Page last updated at 12:14 Asia/Manila, Sunday, 25 September 2011 PH
As a long-time critic of population control measures, I respect the views of President Benigno Aquino III on the RH Bill. He has supported its inclusion into the priority bills recommended by LEDAC because he is sincerely convinced that population control is indispensable to the reduction of mass poverty in the Philippines. He has arrived at this conclusion after consulting with many of the expert economic advisers in and outside his Administration. I know for a fact that the vast majority of them are neo-Malthusians in orientation. They are convinced that rapid population growth is a major reason for the high incidence of poverty in the Philippines. It is difficult to blame the President for listening to their advice.
I will not repeat here the many economic arguments I have used to counter the view that population growth is a major cause of poverty. I have written numerous articles about the very positive dimensions of population growth. In fact, I just came out with a book entitled precisely The Positive Dimensions of Population Growth that is available in all the major bookstores in Manila. What I want to tell the President here is that he is taking a very short-term view of the problem of what is called in the Philippine Development Plan, 2011-2016 "inclusive growth." Even assuming, without granting, that population control can help in the important task of eradicating poverty in the Philippines, I would like to point out to the President that he is ignoring the long-term consequences of distributing artificial contraceptives for free to the poor. There is enough hard evidence in other countries that followed the same path of population control which shows that a contraceptive mentality inevitably leads to a significant rise in abortion, divorce, single mothers and mentally unbalanced adolescents.
The President and his advisors may completely disregard the prophecy made in the 1970s by the late Pope Paul VI that the widespread use of contraceptives would actually lead to all these moral and socio-economic evils. They, however, cannot ignore the scientific studies done by a Nobel laureate by the name of George Akerlof. They don't have to take my word for it. Dr. Akerlof is easily accessible through google. If the President himself takes time to google the name George Akerlof, he will find abundant materials that this economics professor has written about the high correlation between contraception and high rates of divorce, abortion, single mothers, etc. He will find out that Dr. Akerlof has no religious motivation whatsoever in presenting his data to the social scientists of the world. His conclusions are based completely on empirical observations.
Actually, Dr. Akerlof has just demonstrated scientifically what everyday observation based on anecdotical evidence has already revealed to any objective student of human behavior. In countries where artificial contraceptives are as easily accessible as candies in the corner store, the rate of abortions has risen by leaps and bounds in the last twenty to thirty years, especially in North America and Europe. As regards divorce and out-of-wedlock births, Dr. Akerlof's empirical conclusions have been confirmed by a recent study conducted by a multinational team of social scientists in a project entitled The Empty Cradle (also accessible through google). The study found out that "accompanying the global mega-trend of falling birthrates is a radical change in the circumstances in which many children are raised, as country after country has seen divorce and/or out-of-wedlock births surge and a sharp drop in the percentage of children living with both of their married parents. In much of Europe and the Americas, from the United Kingdom to the United States, from Mexico to Sweden, out-of-wedlock births are the 'new normal,' with 40 percent or more of all children born without married parents. Though many of these births are to cohabiting couples, families headed by cohabiting couples are significantly less stable than couples headed by married families. This means that children born outside of marriage are markedly more likely to be exposed to a revolving cast of caretakers and to spells of single parenthood compared to children born to married couples."
I am sure the President is aware of the social tragedy that has just hit key cities of the United Kingdom. As reported in the website Mercatornet. com, the looters and rioters in such cities as London, Birmingham, and Liverpool were not the wretched of the earth. "They even included a man with a master's degree from the London School of Economics. This was a 9/11 for civil society, a reminder of how fragile is the foundation on which rest public discipline, respect for property, and respect for human rights." The President must also have learned of the diagnosis made by his counterpart in the U.K, Prime Minister David Cameron, who has called for a return to "old-fashioned" moral values including more widespread marriage and commitment. Mr. Cameron stressed that the riots had not been caused by poverty but by people with a twisted moral code. He said ministers had shied away for too long from saying what need to be said on social issues as marriage, welfare and courtesy. His lament: "Irresponsibility. Selfishness. Behaving as if our choices have no consequences. Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort" (as reported in the Financial Times, August 16, 2011). These are all the ultimate results of broken families. As George Akerlof has demonstrated scientifically, the trivialization of sex outside and within marriage through artificial contraceptives is a major cause of failed marriages and fatherless children.
The President cannot say that it will no longer be his problem what happens in the long run. First, it is actuarially probable that the President will live beyond his seventies (and I will pray for it). It took only a generation of twenty years for artificial contraceptives to wreak havoc on society. Even closer to home, it took only twenty years for such countries as Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan to suffer from the scourge of the demographic winter. Led by Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, the leaders of these highly developed countries are now frantically looking for ways and means to increase their fertility rates. Also, it took only twenty years for our former non-identical twin Thailand to become the first country in the developing world to age before becoming rich, as I have discussed in other articles. At still a very low per capita income, Thailand has already a ratio of those over 65 to the total population that is higher than that of aging Singapore. What is worse, Thailand has the highest rate of HIV-AIDS in the whole of East Asia, thanks to their aggressive condom campaigns in the last century.
Mr. President, even if your advisors are right that controlling population now can help fight poverty, it is not right for you to follow their advice because they are completely ignoring the long-term impact of implanting the contraceptive mentality on the poor. You must agree that that no solution to today's problem should be used if, in solving problems of the present generation, the welfare of future generations is harmed. That is what sustainable development is all about: solving today's problem without prejudicing future generations. Suppose, for example, that we still have verdant forests and one of your advisers sincerely believes in cutting down these forests and using the proceeds to fund the Conditional Cash Transfer that is close to your heart. I am sure you will not heed his advice. Well, promoting contraceptives today will prejudice the welfare and happiness of future generations as much as cutting down forests would harm the physical environment for future generations.
Second, even if population control can contribute to solving poverty today, there are other more direct solutions that will not harm future generations of Filipinos. Among them are agricultural and rural development, nurturing of small and medium-scale enterprises, authentic agrarian reform backed up by efficient infrastructures in the countryside, microcredit and microenterprise development, improving the quality of basic education for the poor, providing technical skills to the out-of-school youth, partnering with the private sector in implementing corporate social responsibility, and many others that your expert advisers can think of. And don't tell us that there is no money to do all these. Saying so would mean you are giving up on your campaign against corruption. Remember that World Bank and ADB findings in the past indicated that some 400 billion pesos annually are lost through private sector and government corruption. That amount is greater than the projected annual deficit of your Government. It can, therefore, be affirmed that turning to the prevention of babies from being born is a real cop out for your Administration. I find no reason why your Administration should use a solution that may have a short-term anti-poverty impact but would lead to the social and moral decay of society. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.