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1. The Ghost of Malthus … and Ehrlich

By Allan Carlson

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin authored a scientific paper arguing that family formation and abundant fertility would be the surest tickets to economic growth. The true “Fathers of their Nation,” he wrote, would be “the Cause of the Generation of Multitudes, by the Encouragement they afford to marriage.” Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations (1776), agreed with Franklin: “The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is the increase in its number of inhabitants…. We cannot, therefore, wonder that the people in America should generally marry very young.”

While sagging marriage rates and low fertility now characterize most of America, Utah is different. In 2008, Utah’s marriage rate was 62.3 (marriages per 1,000 unmarried women ages 15 and over); the U.S. average was only 34.8. Nationwide, the median age at first marriage was 28 for grooms and 26 for brides. In Utah, the respective figures were 26 and 24. And Utah led the nation in 2010 with 81 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. The national average was 58.

This should be cause for celebration by the citizens of Utah. The state’s economic advantage lies in the number and strength of its marriages and families and in the youthfulness of its population.

All the same, grumbling among the new Malthusians continues. These heirs to England’s “gloomy parson” of 1800, T. R. Malthus, continue to see population growth as a drag on human well-being. The most prominent statewide voice of this sort is the Utah Population and Environment Coalition, a group founded in 1997 “to raise public awareness about the devastating effects of unsustainable consumption and population growth.”

In late January 2011, the coalition released a new report to the people of Utah, The Utah Genuine Progress Indicator [GPI], 1990 to 2007. This lengthy document claims to offer an alternative to conventional calculations of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by using broader measures of the quality of life and overall economic well-being. GPI calculations do include some quite positive adjustments to this kind of public accounting, such as measures of the value of volunteer time and of unpaid work at home (such as parental child care), which are usually ignored in economic calculations.

The report’s conclusions were mixed. It did show that the economic components of the GPI – “chief among them personal consumption and net capital growth” – rose between 1990 and 2007, as one would expect in a healthy, child-rich community. However, both the social and environmental components of the GPI declined during the same period.

Some of this decline was the consequence of a slight, if worrying, increase in family breakdown and a real problem of longer average commuting times. The largest drag on the GPI index, though, was a reported decline in “nonrenewable resources.” This warning was more in line with the coalition’s 2007 Utah Ecological Footprint Study, which concluded:

Utah is living beyond its ecological means, with consumption of resources exceeding nature’s renewable supply. Between 1990 and 2003, Utah went from an ecological surplus of 10.8 million global hectares to ecological deficit of 2.4 million global hectares.

Such curious numbers are, at least, a far cry from the hysteria of 20th-century Malthusian tracts such as Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968). At the time, his dire declarations – “that the world … is rapidly running out of food” and that “the battle to feed humanity is already lost” – had a profound effect on college-educated youths and surely contributed to the sharp decline in the U.S. birthrate between 1969 and 1975. That he proved to be wrong in all of his key assertions would only become clear 15 years later.

And yet, the spirit of Ehrlich continues to haunt documents like The Utah Genuine Progress Indicator. Back in 1968, the Stanford University biologist argued that the only possible future course for humankind would be to cut off all food aid to Egypt and India, calling them “beyond hope,” while the United States would also institute domestic food rationing. In this “best case” scenario, he expected a “dieback” claiming 500 million lives through starvation. However, Ehrlich said that a mandatory, global, one-child-per-couple system might deliver a “sustainable” population of 2 billion by 2025. For its part, the Utah Population and Environment Coalition desires that Utahns reduce their fertility to the national average “for the sake of the environment” and so that “our children and grandchildren are to have the quality of life we have had.” (Peter Grundfossen, “On the Greater Wasatch Front”)

Ehrlich’s voice is the more extreme, but the argument is the same: Resources are disappearing; people are the problem; and a sharply diminished number of children is the solution. The error in this equation is that “natural resources” are not static: New discoveries emerge; so do new technologies that expand the usefulness of known resources; and so can a more responsible stewardship of existing resources. In every case, new human minds are the most valuable of all “natural” resources, and these Utah counts in relative abundance. To cut them off through new rounds of Malthusian propaganda aimed at population control would be the truly foolish economic act.

The author, Dr. Allan C. Carlson, is director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Community and Economy, president of The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, and an associate professor at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Dr. Carlson founded the World Congress of Families in 1997. He has written for numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Intercollegiate Review, and is the editor of The Family in America. He is the author of nine books, including The Natural Family: A Manifesto (Spence, 2007), which he co-authored with Paul T. Mero. 

 

2. Sutherland Is Hiring

Sutherland is seeking to hire a manager of donor relations and a multimedia reporter.

Manager of Donor Relations

Sutherland Institute seeks a manager of donor relations to reach out to our growing network of supporters across the nation. This role will report to the director of development.

The manager of donor relations will:

•Work closely with the director of development and senior leadership team to implement an integrated fundraising strategy, including individual, foundation and corporate supporters
•Identify and develop long-term relationships with existing supporters and key prospects
•Solicit current and prospective donors for financial support for SI
•Interact with donors through telephone calls, one-on-one visits, and written correspondence to keep them informed of our work
•Utilize fundraising database to ensure current data on donors, gifts, and prospects
•Track progress and analyze results

The ideal candidate will have the following attributes:

•Entrepreneurial spirit and ability to be a self-starter
•One to three years of experience in fundraising
•Experience interacting with individual donors preferred, but not required
•Notable relationship building skills and an outgoing, friendly personality
•Excellent communication skills, in particular, writing skills
•Ability to multi-task, organize numerous moving parts of a project, and meet deadlines
•Deep understanding of and commitment to the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and personal responsibility
•Experience with databases and basic Microsoft Office products, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook
•Ability to travel on a regular basis
•Bachelor’s degree

This position will require travel throughout Utah. Expected travel: up to 60 percent at times. This is a full-time position with a full benefits package.

Interested candidates should submit a résumé and a cover letter that details their philosophical interest in the organization’s mission to Sutherland Institute at si@sutherlandinstitute.org. The cover letter should include salary preferences.

Multimedia Reporter

Sutherland Institute seeks a full-time multimedia reporter to use video journalism to create easy-to-understand, brief and interesting policy reports. This role will report to Sutherland’s director of communications.

Sutherland’s objective is to use video journalism to educate Utahns about how state and local governments affect their lives.

Preferred Attributes

•Journalistic instincts; ability to identify and develop good stories
•Strong work ethic
•Knowledge of video equipment and editing software
•Good writing skills and the ability to create a compelling story
•Mature interpersonal communications skills
•Ability to multitask, organize numerous moving parts of a project, and meet deadlines
•Deep understanding of and commitment to conservative principles and solutions
•Bachelor’s degree

This is an entry-level, full-time position with a full benefits package.

Interested candidates should submit a résumé and a cover letter that details their philosophical interest in the organization’s mission to Sutherland Institute at si@sutherlandinstitute.org. The cover letter should include salary preferences.

 

3. The Media and Your Family

You are invited to our upcoming Utah Women’s Symposium: “The Media and Your Family,” where we will discuss practical tools for safe media management in the home.

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2011

Time: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Location: The Garden Room
at Thanksgiving Point

Cost: $25, which includes lunch and a toolkit

Click here to register.

If you have questions, contact Lisa Montgomery at 801-355-1272 orlmontgomery@sutherlandinstitute.org.

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