Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Birth control and the natural regulation of population

Socialism: Part II,Ch.10 in paragraph II.10.9
Without coercive regulation of the growth of population, a socialist community is inconceivable. A socialist community must be in a position to prevent the size of the population from mounting above or falling below certain definite limits. It must attempt to maintain the population always at that optimal number which allows the maximum production per head. Equally with any other order of society it must regard both under- and over-population as an evil. And since in it those motives, which in a society based on private ownership of the means of production harmonize the number of births with the limitations of the means of subsistence, would not exist, it will be obliged to regulate the matter itself. How it will accomplish this need not be here discussed. Nor is it relevant to our purpose to inquire whether its measures will serve eugenic or ethnological ideas. But it is certain that even if a socialist community may bring "free love," it can in no way bring free birth. The right to existence of every person born can be said to exist only when undesirable births can be prevented. In the socialist community as in any other, there will be those for whom "at the great banquet of Nature no place has been laid" and to whom the order must be given to withdraw themselves as soon as may be. No indignation that these words of Malthus may arouse can alter this fact.

Part II,Ch.10 in paragraph II.10.8
A third group of writers content themselves with the reflection that with the spread of civilization and rational living, with the increase of wealth and the desire for a higher standard of life, the growth of population is slackening. But this is to overlook the fact that the birth-rate does not fall because the standard of life is higher but only because of "moral restraint," and that the incentive to the individual to refrain from procreation disappears the moment it is possible to have a family without economic sacrifice because the children are maintained by society. This is fundamentally the same error that entrapped Godwin when he thought that there was "a principle in human society" which kept the population permanently within the limits set by the means of subsistence. Malthus exhibited the nature of this mysterious "principle."*86