World Population Day - what helps keep populations sustainable?
The Emperor Julian codified the land-tenure laws which Napoleon later consolidated. The substitution of the Napoleonic code for the British inheritance system could help overpopulation and poverty.
July 11 was World Population Day, marking the day in 1987 when the world’s population passed five billion. This year’s theme in the UN is ‘Fight Poverty: Educate Girls.’
Here are some things that the UN does not talk about and which Bill Gates probably doesn't realise.
The third world countries that have natural increase problems began by their steady-state communities being disorganised through massive immigration - then called colonisation, now called industrialisation. The problems began with loss of land-tenure as entire peoples were disorganised and disoriented by having their traditional land removed from their control. Africa and India, for instance, had many stable populations for centuries, as testified by their high biodiversity and healthy natural systems at time of colonisation. The degradation of their natural systems has accompanied the destabilising of their human social organisation and overpopulation.
It was not until the 18th and 19th Century, with the imposition of the English political systems that these populations blew out. Polynesia, micronesia and Australia, colonised later, are succumbing later to the same failure of practical democracy.
The people of the original steady state societies lost their land to the colonisers and were encouraged to become wage-earners instead of self-sufficient. The new economy was initially agricultural and then manufacturing. Large landless families benefited both agriculturalists and manufacturers. Those without land were totally dependent on wages for their labour to survive and could not opt out of the labour market. Thus, people who for thousands of years had been self-sufficient and free, became servants.
Like the Americas and Canada, Australia is still being 'colonised'. The landless people who were forced to come here or who came voluntarily and displaced the aboriginal population are now losing their own access to land here, just like the Aboriginals. At the same time women here are being conned into having more children. It is becoming harder to get a decent education as well.
There is every reason to anticipate that this difficulty will increase.
The Importance of Child Labour Laws in preventing overpopulation:
Once the rot has set in, next thing to go are effective child labour laws. This is because if there is no ban enforced on children labouring, then large families are preferred to educated wives. Once children are a major source of income, mass-education withers away.
Child Labour Laws as a variable in fertility rates[i]
Here are some explanations for changes in human fertility since the beginning of agriculture.
In countries where effective labour laws prohibit the employment of children, those children become costly rather than income-beneficial.[ii] In those countries where working for wages is the main option for survival for many but where child labour is prohibited, then people who rely mainly or uniquely on wages will have fewer children.
Similarly, a woman who has education will be more valuable as an income-earner than as a child-producing wife in a society that prohibits child-labour. Where women earn less than men for doing the same job, in a society which needs skilled workers and prohibits child-labour, then this will be a disincentive for taking such women out of the workforce to have children. It will also be an obstacle to marriage because men's capacity to find work will be undermined by the cheaper but still skilled labour of women. In societies where monogamous marriage is the model for raising children, there are implications for marriage frequency. With children a high cost, only men with high incomes will be able to afford to take a wife out of the workforce to nurture children.
Inheritance Laws as a variable in average wealth differentials
In countries where men can own and inherit land, but women cannot, (England from the 12th century until the 1920s) then lack of land is an incentive for women to marry for material survival, but women who can own land and earn a salary may experience their ability to earn as a disincentive to marriage due to the status and power of running their own lives.
A disincentive also operates in countries where, in divorce, either partner may acquire rights to the assets that the other brought to the marriage.
Some countries have facilitated the ability of women to work, raise and educate children outside marriage -- e.g. France. To this should be added the fact that French women also benefit from equal inheritance rights to men.
Although French women only recently (in the 1970s) regained the right to manage their affairs, this right, coupled with the government's duty to house, educate and assure an income to its citizens, enhances women's security and independence.
France also, through its inheritance system, makes French women more likely to inherit wealth than British women and many British men, who had almost no land inheritance rights until primogeniture was revoked in 1926.[iii] Even though all children may now inherit in societies based on British law, because there is no legal requirement that they inherit, there is still a profound tendency to disinherit children in those societies, through second marriages or due to their being the product of casual union, or based on ideology or a whim. (I often think of how the very rich Australian, Reg Ansett, disinherited his son, Bob, apparently excusing the inexcusable with an ideology that everyone should make their own way in the world, failing to take into account that different generations have very different prospects according to resource depletion and other changes.)
The legally enforceable inheritance rights of any French child, legitimate, illegitimate, issue of first or subsequent marriages is almost certainly a major factor in the lesser disparities between rich and poor in France and those other countries in Europe which benefited from the Napoleonic Code (a Roman law based system). It is noteworthy that Pacific Islands which have inherited the French system do not have the same rates of overpopulation, homelessness and economic poverty as the ones that were colonised with the English system. (Neither do those in Japanese waters, with the exception of those which passed into US ownership after the Second World War. The Japanese inheritance system also preserves land in families.)
Unfortunately the French situation of equity will be affected by changes to the Napoleonic Code introduced by President Sarkozi in 2008. Now it becomes possible for a spouse to make a serious claim on part of a deceased's estate where that estate previously went entirely to blood relatives.
The recent ability of technological societies to prove paternity is a new factor that could be exploited to access additional income for children whose mothers might otherwise be their sole providers. This could act to increase the fertility rate, but men might become more careful about impregnating women under these new circumstances.
[i] Excerpt from my book in progress below on this subject.
[ii] Doepke, M., Growth and Fertility in the Long Run, Mimeo, University of Chicago, 2000, available in reduced form in Doepke, M. "Accounting for Fertility Decline During the Transition to Growth", Journal of Economic Growth, 9(3), 347-383, September 2004. The speed of the fertility transition depends on policies that affect the opportunity cost of education, namely education subsidies and child-labor restrictions. Doepke considered the case of two countries that started to grow at roughly the same time, but which had experienced very different government policies: (South) Korea and Brazil. Korea had a strong public education system, and child-labor restrictions were strictly enforced, while Brazil had an ineffective public education system, with little systematic enforcement of child labour restrictions. Doepke found, as his model predicted, that the fertility decline associated with development proceeded much faster in Korea than in Brazil.
[iii] The rule of primogeniture in England was not changed until the Administration of Estates Act of 1926.