Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why We Don't Need Population Control: Criticisms and Responses

My article on population, originally posted as a facebook note, brought some interesting responses. The names of those who commented shall remain secret.

Comment: Very good points although I don't think it puts a focus on the Philippine context we have to acknowledge differences in cultures across countries. Yes lower population doesn't equal more wealth but don't you agree a high population that can...not be controlled by the government and cannot be provided for is a bad thing even in a economic standpoint. Lastly we have to understand simply adding to the workforce will not have a great increase to the economic pie to oversimplify this we can put this into the context of law of diminishing returns the more you add to the workforce with a limited set of capital the increase to productivity will be very small; take account of empirical data such as unemployment and poverty.

Yes I agree only through modernization of different economic sectors will the Philippines prosper but I believe we shouldn't put the burden to the gov't but to ourselves. (cause i have zero faith in the gov't :))) for what class is this???

My Response: An increased labor supply does mean lower wages. Ignoring licensing requirements, more doctors mean lower wages for all doctors. But this also means lower prices for medical services, which benefits us all. Moreover, economic value is subjective. Diamonds are not valuable because it is costly to mine them. We mine diamonds because they are valuable.

Further, there is as much demand for human labor as there are unfulfilled desires. It is a myth that jobs are limited and should be rationed by government. Primitive societies start off with agriculture and, with an increase in the population, increase in labor force. It doesn't mean they are worse off because now they can consume more as well. Eventually, the peasant farmers will move into new industries and fill demand for other services. It is a win-win situation.

If we take your assumption to be correct, then no civilization would have ever gotten out of subsistence agriculture.

Comment: the main argument for population control is the limited amount of resources we have to go about. Given your argument that production can only increase with an increase in labor input, whether manual or capital. However, you must also c...onsider the materials and resources needed for production. We may have the workforce necessary to produce 2,000,000 tonnes of food, but without the requisite resources we will not get very far. Let us take money out of the equation as money is merely an idea. All the money in the world cannot buy food when there is none to be bought.

You may argue that this threat to existence may force mankind to develop new technologies to look for resources elsewhere or to adapt biologically, thus moving us forward, but I will ask you - forward to what? It has been said that we are beings of infinite needs and wants living in a finite reality. More will only make us want more.

My Response: Let us assume you are correct. How is the RH Bill supposed to solved this problem? If having more children is advantageous to those living in rural areas, then they will not participate in the population control program. Hence, th...e RH Bill becomes another government boondoggle by creating a gigantic commission has no practical use.

Now to the main point. The law of scarcity in economics is often misunderstood. Mankind was more of a burden to nature 2000 years ago because they did not know how to transform nature-given goods efficiently. Cattle were hunted down and were replenished only by nature, unlike now with cattle farms that replenish the supply of cattle faster. Whereas it took 200 hectares of land to produce 200 tonnes of food before, now it only takes a tiny fraction of land to do that.

Also, the economically usable supply of resources today is far greater than that 1000 years ago because of technology. We can now mine in areas where it would be impossible to mine 100 years ago. And the economically usable supply of goods today is still a tiny fraction of nature's raw contribution since we are unable to mine in asteroids and stuff.

Yes, we do have infinite desires but that is the reason money and prices exist to help us decide what is best. If money and prices disappeared tomorrow, then no consumer goods will be left after a week and after several months, 90% of humanity will die off.

The price system, even in its debilitated state today, by guiding the activities of 6 billion people in an economically rational way, supports life.

Comment: Wait a second. Are you talking about "House Bill No. 5043 (Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008)"?

Have you read it? There is nothing there about population control measures (at least in the way that you hint at). It is... about access to information and services related to reproductive health.

Setting aside the idea of needing more laws in the first place, what exactly is wrong with allowing people access to something?

My Response
: There are many reasons and it is indeed coercive in the same way as SSS and PhilHealth are. I'm surprised, I thought your siding with me on this issue.

1. Unnecessary (read article above)
2. Creates massive bureaucracy
3. No Certificate of Compliance, no marriage license(Sec 14)
4. Forces employer to pay (Sec 17)
5. Affirmative action law (I think you know how this works out) (Sec 17)

Statist Superstition

The typical statist believes:

- that government can suddenly change for the better despite deeply embedded financial interests
- that government is our friend and can give us free stuff that only the state can produce
- that 'we' are really the government and we don't have to worry about abuse since 'we' can change it the next election
- that government bureaucrats carry within them both the tacit knowledge and calculative ability necessary to allocate resources to their best uses
- that taxation is what we pay for to live in a civilized society (why not raise taxes more so we be more civilized?)
- that we have no natural rights which stem from our creator but only those signed into law by high-powered strangers
- that individuals can be greedy and evil and have to be monitored but once they enter into government they suddenly turn into virtuous and selfless men
- that politics is a sane and necessary part of society and NOT a brutal circus activity
- that politicians are NOT psychotherapeautically suspect
- that political campaigns can be worthwhile to pay attention to and are NOT the longest running bullshit marathon in history
- that congressmen, whose average net worth is 30 M (in 2001) actually gives a shit about the poor
- that politicians can be honest when an insignificant percentage of campaign promises in the history of politics were actually fulfilled
- that political parties reflect the differing opinions and ideologies of the populace instead of advocating a fundamentally statist agenda
- that the system that we live in is moral
- that the Philippines is a capitalist country instead of a statist one
- that democracy is the best form of government
- that voting works
- that capitalism is evil

What Bastiat Can Teach Us About Typhoon Juan

The Philippine Government has patted itself in the back for their ‘good’ performance in handling typhoon Juan. It is as if the government help is gratuitous and does not or did not incur any cost to the public when in fact paying taxes is an enormous cost to the public. The government also makes everyone less prepared and less responsible by promising security and stability. The standards by which they judge their own performance must also be questioned since the government is such a big and powerful organization. So before concluding ad hoc that the government ‘did well’ in managing typhoon Juan, it is helpful to consider the unseen effects of government interventionism.

Taxes on private capital – As illustrated in the Haiti earthquake, wealthier and more civilized societies are better able to defend against natural disasters than poorer societies because of better infrastructure, sturdier housing, higher quality medical care and technical expertise. All of these come from capital accumulation, therefore taxes on private capital remove individuals’ ability to defend against natural disasters.

Government mandated monopolization of electricity and water – Water and electricity companies that are not pressured by competition in the market are inefficient. In the event of a strong typhoon, having water and electricity could be a matter of life and death.

Building codes – To quote economist Robert Murphy,

“It’s more expensive to construct a building that can withstand an intense earthquake. Imposing US building codes in Haiti wouldn’t have saved hundreds of thousands of people; it would simply have made them homeless all these years.”

Same applies to Typhoon Juan

Relocation of informal settlers – The Philippine government relocates informal settlers near riverbanks and waterways and sites affected by government. These relocation programs are limited to land acquisition for the informal settler and do not account for the long term hence resulting in disaster. It is estimated that 700,000 of the 5 million informal settlers within Metro Manila live in danger zones. The poor who would rather live near where they go to work are forced to live in far off areas. One security guard and his family were relocated far from city where the security guard works and his children go to school. To make ends meet, the security guard now lives in a worker’s barracks to be close to work and only meets his family only twice a month. Most of the times, the relocation sites make the poor worse off because of the lack of jobs in the vicinity.

Zoning laws raise the cost of living, create sprawl, inhibit community building, and restrict small businesses - With zoning laws in place, the government mandates how plots of land are to be developed, not the individual. It creates inefficiency and attracts corruption. Land that might be better used for commercial purposes are classified as residential land hence making the price of commercial real estate higher than what it would have been. Local community-building is hampered since commercial interactions between neighbors are less likely to occur. If there were no zoning laws, then one probably wouldn’t need to drive downtown to go to a coffee shop or grocery store, there would be small coffee shops and grocery stores in the neighborhood. Zoning laws can be viewed as another barrier to entry in starting a business since one is limited in planning a good location. It is no doubt that zoning laws have negative effects on the poor. More on zoning here.

NFA uselessness – The National Food Authority is a totally useless organization that has wasted a huge amount of food stocks. Some facts gathered here:

- NFA has incurred a debt of Php 171.6 billion
- It costs them P5 for to give P1 of subsidy according the the Finance Secretary Purisima
- World Bank study estimates that only 27 percent of the poor have been fed by the NFA. Most of the subsidies have gone to people who did not need it or allegedly the wallets of enterprising NFA employees.
- In 2004, for instance, NFA bought 900,000 metric tons of rice as against the need of only 117,000 metric tons. Three years later, NFA again imported 1.827 million metric tons of rice against the need of just 589,000 metric tons.

Government, as Frederick Bastiat noted, is an institution which takes from us. Unfortunately, this idea is lost on most people who believe government is there to give free education, free health care, etc. The cost side of the equation must always be considered.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Immorality in US Public Health System

So much for the humane institution of public health. It so happens that the US government has been secretly conducting inhuman medical experiments on 696 helpless mentally ill Guatemalans, infecting them with syphilis without their consent. The mentality ill prisoners were infected by the drug in sometimes cowardly and despicable fashion by sending prostitutes into jail cells.

40 similar experiments were done in what is known as the 'dark chapter in American medical research' according to the yahoo article.

It is so easy for the likes of Hillary Clinton to apologize decades after the brutal crime happened and to a basket-case of a nation. It makes them appear like the kindhearted and wise overlords that they wipe their asses to look like. But of course this is just to feed their gigantic egos. If they were really sorry about the actions of the government in the past then they would have already quit and gotten a real job.

And what of the promise that there will no longer be such abuses because of stricter regulations? We must always view government as a monopoly firm. If one department of a firm --- say its health care department --- committed abuses and the corporation promised to impose regulations on its own department, would that be a reliable assurance? Of course not. Likewise, a government that self-regulates itself cannot assure that it will not commit such abuses again, especially when (unlike private business) they suffer no losses by doing so.