Catastrophe By The Numbers

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Meanwhile, economic levers are available. Federal and state income-tax exemptions now authorized for every minor child could be denied in the case of children over the number of two, born nine months or more after the enactment of the legislation. Annual payments could be made to sexually mature females who refrain from bearing children, and in lesser amounts to those who stop with two. Fines, proportionate to the offender’s capacity to pay, could be levied against parents for each child they produce in excess of two; beyond a certain limit the offenders could be deprived of the right to vote. (Why should those indifferent to society’s future be given a voice in it?) At the same time, of course, anti-abortion laws—which in any case represent a tyrannical denial by the state of the rights of an individual—should be repealed; contraceptives should be made freely available to all, and every effort should be made to devise simpler, surer, safer methods of contraception.

Obviously, strong opposition to any program equal to arresting the population explosion is to be expected, especially on the part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. But public opinion can be swayed. The Vatican has changed its mind in the past, and can and must change it again. The more public discussion there is, the sooner the public will become accustomed to and will accept measures to deal effectively with a crisis that four thousand scientists at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science termed—along with the related crisis of pollution—the most serious facing mankind. Too-long delay in meeting it can result only in having the issue taken out of our hands, for under the strains to which the population explosion must increasingly subject civilization, the institutions of representative self-government will be among the surest to give way.