11/22/2013 05:39 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

A New One Child Policy

When China's Communist Party announced it will loosen its one child policy to help its economy continue to grow, I thought it was a wise move.

But not for the economy. Or for growth. In fact, I believe one child is the ideal number of children to have and that it is vital to lower family sizes around the world, including the United States.

I am against forcing anyone to have only one child, which is what China's coercive policy did. In the end, coercion does not change deeply engrained cultural and biological norms, and China's draconian measures to reduces its birth rate are no exception: even though population growth did slow and famine was averted, the unintended consequences were enormous.

In patriarchal China, girls are considered a burden on the family, as they do not bring in an income - they get married off and thus are not around to take care of their parents in old age. With only one child allowed, if a fetus was female, she was either aborted early, or abandoned or killed at birth, allowing the couple to try for a boy. There is now a large imbalance to the ratio of males to females in China: 118 boys for every 100 girls (the world average is 105 males to 100 females at birth).

Reducing family size can be done more effectively by educating girls, empowering women and encouraging birth control. A social security net for the aged and a society that embraces small families with incentives like tax deductions helps mitigate our biological imperative to procreate.

Allowing more couples to have 2 children so that the Chinese economy will continue to flourish is forgetting the scary truth that China has 1.3 billion citizens to house and feed, with now more on the way. When it comes to natural resources, China is rapidly depleting them.
China needs to prioritize quality of life over economic boons. Putting GDP first means a country full of busy factory workers- but with no water, food or clean air.

400 million births and untold suffering from famine was avoided due to the one child policy, but the Chinese government still has to buy up land all over the world to grow food for its people, like the recent purchase of a swathe of Ukrainian farmland the size of Belgium.

China has the third largest coal reserves in the world, but it is also the world's largest coal importer. It is consequently the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
China has 20% of the world's population, but only 7% of its water. 700 million Chinese in the more arid north live with "absolute water scarcity" according to the water stress index.

The draconian Chinese one child policy has put a 30 year black eye on the movement to stabilize the world population in a democratic, consensual manner. Its legacy must not sully the importance of keeping families small.

I wish for a world where humans recognize the benefits of choosing to have fewer kids. I hope all parents see that having one boy or one girl can be perfect. Governments can help by having a social security system that frees parents from financially relying on their children in old age. A young couple often has up to 4 parents and 8 grandparents to worry about, with no siblings to help.

There will be economic and social adjustments as human population stabilizes, but the temporary challenges of a decreasing, aging population are nothing compared to the finality of running out of water and arable land.

Capitalism demands growth to survive: more consumers buying more products means a country is "doing well", no matter how dirty the air, scarce the groundwater and crowded the land. This financial model is dangerous and any sane person knows we cannot keep adding more people rapaciously using up more resources simply to keep a man made construct like capitalism alive.

Let's continue to encourage one child families around the world, but without the coercion.