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Part 3--An examination of the Tragedy of the Commons: freedom to breed

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Part 3: Freedom to breed

As I reported in an earlier column, 46 million women abort their babies annually worldwide.  In the U.S., the number falls to 1.2 million annually.  Why a much less number?  American females practice birth control, so much so, they average 2.03 children per woman. 

You may debate the morality or immorality of 46 million abortions, but if you live in America, you may not possess a clue as to the circumstances of their choices. It’s easy to ride the high moral ground when you’re not living in the filthy cesspool of misery inhabited by several billion humans on planet earth. 

How did they get to their predicament?  You might call it a result of the ‘freedom to breed’.   If not for the 46 million abortions annually at the hands of humans, Mother Nature kills humanity off at a rate of 18 million via starvation or related diseases. 

Again, Dr. Garrett Hardin, author of “The Tragedy of the Commons”, Fall 2001, pages 26-35, said, “The tragedy of the commons is involved in population problems in another way. In a world governed solely by the principle of "dog eat dog" - if indeed there ever was such a world - how many children a family had would not be a matter of public concern. Parents that bred too exuberantly would leave fewer descendants, not more, because they would be unable to care adequately for their children.

“If each human family were dependent only on its own resources; if the children of improvident parents starved to death; if, thus, over-breeding brought its own "punishment" to the germ line - then there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families. But our society is deeply committed to the welfare state, and hence is confronted with another aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

For example, according to the Edwin Rubenstein report, “Illegal and legal immigration cost U.S. taxpayers $346 billion annually across 15 federal agencies.”  That includes education, medication, food and incarceration.

“In a welfare state, how shall we deal with the family, the religion, the race, or the class that adopts over-breeding as a policy to secure its own aggrandizement? To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.  Unfortunately this is just the course of action that is being pursued by the United Nations. In late 1967, some 30 nations agreed to the following:

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself, and cannot be made by anyone else.”

Conscience Is Self-Eliminating

Hardin said, “It is a mistake to think that we can control the breeding of mankind in the long run by an appeal to conscience. Charles Galton Darwin made this point when he spoke on the centennial of the publication of his grandfather's great book. The argument is straightforward and Darwinian.

“People vary. Confronted with appeals to limited breeding, some people will undoubtedly respond to the plea more than others. Those who have more children will produce a larger fraction of the next generation than those with more susceptible consciences. The difference will be accentuated, generation by generation.

“In C. G. Darwin's words "It may well be that it would take hundreds of generations for the progenitive instinct to develop in this way, but if it should do so, nature would have taken her revenge, and the variety Homo contracipiens would become extinct and would be replaced by the variety Homo progenitivus."

Hardin said, "Those who have more children will produce a larger fraction of the next generation than those with more susceptible consciences. The difference will be accentuated, generation by generation." The argument assumes that conscience or the desire for children is hereditary - but hereditary only in the most general formal sense. The result will be the same whether the attitude is transmitted through germ cells or exosomatically, to use A. J. Lotka's term.”

Pathogenic Effects of Conscience

“The long-term effects of conscience should be enough to condemn it,” Hardin said. “But serious short-term disadvantages exist as well. If we ask a man who is exploiting a commons to desist "in the name of conscience," what are we saying to him? What does he hear? - not only at the moment but also in the wee hours of the night when, half asleep, he remembers not merely the words we used but also the nonverbal communication cues we gave him unawares?

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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)
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