An Open Response to: “Should America Have a One-Child Policy?”

no-babyLast Tuesday, the Washington Times published an article by Joseph Cotto entitled, “Overpopulation: Should America have a one-child policy?” Despite the provocative title, the article does not present a stimulating thought-experiment, but rather a series of half-truths and inconsistencies with dangerous implications.

Because such half-truths have been at the ideological root of every forced abortion this century, we at Population Research Institute drew up a list of the claims made in the article—and countered them with facts to expose their fallacies.

Claim 1: Cotto commences his article by citing Michael Arth, a controversial gubernatorial candidate who advocated the imposition of birth credits. Arth argued that although human innovation often “increases under pressure,” the pressure which inspires it is worse than the innovation itself. The article cites, “One of the most innovative periods of human history was WWII…However, we also had the wholesale destruction of cities, untold suffering and the massacre of at least 60 million people.”

Reply: World War II was indeed a period of both ingenuity as well as suffering. However, Mr. Joseph Cotto confuses correlation with causation. Ingenuity and suffering are not inextricably related. There have been periods of misery without ingenuity, and periods of ingenuity without suffering. For instance, the Silicon Valley technology boom of the 1990s did not produce “misery and sorrow for the sake of innovation.”

Claim 2: “The human misery created by overpopulation is comparable to war and one of the main reasons for war. Nazi foreign policy, for example, was based on the need for ‘Lebensraum,’ living space that would support Germany’s growing population.”

Reply: Joseph Cotto again presents another half-truth. Yes, Hitler touted “overpopulation” as a justification for his aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. Germany was not actually overpopulated at the time, however, but Hitler used the spectre of overpopulation to provide a justification for his horrific human rights abuses and eugenic policies. Such has been the historical use of the myth of overpopulation: from China’s forced abortions to the sterilization of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel, it has been wielded as a weapon of control


Claim 3:  “We are far exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet.”

Reply: The world currently produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, and there are only 7 billion of people.[1] That is, with 7 billion human minds at work, we produce enough food for 10 billion human bodies. Imagine how much food we could produce with 10 billion minds! According to the World Education Service, “World agriculture produces 17% more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago.. . . This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day.”

Claim 4:  “The U.S. population grew by 22.5% from 1990-2010. That is the highest growth rate in the industrialized world. By comparison. . . Japan only grew by 4.7% in the same period.”

Reply: Yes, the U.S. population grew at a rate of about 1% per year during the twenty year period between 1990 and 2010. However, the U.S. does not have the highest growth rate in the industrialized world. Australia, Albania, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, and New Zealand all have higher rates of natural population increase (growth without immigration or emigration).[2] Quick! Impose a one-child policy. . . Iceland is about to be over-populated!

A further word about Japan: Japan has had below-replacement fertility since 1955, and now that their larger, higher fertility generations are dying from old age, Japan is shrinking.[3] Japan has had negative growth rate since 2009, and their population is already shrinking by over 100,000 people per year.[4] As the Japanese population continues to age, they will shrink faster and faster each year. Academics at Tohoku University have created a clock counting down to the day when Japan will have one only child: Japan is not a model for demographic health.


Claim 5:  “The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of American women has been at or below the replacement level (2.1) for 4 decades. This means that if the net immigration were zero, or even below a few hundred annually, the US population would stop growing in a matter of decades. What keeps our population growing very rapidly and unsustainably is net immigration.”

Reply: Mr. Joseph Cotto is correct on this point. American fertility has been at or below replacement level since 1970, and without immigration, the US population would soon shrink. Immigration has accounted for anywhere from one-half to one-quarter of American population growth for decades, and this doesn’t even account for the higher fertility of immigrants.[4] In addition to bolstering the U.S. population, first-generation immigrants have higher fertility rates than natural-born citizens.

If Mr. Cotto were really concerned with the “overpopulation” of the U.S., then arguing for stringent anti-immigration laws would be a simpler solution than his proposed “birth license plan.” In fact, Joseph Cotto quotes the executive director of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) in his article as “the foremost group addressing overpopulation,” who, without debate, are passionately anti-immigration. According to the CAPS website, the U.S. should stop immigration by “saying ‘NO’ to amnesties” and “end[ing] ‘birthright citizenship.’”

We at PRI do not argue for expelling those with higher fertility, denying entrance to those who need amnesty, nor for preventing the reproduction of those whom the government deems “unfit.”

Historically, such ideologies have been responsible for more atrocities than betterments. Nor is the historical scoreboard the mere result of badly implemented policies; any policy rooted in lies and distortions can never produce good fruit. We at PRI fight against coercive population control, because we believe in human dignity and ingenuity.


[1] Holt-Giménez, Eric, et al. “We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People… and Still Can’t End Hunger.” Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 36.6 (2012): 595-598.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau

[3] United Nations World Population Prospects

[4] U.S. Census Bureau

This article is courtesy of the Population Research Council.