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The American Anti-Renaissance: Overpopulation and a Declining National Dream

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When speaking about the increasingly dire conditions of American society, the first thing that virtually anyone will likely bring up is the economy. More often than not, politics follows in a summary fashion. For a great deal of people, religion is never far behind. As this last topic is intertwined with morality, and therefore translates into political and economic matters, it is frequently regarded as the crux of any given micro- or macro-level social concern. This is one way of looking at things, to be sure, but does it allow for a snapshot encompassing the social landscape’s entirety? I would say not. What does, then?

The study of sociology has always been of immense interest and importance to me. It can provide for the opportunity to view a nation, culture, or common group from a balanced and rational perspective. Through the sociological lens, I enjoy examining the various aspects of any given country. Whether these be financial, militaristic, ethnic, or historical in nature, a great deal can be learned from them. This is why it is surprising that one glaring recurrence regarding human development is largely overlooked or denied outright by many in contemporary America. It is the simple fact that nations with larger populations tend to be more impoverished, with negatively correlating rates of healthcare access and educational opportunities.

Unfortunately, despite being a solidly first world superpower, the United States is no exception to this rule. It stands as the third most populous country on Earth, coming in only behind China and India. During the twentieth century, it did not double, or even triple, but quadrupled in size. Should this trend continue over the course of the twenty-first century, America will be home to more than one billion people by its end. The results of this demographic explosion are readily apparent: low wage and high unemployment rates, public school systems with almost comic student to teacher ratios, and government assistance programs so heavily utilized that severe cuts are often needed to sustain them.

Considering all three of these points is essential should the damage waged by overpopulation be fully considered. First, high population tallies and subpar salaries are intrinsically linked. This is evidenced by low income countries being home to the highest birthrates, despite economic prospects in said areas being next to nil. Needless to say, such a harsh reality gives way to soaring unemployment statistics. These standards apply to the United States without pause; in its poorer regions, conditions that might be described as “third world” can be found all too easily. Specifically on the American front, overpopulation has resulted in there being a crucial job deficit and applicant surplus. In the past, this has mainly impacted blue collar workers, though the ongoing recession has brought traditionally secure white collar individuals into the fray.

In public schools, children are supposed to be met with an environment in which they can home in on their unique interests, become aware of domestic and global concerns alike, and hopefully build a path toward a career of some kind. While this is American education in theory, what plays out in practice bears almost no resemblance. Because of unparalleled population increases, eight percent of schools exceed their respective capacities by more than twenty-five percent. One third conduct classes in portable classrooms, and one fifth are actually forced to turn congregation halls such as gymnasiums into makeshift environments for learning of a decidedly non-physical educational nature. Making these problems exponentially worse is that various school districts are now considering building structures on hazardous grounds, such as near highly polluting industrial centers.

Public assistance is an eminently sore subject. It is exploited almost as an art form by partisans on the political left and right alike. However, looking at the subject in an objective manner, it becomes obvious that there are certain distinguishable trends, and they pertain to generational poverty. According to an interactive map published by The New York Times detailing the recipients of government benefits from fiscal years 1969 to 2009, certain counties steadily increased in their rates of said benefits. Unsurprisingly, many of these were never in great financial shape to begin with, but as time wore on, they became increasingly destitute. One can blame this on the gross outsourcing of employment opportunities, but by and large population rates rose in spite of this. Essentially, new generations have been born which find living off various public sector subsidies to be a career in itself. As this subset continues to grow, no doubt spurred by a local culture that does not value personal achievement, the problems it lends to society can do nothing but perpetuate.

With all of these crises, and far too many more to mention here, pushing ahead at full speed, some might ask what can be done to curb overpopulation. Since the latter half of the twentieth century, various municipal, state, and federal government agencies have devoted resources to reproductive health services such as birth control, prophylactics, sterilizations, and sexual education programs. Interestingly enough, a strong education is exactly what drives down birthrates; especially among those who would otherwise be in poverty. Of course, not everyone wants so much as a high school diploma; therefore, this cannot be mandated or expected of all. In any case, promoting messages of personal responsibility and informing youths about the staggering cost of parenthood, currently averaging out at $226,920 from cradle to graduation, should serve as highly effective reality checks.

In order to survive, every country needs to have a certain amount of its populace reproduce. However, the indescribably important act of bringing another person into this world should be done on a reasonable basis, not as the result of purely emotional drives. In my opinion, motherhood or fatherhood deserves to be thought of as a career in its own right, not merely a complement to an existing lifestyle. Should more people go about viewing the idea of having children in this way, and place the greatest focus on personal productivity, then America’s overpopulation crisis will go a long way toward being solved. There are other things that should be done, such as drastically revising immigration rules and reconsidering trade policies, but placing mind over matter is an excellent start. If these pivotal steps were to be taken, then America might stand the chance for a spectacular socioeconomic renaissance.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Joseph,

    Interesting article. I really only scanned your article on my first pass but I heard a report this morning that reminded me to give it a proper read. Here is the report and its relevance is self evident.

    At the moment, I am no more interested that you (based on article) in getting mired in an immigration debate.

    I think that it is reasonable worry about the population growth in this country. I do wonder, though, about the linearity of correlation expressed in this comment:

    “It is the simple fact that nations with larger populations tend to be more impoverished, with negatively correlating rates of healthcare access and educational opportunities.”

    This comment feels a bit hyperbolic and misleading. According to the World Bank, 2011 per capita/GDP ranking put US at #14, China at #99 and India at #138.

    Cheers

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    I agree – Joseph had the wrong correlation, almost directly backwards, since the greater the level of poverty, generally speaking, the greater the rate of population growth. Or, to put it more crudely, people with less money find different ways to enjoy themselves e.g. no X-Box (or any means of modern amusement) means more sex.

    But the greater the standard of living, the lower the birth rate.

  • http://frivolousdisorder.com/ Frivolous D (Andrew Ratzsch)

    Glenn, put like that, for the first time in my life, I’m worried that I make too much money.

  • Igor

    As many have pointed out in the past, the USA is not overpopulated nor is it in danger of becoming overpopulated. Contrary to my personal preferences, many more people can be accommodated on this pleasant and fruitful continent than the 300million who live here now.

    Thus, immigrants will be attracted from less fortunate climes and we can expect great population growth.

    But as that happens we must increase people-services, education, agricultural services, energy, etc. We also need more stable financial systems, Universal Healthcare, etc.

    The private sector cannot and will not do the job. The most successful providers of services is the government. The private sector has failed to handle big jobs and has shown itself only capable of doing little jobs under sub-contract to the government.

    We need to change our economic/government system to one that takes direction from the voter pool and employs sub-contracts to competing private entrepeneurs to carry out the details of production and employment.