Too Many Kids?

Does religion cause poverty? To hear the critics talk, you might think so. Consider, for example, the coverage given to the Pope's visit to Denver. Several journalists stated flat-out that religious opposition to contraception and abortion threatens the world with overpopulation and mass starvation. Washington Post columnist Judy Mann wrote that the homeless children dying in the Third World are the result of the church's "unthinking pro-family policies." Syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer warned darkly that church teachings could "lead to the death of us all." The premise here is that children cause poverty-that the more children a nation has, the poorer it will be. But that just isn't true. If you look around the globe, the pattern is precisely the opposite. Most rich countries have high population densities: Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands. Famine and poverty are much more common in sparsely populated countries, like Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan. You see, the population scaremongers are operating on a faulty philosophy. They see every child as a mouth to feed-nothing more. In their thinking, every time a child is born, we all end up with a smaller slice of the pie. But this is incredibly shortsighted. As children grow older they don't just eat pies, they bake new ones. They add to society's pool of labor and creativity. It is primarily human capital that determines whether a nation is rich or poor. Human capital comes up with better ways to grow food-so that today only 3 percent of the American work force grows enough food for the entire nation. Human capital develops new ways to locate natural resources. Since 1950 the known reserves of iron have increased more than 1,000 percent, as we have developed better ways to locate and extract it. Human capital finds new ways to be productive with old resources. The silicon in a computer chip is made from sand. Who would have thought that ordinary sand would support the most advanced technologies? The upshot is that as populations grow, the potential for wealth actually increases. More people make possible more human capital-especially when coupled with a Christian work ethic of honesty, thrift, and hard work. This explains why, as Cal Beisner says in his book Prosperity and Poverty, the Western nations with a long history of wealth are also the nations with a long history of Christian belief. So let's have an answer ready for the next blast from the population scaremongers. People aren't the cause of poverty. The real cause is sin and oppression. In today's world, the number one cause of hunger is war, followed closely by political corruption and centralized economic control. Political leaders don't want to admit that their own misguided policies are holding people down, so they scapegoat families for having more children than the prescribed number. They chastise the church for welcoming children as gifts of God. They call on government to seize control of the economy. Leaders who respond this way don't seem to realize that what they're doing will only suppress their nation's human capital-in the end creating more poverty. . . and bringing their own fears down on their heads.  


Chuck Colson


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