In an oblique plug for an abortion ban, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., advocates runaway population growth as a solution to job creation. Regardless of the merits of abortion, Goodlatte's cheerleading stance on demographics reflects a detachment from reality, a syndrome unfortunately all too commonplace in Congress. His gross miscalculation of population growth's economic ramifications involves an even more glaring oversight. He neglects the threat of a burgeoning population overwhelming the carrying capacity of the natural resource base on which we all depend.
At a recent hearing on proposed Republican legislation to reduce access to abortion, the pro-life Goodlatte sought to make an economic argument for passage of the bill. Here were his words of wisdom: "It is very true that having a growing population and having new children brought into the world is not harmful to job creation. On the contrary, it very much promotes job creation for all the care and services and so on that need to be provided by a lot of people to raise children."
His inference that a reduction in abortions would lead to a job bonanza has major flaws. Denying women access to abortion might generate some additional jobs alright, but at cross purposes from Goodlatte's conservative ideology. Many unintended, unwanted, or medically ill-advised pregnancies that would come to term rather than be aborted would most likely end up in need of a social safety net. That would undoubtedly produce some new jobs for the public sector, which runs counter to the agenda of Goodlatte's partisan ideology -- namely to reduce the size of government.
If we are just talking about the pure economics of population policy, the Guttmacher Institute points out that every dollar invested in family planning results in five dollars in savings for the federal government.
Last but certainly not least, Goodlatte's "more the merrier" attitude towards demographics flies in the face of a crucial requirement for environmental and economic sustainability -- namely population stabilization. Attainment of that goal necessitates an overall average birth rate of two children per family.
Why is getting a handle on population growth so crucial?
Increases in food production have not kept pace with population growth (an estimated 360,000 babies are born every day).
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, per capita production of basic food stuffs (cereal grains) has been in decline since 1984, a grim statistic when more than a third of the world's population is suffering from varying degrees of malnutrition.
Humanity is using fresh water faster than nature can replace it, and because of climate change and rapid population growth, global per capita water availability is projected to decline by half by 2050.
A final reality check for Goodlatte is society's current inability to generate enough new jobs to accommodate the flood of young people each year entering the workforce for the first time.
For those worried about the economy, stabilizing population will give job creation time to catch up.