The Beckhams … and now there are four.  Photo: Celebrity New Online

In 1968, Stanford biologist Paul R. Erlich opened his
bestselling book, The Population Bomb, with this declaration:
“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s
hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any
crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can be
done to prevent a substantial increase in the world death
rate….”

Erlich’s doomsday scenarios never came true. Nor did his wish
for a strict population control program in the U.S., one enforced
“by compulsion if voluntary methods fail.” Today, demographers fret
about a catastrophe Erlich never saw coming: a global birth dearth
that threatens to transform much of the world into an economically
depressed geriatric ward.

But don’t tell that to Simon Ross of Britain’s Optimum
Population Trust, a population-control group that recently blasted
millionaire celebrities David and Victoria Beckham as “bad role
models” for welcoming their fourth child into the world.

“One or two children are fine,” Ross told Britain’s Observer
last month, “but three or four are just being selfish.”

Father of four Al Gore apparently agrees — at least, when it
comes to other people’s families. In June, he touted “fertility
management” as an answer to our global woes and recommended that we
‘stabilize the population” and “empower women” by discouraging
baby-making.

Nancy Pelosi, a mother of five, shares Gore’s enthusiasm for
limiting the size of other people’s families. In 2009, she defended
the inclusion of taxpayer funding for birth control in her party’s
proposed $825 billion stimulus package because, she said,
“contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal
government.”

Pelosi’s remarks sparked criticism from many fiscal experts, who
noted that a nation’s economic strength depends on maintaining a
workforce large and productive enough to pay its bills — including
bills for those social welfare programs that Pelosi and her
colleagues love to create and expand. If Pelosi gets her wish and
America’s birth rate drops precipitously, who will pay the debts
that Washington politicians are racking up these days? And who will
support tomorrow’s retirees if there are too few young workers to
keep Social Security afloat and too few children and grandchildren
to provide privately for the nation’s exploding population of
elders?

It’s true that global population remains on the rise: We are
expected to hit the 7 billion mark later this year and the world’s
population will grow by about a third over the next 40 years. But
as demographers such as Phillip Longman and Nicholas Eberstadt have
noted, that growth will be driven by declines in mortality and an
increase in elders, not children. And it will not continue forever.
Both Longman and Eberstadt predict that falling birth rates
eventually will translate into worldwide population declines —
potentially irreversible ones — that Longman says may prove more
drastic than the growth rates that so alarmed activists like Erlich
in the first place.

The possibility of such demographic decline may sound appealing
in theory: Fewer babies mean more wealth for the rest of us, right?
Not so fast, says Longman.

“Population growth is a major source of economic growth,” he
writes in his 2004 book, The Empty Cradle. “More people create
more demand for the products capitalists sell, and more supply of
the labor capitalists buy. Economists may be able to construct
models of how economies could grow amidst a shrinking population,
but in the real world it has never happened and businessmen know
it.”

Businessmen may know it, but too many politicians and anti-natal
activists do not. So they continue to brandish their tattered
copies of The Population Bomb and harangue parents of large
families for contributing to what they consider the ultimate form
of environmental pollution: human life.

In their zeal to preserve the planet from the scourge of babies,
these activists overlook the fact that humans are problem solvers
and producers as well as consumers. They forget that the solution
to poverty is not to eradicate poor people, but to use human
creativity, innovation and solidarity to create a broader
distribution of the Earth’s resources and to reform the corrupt
political structures that stop citizens in developing nations from
accessing basic necessities.

Although Erlich’s acolytes may be hopelessly locked in the 1960s
when it comes to their population views, more demographers and
economists are recognizing the truth our ancestors knew well: that
children are not burdens but blessings, keys to our future
prosperity and guarantors of our social safety net. For a nation on
the brink of insolvency, that’s reason enough to congratulate the
Beckhams and the millions of parents like them who are making
sacrifices today to raise up a new generation that will benefit all
of us tomorrow.

Colleen Carroll Campbell is a St. Louis-based author, former
presidential speechwriter and television and radio host of “Faith
& Culture” on EWTN. Her website is
www.colleen-campbell.com.This article was first published in the St Louis Post-Dispatch.