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Myth of Over-Population

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Tags World History

10/01/1989R.J. Rushdoony

The Free Market 7, no. 10 (October 1989)


The belief in over-population is an ancient one. The leaders of the French Revolution were convinced that there were too many Frenchmen, and that an ideal France necessitated the elimination of many people. The myth of over-population did not originate with them. It is an ancient belief of statist man.

But ancient or modern, the myth has some basic premises.

First, there are for many persons always too many of "the wrong kind" of people; these may be blacks, whites, Asians, capitalists, Marxists, the lower class, the middle class, the upper class, and any number of other groups. These undesirable peoples are eliminated by a variety of techniques, from slave labor camps and mass murders, to a killing taxation.

During the student "revolution" of the 1960's, I spoke at many a hostile university campus on the myth of over-population. In "discussions," as I was trying to leave the auditorium, often tempers flared and some students singled out certain "prolific" groups as needing elimination: blacks, whites, India's untouchables, and so on. Their premise, they held, was not racism but a sound sociological assessment!

Socialism and fascism, sooner or later, by their very nature depopulate. This is no less true of democratic forms of these evils. The State is used to give methodical form to discrimination.

Second, the believers in the myth of over-population hold to a strange view of limited resources. I recall in 1929 hearing in a science class the first of many expositions by "scientific minds" of the limited-resources thesis. We were told that, by the time we finished our college education, the exhaustion of fuel supplies would turn-off power plants and leave us in darkness.

Our known oil reserves are far greater now than they were in 1929, and we have only penetrated the skin of the earth with our drills and instruments. The earth is a vast storehouse of resources we have barely used. Remember, before Columbus the Americas were "over-populated," and, in winter, some peoples regularly resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.

Our word "cannibal" was originally "caribal," because this practice was first encountered among the Carib Indians. (For calling attention to this fact, I was canceled by one university, and, at the university where I was speaking, I was told I would never speak there again. A graduate school professor told me that, given the record of Christian white men, no white had the right ever to say anything discreditable about another race!)

It is amazing how determined many people are to see this world as severely limited in its resources: minerals, oil, gas, air, ozone, everything is supposedly being exhausted by "rapacious" capitalistic man. The myth of over-population is a form ofattack on the free market, even though no more lawless and evil use of men and materials exists than under socialism.

Third, the proponents of the myth have a static view of history. They assume that population will increase wildly, but the food supply will remain static. Yet as we've seen the population of the United States double, the number of farmers has decreased, and the food supply has increased dramatically. Many farmlands have returned to timberlands, because they are not needed.

Meanwhile, developments in 'weather control and desalinization promise to make desert areas productive farmlands in the years to come, able to provide food for populations of sizes yet unimagined. Consider the fact that the overwhelming portion of Australia, a continent'" in itself, has a great productive potential. Serious economists and agricultural experts see Australia as destined some day to rival or surpass the United States as a center of food production, natural resources, and population. Others call attention to the African resource potential, and so on.

The static view of history leads to an end-of-the-world mentality. In the days of the Roman Empire, some held that the earth was worn out, and population growth too great. A society that sees no future has no future. We are living in the early stages of the earth's greatest development and therefore ability to care for the needs of men. What is amazing is the willful blindness of many to the possibilities and inevitabilities open to free men.


R.J. Rushdoony

The Rev. R.J. Rushdoony is author of The Myth of Overpopulation and president of the Chalcedon Foundation.

Cite This Article

Rushdoony, R.J. "Myths of Over-Population." The Free Market 7, no. 10 (October 1989): 1 and 6.