Would it be unethical to say that there are too many people on Earth?

Would it be unethical to say that there are too many people on Earth?

[ 22/April/21 ]

At present – yes.

That would imply one valued some other metric higher than individual life and security, and the long term probability of any such system surviving is very low.

If one does an in depth probability analysis across strategic domains, then one is left with the need for a hierarchy of values that goes individual life, followed by individual liberty, and the fact that life comes first imposes responsibilities on all individuals to take whatever measures they reasonably can to ensure the life and liberty of both themselves and others – and that rapidly gets very complex!

Right now, what we have is a failure of systems to meet the reasonable needs of the people present (including the ecosystems that support us all), and most of that stems from systems developed using overly simplistic understandings of the depths of complexity actually present.

[followed by Ron Gutman replied ‘Didn’t you mean No?’]


I mean that right now, we are perfectly capable of designing systems that deliver reasonable standards of living and reasonable degrees of freedom to every person on the planet.

That being the case, it would be unethical to pretend otherwise.

The fact that the current economic system is fundamentally broken, and is incapable of delivering such an outcome (in and of its own internal incentive structures) is not sufficient excuse for claiming we can’t do anything about it and we need to kill off people.

Life has to come first, then liberty, responsibly expressed.

A fundamental respect for life is an essential part of any responsible expression of freedom. That demands of us that we reform the economic system so that it does respect both life and liberty.

Thus it is necessarily unethical to pretend that we “must” reduce the population (which is what a hard formulation of “there are too many people on Earth” requires).

And there are real limits to the number of people we can have on the planet, and retain reasonable examples of functional ecosystems, and have reasonable standards of living and degrees of freedom for all individuals. We are not there yet, and we are not too far away. One more doubling would about get us there.

Once indefinite life extension arrives, even with a one child family, that does eventually lead to a doubling in population. So there are some major changes coming our way. More people need to start seriously thinking about them and doing the numbers on the systems required. I’ve been working on it since 1974. It is complicated.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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