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25.6.06

A Couple Points About Population

1. Here's a great example of how the obsession with the power of economic incentives can lead people into dodgy moral territory. Alberto Palloni has a terrible idea for how to reduce population growth:

Economics could even help reduce population, he says, with "a mechanism that controls the spillover of childbearing. If you have six children and think the rest of us are going to pay for their education, sure you will have six children. But if we make it difficult for people to educate their children [by, for example, having parents pay directly for schooling], surely they will cut their fertility." Similarly, policies that provide for old-age insurance make it less likely that parents will have children to provide "social security."


Set aside for the moment the empirical facts that parents are not rational utility maximizers, and that the places in the world with the highest population growth are the least likely to have well-funded universal education. Palloni is proposing to punish children for the sins of their parents, in order to send a message to other parents. "Sorry Billy, but you don't get to learn about science, because we're trying to scare some other prospective parents into using the Pill." Note, however, that the suggestion about social security is just fine, as it achieves its incentive without penalizing innocent people.

2. If reducing immigration from the third world to the first world is so great for the environment (because a poor Mexican does less harm to the environment than a rich Mexican-American), then it stands to reason that migration from the first world to the third world would be even better. Here's the link for getting a visa to immigrate to Mexico.

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