Usually differing opinion should be met with reasoned debate… but sometimes they should be met with statements like “if your side ever managed to get that into law, my response would be to urge people to start shooting at anyone who supports that position”. The notion that state action must be used to reduce the population of this planet falls well into that category for me and so when I see an ‘ethicist’ writing about his reaction to this subject, moreover in the context of him having a child, it does make me wonder what sort of thing different people regard as the final line beyond which they stop talking and reach for the rifle or the semtex.
One reader of my blog last week asserted that “the human population could do with a good 25% knocked out.”
He goes on to suggest that we should: “restrict every woman to a single pregnancy, once she has had that then sterilize her, restrict every man to causing a single pregnancy, after that castrate him, stop ALL forms of artificial preganancy (test tube etc.) This way we will reduce the population – and quite quickly.”
Strong stuff! But it is certainly true that for the last couple of centuries population growth has been inextricably linked with the use of fossil fuels.
Now I do not begrudge ‘Ethical Man‘ his response, but rather than replying, in effect, “steady on chaps”, personally my intemperate inclination would be more alone the line of inviting the person suggesting we need mandatory state enforced population reduction to go jump off a bridge and die, for the greater good of course, if he felt so strongly about it… and the sooner the better.
This is no different to the sorts of people who say about Stalin when his policy of mass murder is brought up “yes but at least he industrialised the Soviet Union”… thereby equating the millions who died in the man-made Ukrainian famine and in the the gulags as, in effect, simply fuel burnt in a justifiable bonfire to power the Soviet Union’s engines. I usually ask such people if they would have accepted they and their families would have been a reasonable cost had they lived in some Soviet village at the time and been deemed expendable as a way to crush anti-communist nationalism, and if not, why not?
The problem I have with this whole discussion is that it grants what is a monstrous totalitarian perspective a polite hearing rather than the sort of response it truly deserves. It strikes me to just dignify the proposition “the state should spay women and castrate men” with “wouldn’t it be better if we just find a way to reduce the fuel we burn?” is to in effect tolerate the intolerable. A far better response, and dare I say a more ethical one, would be “your policy will indeed reduce the world’s population because people like me will put a 10mm hole between the eyes of totalitarian scum like you.”
To accept such vile notions such as forced sterilisation as acceptable to advance, even in theory, is not tolerance… it is moral cowardice. It is a bit like giving a polite airing to the chap who wants to argue that we would all be better off if we just gassed a few Jews, and then tutting gently before calming pointing out the error of his ways… as opposed to throwing him out the door (ideally without bothering to open it first). I know which I think is more appropriate.