1990s >> 1990 >> no-1035-november-1990

Myth of Overpopulation

According to T. A. Pahl. in a letter in the Johannesburg Star (27 February) under the heading ‘Villain is high birthrate’, “irresponsible black birthrate” is the cause of poverty, hunger disease, housing problems. unemployment, etc. This racist version of discredited Malthusianism is just as false as it was originally, in 1798.

Of course, no proof is offered, nor is possible. for this miserable doctrine. On the other hand, according to Dr Org Marais. Deputy Minister of Finance: “About 1.7 percent of the total tax-paying public pays 73 percent of the country’s tax” (Star, 16 February). The Receiver of Revenue has also shown that about one-third of workers in this country do not earn enough to be liable for any Income Tax.

Housing? “Blacks earn too little to qualify for home loans”, reported Norman Chandler “. . . 91 percent of blacks could not afford the R800 a month minimum requirements of the Urban Foundation. Banks and Building Societies, while 83 percent were unable to meet the Housing Trust’s £600 a month minimum requirement” (Star 22 November 1989). Most whites face similar problems.

The bottom line is that capitalism is responsible for all the miseries of, and linked with, poverty, while apartheid has concentrated them on blacks, in this country. Not overpopulation, but the chronic and often planned underproduction of food for the market, with access limited to what people can afford, is the cause of those social sores. Only with the establishment of real socialism/communism, with production and distribution solely for direct consumption, can humanity start to end the menace of starvation for millions.

As long as the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the capitalist class, privately or through the state, the workers will continue to make wealth for the rich to enjoy and the producers will remain in servile poverty. In fact, poverty in underdeveloped regions promotes population growth, while in Europe a negative birthrate is worrying governments and employers.

In any case, the main point is: can this world sustain present and future populations, expanding or contracting? Again, let the Star reply: “Every demographer knows that world resources are easily capable of supporting a population many times its present size” (‘The Other Ethics of Birth-Control’. 22 July 1976).

What a cruel joke: blaming the productive majority, the poor, for their poverty. In any case, proliferation of the poor can hardly threaten available resources: their buying powers do not expand in proportion to their numbers. The facts are readily available in such works as ‘The Legacy of Malthus’ by Allan Chase (University of Illinois Press, 1980) and ‘The Economic History of World Population’ by Carlo M. Cipolla (Penguin Books, 1970).

Alec Hart

Leave a Reply