Some responses to my recent column, “Who can solve the poverty problem” argued that only population control holds the key to the solution — in other words, prevent the poor from having more children. Liars and crooks in government are truly our scourge as a nation, but more baneful yet are those who can so readily rein in on the human right to procreate and bring forth life, as though prescribing an antibiotic to fight infectious bacteria.
Someone who arrogates a human being’s right to be born is like investing anew in Lucifer and giving the fallen angel a second crack at assaulting the gift and right of procreation. Adolf Hitler’s solution was a variant of this, it was called genocide.
Of all the wrong reasons used to support the idea of population control, the most fallacious of all is the claim that it solves the poverty problem. We may perhaps extend some consideration for population rationalization or management within the context of dispersing density in order to suit natural resources, food sources, social services and so forth.
With 12 million residents, Metro Manila is suitable only for a population of 6 to 7 million. Thus, it comes as no surprise that we have such problems with traffic, housing, transportation, social services and so forth. Population rationalization would mean encouraging Metro Manila residents to relocate to areas already enjoying economic prosperity.
In this case, the solution to population density was not to prescribe who should not be born. Rather, the right solution was crafted — to create more economic zones that will attract the surplus population.
However, population control that is aimed primarily at eradicating poverty calls for depriving those already deprived of education and opportunity of their right to procreate. In this context, population control becomes selectively biased towards those who have the means to have more children. Somehow, I think this is one twisted way of applying Hitler’s formula — you don’t have to gas them like Hitler did, just don’t allow them to procreate.
The issue is a moral and an ethical one. Nobody has the right to prescribe who has the right to life. Neither socio-economic stature nor educational attainment justifies one man to have the right to deprive another from the right to live or the right to be born.
We know that the moneyed elite, no more than 10% of our population, controls over 85% of the nation’s wealth and resources. Because of them, the great majority must endure being run by laws and policies that cater only to the rich and seeks only to preserve the unjust status quo. If there is one socio-economic class that ought to be depopulated, it must the cause of the problem and not the victims.
Even if we are successful in curbing our population by half — to say, 40 million, we will still be stuck with the same poverty problem. The situation will not change for as long as the mechanisms and dynamics of an oppressive system remain in place. We will still be running under the same equation of less than 10% holding over 85% of the whole wealth pie.
Mahatma Gandhi had the appropriate words for it: “The world has enough for every man’s needs but not enough for every man’s greed.”
Greed pushes people to want more than they need. Theoretically, left unrestrained, 84 million Filipinos will want P100 million delivered in their bank accounts, despite knowing that the economy cannot possibly produce that amount.
But if we did not have this system that concentrates the bulk of our national wealth to no more than 10% of Filipinos, then it is more realistic to aspire for an economy where each and every Filipino shall have at least P240,000 a year for every family’s needs.
The best example that disproves this population control fallacy is Japan. Japan has a population of over 125 million and has very little natural resources compared to the Philippines. And yet, Japan’s solidly middle class and egalitarian society has not known the kind of poverty incidence we have. East Timor on the other hand has a much smaller population compared to ours. But I don’t think a poor Filipino would want to relocate there.
What many fail to recognize is that the wealth gap is created by three other gaps — the information, education and opportunity gaps. Many Filipinos are poor because of the effects of these three other gaps. Information and education form the even more basic values gap which I often discuss in this column.
All these gaps underscore the lopsided distribution of wealth and resources and so solving the problem has nothing to do with population control but enforcing a more equitable socio-economic system.
Following the logic of population control advocates, if there were no jobs overseas, our overseas foreign workers (OFWs) should not have been given the right to life. But we know now that such is outrageously fallacious. In fact, it is owing to OFW remittances that our economy is afloat today despite the control of oligarchs.
Clearly, population size is not what causes poverty. A big productive population is what makes a superpower. A big underproductive population is what makes us a basket case of a country.
It’s high time we Filipinos look at the real issues and reasons for the many problems we have. Unless we can do that, we do not stand a good chance of arriving at the right solutions.