Population Bomb Epic Fail, Part 2

Steven Den Beste and a number of other commenters anticipated much of my second planned installment about the arrival of the 7 billionth human being tomorrow, noting that the issue is irrelevant to the Left: all that matters to the Left is gaining power.  Any issue will do.

But it is hard to credit the Left even with good intentions when you see how quickly the institutions they set up become corrupt, vindicating Orwell’s analysis of the true character of the Left, or perhaps Eric Hoffer’s famous axiom about “true believers,” namely, “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”  Both population then, and global warming now, quickly degenerated to the full-on racket stage.

Matthew Connelly’s great book, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population, describes in detail what nauseating people gathered around the population control banner:

Divided from within and besieged from without, leaders created a “system without a brain,” setting in motion agencies and processes that could not be stopped. The idea of a “population crisis” provided the catalyst. But this was a system that ran on money. Earmarked appropriations greased the wheels of balky bureaucracies, and lavish funding was the fuel that drove it forward. But so much poured in so fast that spending became an end unto itself. The pressure to scale up and show results transformed organizations ostensibly dedicated to helping people plan their families into tools for social engineering…. Rather than accept constraints or accountability, they preferred to let population control go out of control. (Emphasis added.)

Corruption extended on a personal level to the New Class directing these world-saving crusades, what Connelly calls “the new jet set of population experts.”

The lifestyle of the leaders of the population control establishment reflected the power of an idea whose time had come as well as the influence of the institutions that were now backing it…. Alan Guttmacher was in the habit of beginning letters to the Planned Parenthood membership with comments like “This is written 31,000 feet aloft as I fly from Rio to New York.” He insisted on traveling with his wife, first class, with the IPPF picking up the tab. Ford [Foundation] officials flew first class with their spouses as a matter of policy. One wonders why Douglas Ensminger [the Ford Foundation's India officer] ever left his residence in Dehli—he was served by a household staff of nine, including maids, cooks, gardeners, and chauffeurs. He titled this part of his oral history “The ‘Little People’ of India.” Ensminger insisted on the need to pay top dollar and provide a plush lifestyle to attract the best talent, even if the consultants he recruited seemed preoccupied with their perks. One of these strivers ran his two-year old American sedan without oil just so that the Ford Foundation would have to replace it with the latest model….

For population experts this was the beginning of constantly expanding opportunities. The budgets, the staff, the access were all increasing even more quickly than the population growth their programs were meant to stop. There was “something in it for everyone,” Population Association of America President John Kantner later recalled:

“the activist, the scholar, the foundation officer, the globe-circling consultant, the wait-listed government official. World Conferences, a Population Year, commissions, select committees, new centers for research and training, a growing supply of experts, pronouncements by world leaders, and, most of all, money—lots of it.”

With so much money at stake, and with so many careers staked to the catastrophic scenario, one could predict that the entire apparatus would be resistant to new information and reasonable criticism. This is exactly what happened in the population crusade. When compelling critics of the population bomb thesis arose—people who might be called “skeptics,” such as Julian Simon—the population campaign reacted by circling the wagons and demonizing its critics, just as global warming skeptics today are subjected to relentless ad hominem attacks. Connelly again:

Leaders of the population control movement responded…by defending their record and fighting back. They lined up heads of state, major corporations, and international organizations behind a global strategy to slow population growth. But they also worked more quietly to insulate their projects from political opposition by co-opting or marginalizing critics, strengthening transnational networks, and establishing more free-standing institutions exempt from normal government oversight.

This is exactly the playbook of the climate campaign today. Nevertheless, it is likely to follow the same trajectory as the population control movement—gradual decline in salience to the point that even the United Nations, in the early 1990s, officially downgraded the priority of the population issue.

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