to die by famine, war, and disease, just as they have for most of human history. It won’t have to be this way though, if the world can amass enough political support for population control.
Our Overpopulation FAQs explains in comprehensive detail what overpopulation is, how/when it happens, why the world is destined to become overpopulated under its current management, the devastating consequences that will happen if the Earth faces overpopulation, and the fairest, most reasonable solution that we can implement to prevent that from happening.
Our Eugenics & Reproduction Licenses FAQs page offers an introduction to what eugenics is, explains its misconceptions, explains why it will be necessary to preserve modern civilization, and makes a proposal for how we should implement it in the fairest, most efficient, and most reasonable way possible via reproduction licenses.
The next section of this post debunks the fallacious Cornucopian arguments made in Chapters 6 through 9 of Progress and Poverty by Henry George. Many Georgists perceive Georgism and population control as being antagonistic to one another because they think that the latter is unnecessary if we have the former. As we shall show, that is wishful thinking. Instead of counteracting each other, Georgism and population control should both be seen as complimentary with each other’s effects. The last sections explain why Georgism and population control both imply each other. Georgist reasoning can be extended to solve the most dire crisis currently facing humanity.
2. Debunking Chapters 6 through 9 of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty
To clarify, I am going to be quoting the modernized version of Progress and Poverty, since it’s shorter and written with a form of English that’s easier for modern-day English speakers to understand. The text may not be exactly what Henry George wrote word for word, but everything quoted here still shares the same semantics and ideas as what he believed in, which is what counts.
2.1. Refuting Chapter 6: ’The Theory of Population According to Malthus’
[I haven’t finished writing this section yet. It takes time to write stuff.]
2.2. Refuting Chapter 7: ’Malthus vs. Facts’
[I haven’t finished writing this section yet. It takes time to write stuff.]
Reproduction under such conditions is at a high rate, which, if it were to go unchecked, might eventually exceed subsistence. But it is not legitimate to infer that reproduction would continue at the same rate under conditions where population was sufficiently dense and wealth was distributed evenly. These conditions would lift the whole community above a mere struggle for existence.
Once the population reaches the carrying capacity once more, there are fewer natural resources per capita. If the increased population doesn’t produce enough wealth to compensate for the dawn of its existence, then wealth per capita will also decline.
Nor can one assume that such a community is impossible because population growth would cause poverty. This is obviously circular reasoning, as it assumes the very point at issue. To prove that overpopulation causes poverty, one would need to show that there are no other causes that could account for it. With the present state of government, this is clearly impossible.
We agree that we need to isolate all the possible factors we can evaluate the causes of poverty.
Malthus begins with the assumption that population increases in a geometrical ratio, while subsistence can increase in an arithmetical ratio at best.
That’s not an assumption. It’s a historical fact that subsistence only ever increased arithmetically at the time that Malthus wrote his Essay on the Principle of Population, until the Industrial Revolution happened. Whenever subsistence rose, so did the carrying capacity, and so did the population. The reason why the world population is not geometrically larger compared to its previous sizes is because populations cannot exceed their carrying capacities. Carrying capacities have only been able to increase arithmetically historically, hence why most population increases prior to the Industrial Revolution had only increased arithmetically.
The main body of the book is actually a refutation of the very theory it advances. His review of what he calls positive checks simply shows that the effects he attributes to overpopulation actually arise from other causes. He cites cases from around the world where vice and misery restrain population by limiting marriages or shortening life span. Not in a single case, however, can this be traced to an actual increase in the number of mouths over the power of the accompanying hands to feed them. In every case, vice and misery spring either from ignorance and greed, or from bad government, unjust laws, or war.
Once humans are the apex predator and they have reached the carrying capacity of their environment, unless there is a very high rate of disease, the majority of deaths will be from warfare because people who let their children die of starvation rather than going to war, be eliminated by those who fight for their children’s survival.
Nor has what Malthus failed to show been shown by anyone since. We may search the globe and sift through history in vain for any instance of a considerable country in which poverty and want can be fairly attributed to the pressure of an increasing population. Whatever dangers may be possible in human increase, they have never yet appeared. While this time may come, it never yet has afflicted mankind.
This is completely false. Earlier in this chapter, George argued that we cannot assume that overpopulation causes poverty if there’s other factors to be considered. And now he’s arguing that whenever overpopulation accompanies poverty, we should assume that the poverty is caused by mismanaging of natural resources instead of overpopulation, even though it’s not possible to separate the two factors. This is intellectually dishonest.
In the interest of an honest scientific analysis into the causes of poverty, I reiterate that we need to isolate all the possible factors before we can evaluate the causes of poverty, including overpopulation and mismanagement of natural resources. If we cannot isolate all the factors, then we need to use sound reasoning to determine what causes the disasters and correlations. The historical facts, evolutionary reasoning, and deduction presented in the essay conclude that overpopulation can (but not necessarily) cause poverty.
Historically, population has declined as often as increased. It has ebbed and flowed, while its centers have changed. Regions once holding great populations are now deserted, and their cultivated fields turned to jungle.
Where are Henry George’s sources and evidence for this claim??? Populations have declined before, but it’s not true at all that they “ebbed and flowed”. When we look at a graph of the world’s population history, we don’t see a population that waves up and down. What we see is that it remained at a nearly constant level for most of human history (the carrying capacity), and that it gradually increased whenever new technology and new food sources were acquired. When the population did go down, it was because some combination of war, disease, and famine reduced the population (e.g. the Mongol invasions in Eurasia, the black plague in Europe, Old World diseases in the Americas, etc), because how else would a population decline when it’s otherwise well-adapted to its environment enough to populate it up to its carrying capacity? In fact, warfare was the primary factor for limiting Amerindian populations before Europeans colonized the Americas.
New nations have arisen and others declined. Sparse regions have become populous and dense ones receded. But as far back as we can go, without merely guessing, there is nothing to show continuous increase. We are apt to lose sight of this fact as we count our increasing millions. As yet, the principle of population has not been strong enough to fully settle the world. Whether the aggregate population of the earth in 1879 is greater than at any previous time, we can only guess. Compared with its capacities to support human life, the earth as a whole is still sparsely populated.
And just because the Earth can be been considered fairly underpopulated in 1879, that doesn’t mean that the current Earth (in 2023) can’t still face an overpopulation crisis in the next few decades.
Another broad, general fact is obvious. Malthus asserts that the natural tendency of population to outrun subsistence is a universal law. If so, it should be as obvious as any other natural law, and as universally recognized. Why, then, do we find no injunction to limit population among the codes of the Jews, Egyptians, Hindus, or Chinese? Nor among any people who have had dense populations?
Because enough people died off each generation to prevent this from being necessary, whether that was from disease, famine, war, etc, or some combination of those factors. As recently as the 1800s, 75% of children died before the age of 5. By contrast, the modern world doesn’t have the same high rates of infant mortality that had historically kept the human population in check.
There are only two ways to regulate populations: 1. high mortality rate, or 2. low and/or sustainable birth rate (which may be accomplished via population control). Mass death is highly undesirable (hence why humanity eliminated it), and low fertility cannot be voluntarily achieved on a societal level, so that leaves population control as the most desirable option for regulating populations. If we don’t regulate our population with population control, then billions of people will be destined to die in one way or another.
This quote also ignores historical populations that faced overpopulation because they failed to regulate their reproduction. Easter Island is such an example. The American Indians are another example.
On the contrary, the wisdom of the ages and the religions of the world have always instilled the very opposite idea: “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Yes, exactly. The memetic systems that promote the highest levels of reproductive success are the ones that dominate the world. That’s how evolution works.
If you think about it, religions that instill “Be fruitful and multiply” are going to be more popular and have more followers than religions that don’t encourage reproduction. Memes that don’t encourage reproduction are known as fashions or cults because they discourage reproduction and don’t get passed down to future generations. Fashions don’t dominate the world, traditions do.
If the tendency to reproduce is as strong as Malthus supposes, then how is it that family lines so often become extinct? This occurs even in families where want is unknown. In an aristocracy such as England, hereditary titles and possession offer every advantage. Yet the House of Lords is kept up over the centuries only by the creation of new titles.
Many biological species and their families have gone extinct too in the past. There are millions of examples of this happening throughout the Earth’s history, and acknowledging this fact does not contradict anything in our theory of biology, evolution, and population dynamics. Family lines that go extinct will always be replaced with higher fertility family lines with that don’t go extinct, just as they always have.
As for George’s claim regarding the House of Lords, it’s irrelevant to this discussion, but I could investigate it further if someone can find a source and information for looking into the specifics on that claim.
To find the single example of a family that has survived any great lapse of time, we must go to immutable China. There, descendants of Confucius still enjoy peculiar privileges and consideration. Taking the presumption that population tends to double every twenty-five years, his lineage after 2,150 years should include 859,559,193,106,709,670,198,710,528 souls. Yet, instead of any such unimaginable number, his descendants number about 22,000 total. This is quite a discrepancy!
That calculation assumes an infinite carrying capacity, which China obviously doesn’t have. A population cannot exceed beyond its carrying capacity, and given that dozens of generations have inhabited the Earth since Confucius’s time and that people die over the years, there is no discrepancy here.
Further, an increase of descendants does not mean an increase of population. This would only happen if all the breeding were in the same family. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a son and a daughter, who each marry someone else’s child. Each has two children. Thus, Mr. and Mrs. Smith have four grandchildren. Yet each generation is no larger than the other. While there are now four grandchildren, each child would have four grandparents.
This is a bad, cherry-picked example. This assumes that each person is going to have exactly two kids, and it also ignores that increasing life expectancy can increase the population by making it take longer for the older generations to die.
Comparing total population with total area, India and China are far from being the most densely populated countries of the world. The population densities [in 1873] of India and China were 132 and 119 per square mile, respectively. Compare this to England (442), Belgium (441), Italy (234), and Japan (233). The total population of the world was estimated to be just under 1.4 billion, for an average of 26.64 per square mile.
Total land area doesn’t measure carrying capacity, so this quote is misleading and irrelevant.
Let me be clearly understood. I do not mean only that India or China could maintain a greater population with a more highly developed civilization. Malthusian doctrine does not deny that increased production would permit a greater population to find subsistence.
But the essence of that theory is that whatever the capacity for production, the natural tendency of population is to press beyond it. This produces that degree of vice and misery necessary to prevent further increase. So as productive power increases, population will correspondingly increase. And in a little time, this will produce the same results as before.
I assert that nowhere is there an example that will support this theory. Nowhere can poverty properly be attributed to population pressing against the power to procure subsistence using the then-existing degree of human knowledge. In every case, the vice and misery generally attributed to overpopulation can be traced to warfare, tyranny, and oppression. These are the true causes that deny security, which is essential to production, and prevent knowledge from being properly utilized.
First, George need to think about this more dynamically. With better management of natural resources and more equitable land distribution, India and China likely would’ve had more highly developed civilizations. So:
- They would get richer (more food per capita).
- As a consequence, they would get more numerous. (more capita)
- They would get poorer. (less food per capita)
(We’re talking about average Joes, not nobles of course.)
You could have a more efficient system or better agricultural technology, but that is just more surplus for population growth to consume, if the population isn’t held back by disease.
Second, human nature is violent. Overpopulation tends to famine, which leads to warfare over scarce resources in order to ensure one’s survival.
2.3. Refuting Chapter 8: ’Malthus vs. Analogies’
[I haven’t finished writing this section yet. It takes time to write stuff.]
Moreover, human subsistence in any particular place is not bound by the physical limit of that place, but of the globe. Fifty square miles, using present agricultural practices, will yield subsistence for only a few thousand people. Yet over three million people reside in London — and their subsistence increases as population increases. So far as the limit of subsistence is concerned, London may grow to a hundred million or five hundred million. For it draws upon the whole globe for subsistence. Its limit is the limit of the globe to furnish food for its inhabitants.
No neo-Malthusian denies that. Regardless, the Earth still has finite resources and a finite carrying capacity that varies with the level of technology.
Malthus asserted what he called positive and prudential checks. A third check comes into play with the development of intellect and increased standards of living. This is indicated by many well-known facts. The birth rate is lower among classes whose wealth has brought leisure, comfort, and a fuller life. It is higher among the poor who, though in the midst of wealth, are deprived of its advantages, and thus are reduced to an animal existence. It is also higher in new settlements.*
2.4. Refuting Chapter 9: ’Malthusian Theory “Disproved”’
The question is whether an increasing population necessarily tends to reduce wages and cause poverty. This is the same as asking whether it reduces the amount of wealth a given amount of labor can produce.
Since wages are determined by the supply and demand for labor, and we know that increasing a population will increase the supply of labor, population growth can conceivably reduce wages. Perhaps the demand for labor will also increase if the population increases, but when technological improvements greatly increase the efficiency of labor, it is theoretically possible that the demand for labor may not be able to keep up with the increasing supply of labor (assuming that the population is increasing).
I assert that a larger population can collectively produce more than a smaller one (in any given state of development).
That’s usually true, but there’s multiple problems that that argument ignores and doesn’t address. First, we have to consider the demographics of the population and the proportion of the working population, out of the total population. Cornucopians ignore that greater wealth enables longer lifespans. If there are more retired people who are living longer and not working at all (which is the case in the 21st century), then this means that the population increased, without adding additional labor to raise the carrying capacity, in proportion to the population increase. The additional labor generated from an increasing working population also probably has diminishing returns.
I assert that, other things being equal, each individual would receive greater comfort in a larger population — under an equitable distribution of wealth.
This is true. That’s why industrial societies require larger populations, and vice versa. We don’t deny any of the following examples in the chapter where greater populations are wealthier than smaller populations. However, we should recognize that their greater wealth wouldn’t be possible without technological advancements and industrialized economies. Advanced technologies and industrialization didn’t exist when Malthus wrote his 1798 essay. It’s likely that wages fall to subsistence when populations increase and the necessary technology for increasing the efficiency of labor doesn’t exist, so pointing out all those examples still doesn’t refute the fact that additional labor can have diminishing returns for a society in many cases.
Furthermore, infinite growth is impossible, whether that be for populations or for economics. Since humanity will have to decrease its population and economic growth at some point, the complexity of humanity’s technology will also have to decline as well since technological complexity depends on the scale of civilization.
The truth is, wealth can be accumulated only to a small degree. Wealth consists of the material universe transformed by labor into desirable forms. As such, it constantly tends to revert back to its original state. Some wealth will last only a few hours, others for days, months, or even a few years. But there are really very few forms of wealth that can be passed from one generation to another.
That’s one of the reasons why money exists. Money is a way to store wealth now so that it can be used later. Assuming that there is little to no inflation, money is a reliable way to pass wealth from one generation to another.
3. Why Georgism Implies EPC: The Georgist Approach To EPC
Georgism is the position that income tax, sales tax, property tax, and all other taxes should be abolished and replaced with taxes on land and natural resources (LVT and NRT), which would fund all government services. The idea is that anyone who occupies land must compensate the rest of society for the right to occupy said land, since privately owning land without compensating society for its occupation prevents everybody from being able to use it, which enables rent-seeking. There are many economic and environmental benefits to be gained for any society that implements Georgism.
Note that when we’re talking about “land” here, anything that is a naturally-occurring resource that exists in fixed supply counts as land. The economic sense of land thus includes: geographic land, natural resources, mineral deposits, forests, fish stocks, atmosphere quality, airway corridors, geostationary orbits, portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, domain names, and even a license to have a biological human child, as I shall make the case in this essay.
If we have a solid understanding of population dynamics, and we don’t want the population of our society to exceed the carrying capacity (in the interest of avoiding war, famine, and emigration), then the next step is to establish what we should want the maximum population limit of our society to be. Overpopulation can happen instantly if a sufficiently catastrophic disaster occurs, so it’s a good idea to leave some buffer space between the legal population limit that we declare and the maximum carrying capacity of our environment.
Moreover, if our society has a legal maximum population limit (LMPL), then we’ll have to regulate how many children each citizen is allowed to have, to avoid overpopulation. We can achieve this regulation by mandating that every couple that wants to have a child must obtain a reproduction license, which can be granted if a list of reasonable requirements are meant.
Since there is a fixed supply of reproduction licenses that can be distributed out to everyone who wants to have children, and acquiring the right to have a child is a necessary resource for reproduction, reproduction licenses thus constitute land (in the economic sense), by the definition given earlier. Georgist economic reasoning thus concludes that the fairest solution is to auction off the right to have a child to every member of society who wants to have a biological child. In essence, all the auction money collected from this would constitute the reproduction tax. The money collected from the auction winners would fund government expenditures, and every auction winner would be allowed to have one child for each license that they had purchased in the auction. The more children that a person wants to have, the more money they would have to bid in the auctions. Enforcing Georgist principles as part of a legal code thus generates competition. Eventually, the auction price to buy a reproduction license would settle at a stable amount of money, determined by free-market forces.
We’ve established that reproduction licenses are land, and as expected, they even function like land too. Anybody who occupies geographic land for themselves prevents everybody else from being able to occupy that land. Likewise, if there’s a fixed number of children that can be legally born each year, then every person who has a biological child is doing so at the cost of someone else not being able to have a child of their own. If we want to avoid rent-seeking and bestowing undeserved privileges to anybody who is fortunate enough to acquire land before everybody does, then we need to auction off the land. The auction revenue (land value tax and reproduction tax in this case) would fund the government’s expenditures.
So there we have it. Technically, Georgism by itself does not imply EPC because a person also needs to have a correct understanding of biology that leads them to propose legal population control limits on the society. But once both the biological and economic understanding are combined, they complement each other extremely well since both concepts deal with natural resources that exist in fixed supply and aim to increase their conservation.
3.1. The Connection Between Georgism And EPC, Stated More Concisely
Let’s restate all the premises and chain of reasoning of our argument more concisely:
- Infinite population growth is sustainable. All populations eventually reach their carrying capacities. When this happens, life becomes a zero-sum game.
- Therefore, there should a legal maximum population limit enforced by law, with some buffer space between this limit and the theoretical maximum carrying capacity of the country’s environment.
- Since this implies that people can only have a finite number of children each generation, it makes sense that there should be limits on who is having children and how many.
- This means that there would be an economic rent for anybody who decides to have X number of children. If there is a maximum number of children who can be born each year or five years or so, then anybody who decides to have a child would be doing so at the cost of other people being unable to have children of their own.
- Thus, there is sound reasoning and solid justification for auctioning off the right to have children (which constitutes a reproduction tax set by market forces) for anybody who decides to have children. The reproduction tax is equal to the economic rent to have a child.
- Since there exists: 1. genetic variation in the population, 2. competition to purchase the right to have children at the auctioning price, 3. selection resulting from the winners of the auctions and legal requirements, and 4. reproduction, all the necessary conditions for evolution have been satisfied, so evolution would take place, thus leading the genome to develop eugenic qualities. This is unlike the current world we live in where dysgenics and overpopulation are both rising due to the elimination of selectionary pressures on the human population.
- It follows that a Georgist approach to population control is the fairest and most reasonable way to impose population control on a population of humans, in the interest of avoiding overpopulation.
Since populations naturally reproduce up to the carrying capacities of their environments, the population would spend most of its time in an Evolutionarily Stable State (ESS), so there wouldn’t be any need to worry about whether or not people will have enough children up to the Legal Maximum Population Limit (LMPL). But in the event that the population is significantly lower than the carrying capacity, reproduction would not be taxed at all. Since the population of the EPC country would spend most of its time at the LMPL with marginal fluctuation from one year to the next, the population size would be very constant for many years, decades, or even centuries, assuming that the government doesn’t pass a law to change the LMPL, and no unexpected events like war occur.
3.2. Why Georgism Will Not Function Correctly Without EPC
There are three reasons why a Georgist society would eventually fail if it does not enforce EPC.
- Relying on Georgism to increase the carrying capacity would not solve overpopulation, even if it works as predicted. The additional wealth and natural resources would enable humans to increase their fertility rates, thus bringing the population back to scarcity. No political system will sustain itself without population control because overpopulation poses an existential threat to humanity.
- If a society has Georgism, but no population control, then the Iron Law of Wages still applies to the society, because evolution always selects for high-fertility people. Eventually, the population will increase that it reaches the carrying capacity once more, thus causing wages to fall to subsistence levels. Most people hate living paycheck to paycheck, so few people would view this as desirable.
- If a Citizen’s Dividend (CD) is awarded to every adult citizen, then the most fertile factions of society would collectively receive a greater percentage of the CD as their population increases faster than everyone else (e.g. the Amish). Different subgroups could abuse the CD to subsidize their genes. This would accelerate dysgenics because Georgism alone does guarantee that everybody who has children will be a productive member of society.
On the other hand, if a Georgist government enforces Eugenic Population Control, then: 1. it would prevent overpopulation, 2. wages wouldn’t fall to subsistence because the supply of labor would be limited, and 3. the society would remain stable and self-sufficient. A Citizen’s Dividend (UBI) would increase dysgenics, but enforcing EPC could prevent that from happening.
4. Why Eugenic Population Control Implies Georgism
Land speculation is a form of rent-seeking, and we will need to eliminate all forms of rent-seeking in order for EPC to select people who will create the more wealth for the rest of society to enjoy. If rent-seeking is not eliminated from society, and auction prices remain the primary factor for determining who gets to have children, then it’s possible for someone to get rich by rent-seeking and to use that money to buy many reproduction licenses. This is not what we want. If such a person is allowed to have children, then EPC would be selecting for parasitic freeloaders, not productive people who generate lots of wealth.
Georgism makes land speculation impossible, so a Georgist legal code is required for Eugenic Population Control to work correctly. Supporting EPC thus implies supporting Georgism.
5. Why This Matters
Not only do EPC and Georgism both imply each other, but it’s not possible to have one without the other. A society cannot have effective EPC without Georgism, and there cannot be lasting Georgism without having EPC. In order for a society to have EPC or Georgism, it must have both.
Georgism also solves the question of how reproduction tax rates should be set. The tax rates would be determined by market forces, with respect to the supply of the reproduction licenses1, the demand for reproduction licenses2, and the price of reproduction licenses, all of which can be displayed on a supply-and-demand curve.
This conclusion gives us more information about how we should implement both EPC and Georgism. If Georgism raises the economic prosperity while reducing the cost of living in the society, then implementing Georgism first would increase the “pull” factors that attract foreign immigrants into the Geostate, which could potentially be dysgenic. In today’s world, restricting mass immigration probably won’t gain popular support unless the populace already supports EPC, so if we value eugenics, then Georgism would ideally be implemented after enforcing a stricter immigration code, in order to protect the eugenostate’s interests.3
Fortunately, the increased dysgenics from implementing Georgism first won’t matter too much, as long as EPC is implemented soon afterwards to minimize the effects. Given how taboo it is to suggest eugenics or population control nowadays, it will probably be easier to promote Georgism into the Overton Window first since Georgism would benefit everybody, including normies. If people can understand Georgism, they may be more willing to support EPC, due to the similarities between the two that were explained in this essay.
Figure 1: Maximum Taxation With Perfectly Inelastic Supply, CC BY-SA 4.0, by Explodicle.
Figure 1 differs from the original image since the transparent background in the original image was replaced with a solid white background.
5.1. Under what conditions would the Reproduction Tax not be applied?
If EPC is enforced in a country, and the supply of reproduction licenses (the number of babies that can be born that year) is higher than the number of applicants for reproduction licenses, then there would be no tax on reproduction. In this case, the society and government want to raise the birth rates of the country, so it makes sense to not tax reproduction licenses. This is akin to how there’s no need to tax land or natural resources if there’s enough resources for everybody. There’s no tragedy of the commons if there’s plenty of resources and reproduction licenses for everyone.
If the developed world transitioned to Georgism this proposed EPC scheme, Georgism would increase the carrying capacity and the supply of reproduction licenses of the West. The West currently has below replacement fertility and a declining population, and since the supply of reproduction licenses would be higher than the demand, there would be no taxes on reproduction. Reproduction probably wouldn’t be taxed for at least a few decades, until there are more people applying for reproduction licenses than the legal supply of reproduction licenses, whatever year that starts to happen.
Reproduction licenses count as land because there would be a fixed supply of reproduction licenses.
The demand for reproduction licenses consists of: 1. how many children the entire population wants to have within a specified timeframe, and 2. how much money prospective parents are willing to pay for each reproduction license.
Generally speaking, it’s better to make any changes that would increase a society’s carrying capacity after implementing transforming a state into a eugenostate.