Emma Watson, the lovely British actress best known for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, is now a Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. The program she is touting is called HeForShe (yes, I know that sounds like a support group for transgendered folk, but that’s beside the point.) It is, according to the website, a “solidarity movement for gender equality.” Basically, they want men (the “He”) to start supporting women’s (the “She”) equality.
There are certainly many places in the world where women face incredible challenges. Far too many women and girls lack basic access to voting, education, the free ability to travel on their own and to own property. These injustices clearly need to be addressed.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of China’s horrific one-child policy. It is hard to think of any other single policy that has claimed the lives of so many women, both born and unborn, and affected a nation in such a detrimental way. According to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers the Chinese government:
The One Child Policy causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth.
The One Child Policy is China’s war on women. Any discussion of women’s rights, or human rights, would be a charade if forced abortion in China is not front and center.
Girls are being abandoned: at train stations, at “baby hatches,” at orphanages, or simply left on the street. If the girl is sick, her chances of getting abandoned climb. Simply being female is a risk. A girl in China is twice as likely as a boy to die in the first year of life; if she makes it past her first birthday, her chance of dying triples.
One girl, 14-year-old Chen Shuzhen of the Hubei Province was abandoned after testing positive for leukemia.
Chen says she understands why her mother abandoned her, but hopes that once she dies her corneas can be used to help another child. (more…)
Today, October 11, has been declared the International Day of the Girl Child by the United Nations. According to the Day of the Girl Campaign located in Washington, DC, this day “serves to recognize girls as a population that faces difficult challenges, including gender violence, early marriage, child labor, and discrimination at work” for females under 18. Admirably, this day seeks to draw attention to global issues such as the high drop-out rate of girls from school, child marriage, and human trafficking.
One organization, Plan International, is simultaneously launching their “Because I am a girl” campaign. Their goal for this campaign is to reach 4 million girls: “improving their lives with access to school, skills, livelihoods and protection. We will also achieve these improvements through better family and community support and access to services for girls.” For Plan International, these services include sex education at the primary school level, contraceptives, and “population growth” education.
There is a paradox in these pro-girl campaigns. While the support of girls’ education and the call to end child marriages are admirable, much of the developing world is suffering from a “daughter deficit” – a noticeable lack of girls in their societies. The United Nations notes that there are an estimated 200 million females “missing” in the world today due to abortion and post-birth infanticide. These pro-girl campaigns are missing a lot of participants.
China, with its harshly imposed one-child policy, accounts for many missing girls. For cultural reasons, the Chinese typically want that one child to be male. Women in other cultures are de-valued; they cost a family money, rather than bringing in money. Sex-selection abortions are routine in India, while at the same time rural, poorly-educated Indian women are used as surrogates – essentially renting out their wombs – for high-paying Western “consumers” who want babies.
This gendercide is poignantly portrayed in the documentary “It’s a Girl”. The film’s website notes that those words – “it’s a girl” – are the three deadliest words in the world today.
As the trailer points out, there is systematic machinery in the world that seeks to eliminate girls. But let’s be clear: this is not a machine that is out-of-control. In fact, it is very much controlled – by humans who make choices. There are those who offer sex-selection tests so that abortions on baby girls can be completed as soon as possible. There are those who choose to conduct those abortions. There are those who traffic in unwanted baby girls, selling them on the black market to people desperate to adopt or to human traffickers.
It is right to celebrate the lives of girls. It is right to want all young ladies to be educated, healthy, cared for and treated well from the moment of conception to natural death. That’s not our world, though. Not yet. Celebrating a day for girls is a good thing, but a better thing is recognizing how pitiful it is to celebrate them on one day, and routinely abort them every day. We know these “missing girls” could grow up to be mothers, educators, inventors, business women, health-care professionals, speakers – leaders of families, villages, societies. The best thing we can do is to not simply celebrate girls, but change hearts and minds about the value of girls in every part of the world. That would be something to celebrate.
Take at look at Jonathan Last’s very good piece in the Weekly Standard about the real population problem that is confronting the world–people aren’t having enough babies. In America’s One Child Policy, Last explains how fertility throughout the entire world is declining and what the impact will be on society and the economy.
During the last 50 years, fertility rates have fallen all over the world. From Africa to Asia, South America to Eastern Europe, from Third World jungles to the wealthy desert petro-kingdoms, every country in every region is experiencing declines in fertility. In 1979, the world’s fertility rate was 6.0; today it’s 2.6. Industrialized nations have been the hardest hit. America’s 2.06 is one of the highest fertility rates in the First World. Only Israel (2.75) and New Zealand (2.10) are more fertile.
Mr. Last addresses a host of reasons for declining fertility, including some of the politically delicate reasons like education, abortion, and egalitarian social policies that many don’t want to address.
He explains how the one-child policy in China and other small-family campaigns in places like Singapore and Japan have not created the promised “bright future” but serious demographic challenges. And new government policies to reverse the trends are not working.
The Japanese government has been trying to stoke fertility since the early 1970s. In 1972, when Japan’s fertility rate was still above replacement, the government introduced a monthly per-child subsidy for parents….In the face of 35 years of failed incentives, Japan’s fertility rate stands at 1.2. This is below what is considered “lowest low,” a mathematical tipping point at which a country’s population will decline by as much as 50 percent within 45 years. This is a death spiral from which, demographers believe, it is impossible to escape. Then again, that’s just theory: History has never seen fertility rates so low.
As Last and others have reminded us, no country with declining population has ever created widespread prosperity. Perhaps we would do well to remember that the factors of production include not just land and capital, but labor–and labor means people. Decline in fertility will have serious social and economic consequences. Last writes:
At the same time, the average age in China will rise dramatically. In 2005, China’s median age was 32. By 2050, it will be 45, and a quarter of the Chinese population will be over the age of 65. The government’s pension system is almost nonexistent, and One-Child has eliminated the traditional support system of the extended family—most people no longer have brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, or nephews. It is unclear what sort of havoc this atomization will wreak on their society. China will have 330 million senior citizens with no one to care for them and no way to pay for their upkeep. It is, Eberstadt observed, “a slow-motion humanitarian tragedy already underway.”
By 2050, the age structure in China will be such that there are only 1.6 workers—today the country has 5.4—to support each retiree. The government will be forced to either: (1) substantially cut spending (in areas such as defense and public works) in order to shift resources to care for the elderly or (2) impose radically higher tax burdens on younger workers. The first option risks China’s international and military ambitions; the second risks revolution.
Though people still promote Malthusian nightmares of over-crowded planets the real demographic disaster not over-population, but the opposite–not enough babies. This decline in fertility is a prime example of why incentives matter–summed up well in Henry Hazlitt’s definition of economics:
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the long effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of the policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
Acton’s Rome office will be hosting a conference on health care and aging on December 2 at the Lateran Pontifical University in Rome. Get more information here
The number of births avoided equals the entire population of the United States. Beijing says that fewer people means less demand for energy and lower emissions of heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels.
“This is only an illustration of the actions we have taken,” said Su Wei, a senior Foreign Ministry official heading China’s delegation to the 158-nation talks from Aug 27-31.
He told Reuters that Beijing was not arguing that its policy was a model for others to follow in a global drive to avert ever more chaotic weather patterns, droughts, floods, erosion and rising ocean levels.
But avoiding 300 million births “means we averted 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2005″ based on average world per capital emissions of 4.2 tonnes, he said.
Well thank goodness we dodged that bullet. The link is from Hot Air, which notes that China’s strategy is “brilliant”:
Expect more of this in the future — human rights abusers being criticized by the international community for dubious practices and parrying the thrust with an appeal to the left’s tippy-top-most social virtue.
In a somewhat similar vein, yesterday brought word that all is not well in the world of leftist activism – a conflict is brewing between animal rights activists and the climate change crowd:
According to an interesting piece that ran in yesterday’s New York Times, animal rights groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) argue that being a meat-eating environmentalist–like Al–is an oxymoron… As writer Claudia H. Deutsch points out, the groups have compelling ammo to back it up: last November the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization released a startling report revealing that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.
The common thread in these stories? That humans are, simply put, a problem: we consume too much and emit too much in doing so, and if only there were a great deal fewer of us, things would get a lot better. It’s a very static worldview, allowing adherents to make no allowance for technological advances or scientific discoveries that may mitigate or entirely solve the problems that they fret about. In reality, it comes dangerously close to what Jordan Ballor described as The Matrix Anthropology, which is summed up by the words of Agent Smith, a villain in that film:
I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.
Jordan concludes that post thusly:
This comes, of course, from a piece of software representing the machines who view humans as essentially batteries and feed the liquidated dead to the living. It is perhaps not the best anthropological foundation to adopt.