Overpopulation Atheism

A couple of weeks ago when I visited Washington, DC, I came across an article by John Feehery in The Hill that used “Pascal’s Wager” in proving his point on the virtues of supporting environmental policy reforms to combat the global warming phenomenon. I think the very same line of thought can apply to the highly debated Reproductive Health (RH) or Responsible Parenthood (RP) Bill in the Philippines. The idea is that even if we grant the arguments of the anti-RH/anti-RP folks that population increase is not the cause of the problems plaguing the country’s citizenry especially it’s poor, but then again the Philippines is the only country many of its poor can live in. Can we really afford to ignore the relationship of poverty incidence with increasing population?

For those folks who are not familiar with “Pascal’s Wager”, according to Wikipedia it is an argument in apologetic philosophy which was devised by Blaise Pascal. It suggests that there’s more to be gained from wagering on the existence of God than from not believing in the existence of God, and that a rational person should live as though God exists, even though the truth of the matter cannot actually be known. In essence, if one were to put a bet on whether God exists or not, if the person wagers on the side that God does not exist and turns out to be wrong, he loses more as he will end up suffering eternal damnation. If the person wagers on the side that God exists and turns out to be wrong, then there’s nothing gained nor lost when it comes to the idea of eternal punishment for the idea ceases to exist with the non-existence of God. I do not wish to dwell on the arguments for or against the existence of God but I would like to discuss the principle of the Wager on the virtues of the RH/RP Bill.

In an article describing a 2009 study by the Asian Development Bank, it was stressed that even with a 0.47 percent poverty reduction rate between the periods 1990 and 2005, this reduction rate was slower than in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Vietnam. According to Wikipedia, this dismal poverty reduction rate shows that the incidence of poverty has remained significantly high as compared to other countries. The study, as stated in the article, also shows that among the countries looked at, only in the Philippines did the overall number of poor people increased during that period. More to the point, less than one fifth of households with four members or less are poor and this percentage doubles to more than forty percent with six or more members in the family household. As the ADB indicated:

“Family size is (also) positively correlated with poverty incidence and vulnerability.”

Now I do realize that population growth alone cannot explain poverty nor can it be the only culprit to the societal problems plaguing the country. There certainly are factors such as bad governance, corruption, wealth and income inequality and weak economic growth. But there have been numerous studies that show how population growth may lead to or even aggravate the problem of poverty. Some of the studies are as follows:

In a RAND publication entitled: “The Demographic Dividend: A New Perspective on the Economic Consequences of Population Change”, it states that as the number of people gets bigger, per capita production increases provided that the labor market can absorb the large number of workers. (My comment: There’s the rub. The current labor market in the Philippines cannot absorb the large number of workers. Sure the country can make policy changes such as Charter Change especially focused on allowing foreign ownership of businesses to spur foreign investment and the business climate. However, this could mean that the local businessmen would be at a disadvantage over their foreign counterparts. Some even say that this would violate Philippine sovereignty and self-determination. So the challenge seems to lie on how we can have our cake and eat it too.)

A book by Alhburg et al. entitled: “The Impact of Population Growth on Well-being in Developing Countries” concludes that:

“…slowing population growth from high current levels, especially in poor agrarian societies facing pressure on land and resources, is advantageous to economic development, health, food availability, housing, poverty, the environment, and possibly education. It also concludes that while other economic and social policies may affect one or a few of these components of well-being more directly, few, if any, are likely to have the breadth of impact of family planning programmes.”

Emmanuel de Dios et al., in a book entitled: “Poverty, Growth and the Fiscal Crisis” argued that:

“High population growth has direct effects on poor families. Where unemployment is high, a larger population aggravates poverty simply because income per person becomes lower as population expands. This has more severe effects on the poor since their families are also larger. This implies that the share of incomes received by poor families is even more thinly distributed among them.”

Eastwood and Lipton from a publication at the Journal of Development Studies entitled: “Impact of Changes in Human Fertility on Poverty” has shown that cross-national regressions indicate that higher fertility increases poverty both by retarding economic growth and by skewing distribution against the poor.

Now I am sure there are a number of ways an anti-RH/anti-RP person can shoot holes in the arguments and facts presented in the studies and articles mentioned. Correlating population increase with poverty incidence may be nothing more than a case of statistical sophistry. However, while the number of unemployed and underemployed continues to be high (and increasing), while the overall number of poor people continue to increase, while the available resources and opportunities in the country continue to decline and tip the scale of the law of supply and demand towards a decreased consumer purchasing power, I do not think we can afford to ignore the evidence that poorly managed population growth is having an impact on the lives of millions of Filipino people, especially the poor.


[Photo courtesy Christian Post.]

The RH/RP Bill isn’t about abortion nor is it even about implementing a policy on how many children people shall have. It is about choices on family planning. People with financial means would always have the benefit of having the choice of and access to contraceptives if they do not wish to have children. People who are poor tend not to have the same benefit as it becomes a matter of affordability for them. From how I understand the intent of the RH/RP Bill is, the aim is to help provide this benefit for the poor. Given the current state of the Philippines when it comes to poverty, supporting the RH/RP Bill seems to be the safer bet at this time. There seems to be a more immediate risk in being an overpopulation atheist than to be the opposite.

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29 Comments on “Overpopulation Atheism”

  1. You are absolutely right. The RH Bill is not just about abortion nor is it even about implementing a policy on how many children people shall have; it is NOT even about family planning and choices and all that jazz. It is about using the Php 13.7 BILLION pesos funding and pouring it into what is more critical at this moment the primary of which are flood-control management, disaster management. Of course there are hundreds of other things I can think of where we can put that money to good use but since we are a country in the path of a typhoons and we do get hit bad, year in and year out, and suffer the most damages worth billions, isn’t there more commonsense in spending on that than on contraception?

    My other points about the RH Bill : generate jobs thru allowing more foreign investments (as local investors obviously are doing jack shit to help) so we can have jobs, so people can be busy with a career more than making babies (there are lots of case studies about that the prime example of which is Singapore),and people can afford good education for their kids and good medical care without asking for govt doleouts.

    Enough with the mendicant mentality this govt is fostering with the RH Bill. Give more jobs, not condoms.

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for reading! Like I said, I do realize that overpopulation cannot be blamed as the sole culprit of poverty in the Philippines. There certainly are other contributing factors such as bad governance and corruption. However, as various studies have shown, overpopulation does contribute to poverty and retardation of economic progress. We have finite resources and the availability of these resources would probably be hard-pressed in keeping up with demand in a rapidly growing population with limited means.

      Now I also realize that another way to address poverty is to look at the other side of the equation – which is to stimulate the business climate so more (adequate paying) jobs become available. But that isn’t as easy as we want it to be. I am also in favor of opening up 100% business ownership to foreigners as I think this will stimulate the economy. However, the reality on the ground is that businesses are held tightly by the local oligarchs (to which the Yellows belong to) and I don’t think they have any plans of giving up their monopoly in the country. It may happen in the distant future but until that happens… the poverty-overpopulation problem will continue to do a number on the Philippines.

      Certainly the RH/RP Bill should not be treated as the “end-all, be-all” solution. It’s pretty much a stop-gap measure not meant to address the root cause of poverty but just one of the direct causes of poverty.

      While it is true that this government has made bad judgments on how people’s money is spent (such as the over bloated CCT), I think providing funds to give the poor knowledge of and access to contraceptives is worth considering. If the Filipino people were only as intellectually mature and responsible as other people from developed countries, I would agree that this RH/RP Bill is not necessary. However, our people (especially our poor) are way behind and with the way the system (and culture) works in the Philippines, I really don’t see a more immediate and realistic measure.

      1. Hello Hector! Thanks for the reply. Appreciate it. But see, whatever the RH Bill is proposing to do is already being done – except maybe the part about Safe Sex Education to 11 year-olds which I am vehemently opposed to because 1) it is nobody’s business, esp not the govt’s, to teach my kids about sexuality that way. The reproductive system is already being taught in school and that is ok with me but it will be a cold day in hell before I agree to the unethical teaching of Safe Sex to 11 year-olds, esp my 11 year-old! 2)If studies have proven that kids who watch movies with more sex scenes tend to lose their virginity at a younger age, have more sexual partners and report less condom use, can you imagine if they are taught about sex and safe sex in school almost everyday?

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobaurist/2012/08/08/sex-in-movies-pushes-kids-to-have-sex-earlier/

        Regarding contraception, people are already contracepting, rich and poor. Birth-control items are sold OTC and are not all expensive. If people do get pregnant because they didnt use protection, it is bec they didnt want to use protection and not bec they couldnt afford it.

        My point is, still, whatever we do, however much we try to “control” things, nature and human nature will find a way to propagate. It is the nature of things. Experience had shown that anytime mankind screws around with nature and anything natural, we end up on the losing end, somehow, someway. So, my take is, the RH Bill is PHP 13.7 BILLION of vagueness in the accomplishment of its objective (and I truly doubt that it will indeed be used for the purpose it is intended to be, or actually reach the target communities it intends to reach – let us not be naive about it) without guarantee the pinoys will follow it unless the govt MANDATES every single Filipino to keep to 2-children and penalize couples with more than two like China does, in which case it becomes more a political/police tool (of subjugation now) and no longer a healthcare issue. So, why don’t we instead 1) if the funding is there already, then use it right away in the most critical issue lately which costs us billions of pesos in damages yearly, in disaster management and planning, urban planning and management, then education – more school buildings, classrooms, books; better infrastructures, etc; and 2) open the Philippine economy – stop with the protectionism already. After all, it isnt working (for the masa that is). Generate jobs that will allow a person (a poor one especially) to have dignity, earn a decent living, so he can afford for his family a better life, good education, good food, good work/life balance, and good medical care anywhere he wants and NOT ASK GOVT FOR INTERVENTION, DOLEOUTS AND HANDOUTS. If he wants to contracept, then he can buy whatever contraception they want. No freebies from govt. Wouldnt that be more financially sound than spending so much to sustain a need that the people can take care of themselves, actually?

        Health care is not a right in the sense that my tax money is used to buy someone’s contraceptive just bec he wants to have sex without the responsibility. People should work and earn their living so they can buy all the contraception they want! I am not willing to subsidize their sex lives.

  2. An anti-RH Bill stance is not equivalent to an anti-family planning one. It doesn’t make sense to give this government, that has so far mishandled everything else, more ways to muck things up via a bill that looks to be a move to take money from one group and give that to another.

      1. It is wrong because one sector is doing all the giving and the other just receiving. The government’s job is to properly allocate the resources available to all. It is the management of these resources that some are questioning not its purpose.

        I’m all go for the RH bill because it will educate the populace. However, I am also afraid of the bill because I doubt the government’s capacity to PROPERLY implement, monitor and evaluate the results.

        1. Hi itchyBB! I agree that the RH/RP Bill aims to educate the people (especially the poor). I also like the idea that the Bill will help the poor get better access to contraceptives. But as I said, it is one thing to criticize the merits of the bill and another to criticize the competence of the administration. I think we should primarily look at the Bill for its merits and not solely on how the government will muck it up. Thanks for reading!

        2. As much as many would like to simply focus on the merits of this bill, it would be best that it is made clear on how the budget is going to be used.

          Since the current administration is calling for “matuwid na daan”, then transparency on the usage of the funds is a must. We need to be able to see and understand the balance sheet. I guess that is only fair.

          The government must be sensitive enough to pacify the doubts of the populace–especially the taxpayers. The middle class has been year in and year out abused with price hikes–most due tax levied on the utilities/service/industrial industries.

          Maybe then, this emotional and “highly hypocritical” debate would finally come to a resolution.

    1. Thanks for reading, sitting pretty! I agree that this government has mishandled pretty much everything it has tackled. However, it is one thing to criticize the merits of the bill and another to criticize the competence of the administration. We could always have great laws and policies but the execution or enforcement of those laws and policies is another issue. If they pass this RH/RP Bill that the Noynoy administration is pushing for, then this government ought to be accountable for its outcome.

  3. Hi… I have only recently found your website and I think it’s an amazing place to learn and share ideas that can benefit the Philippines as a whole by recognising realities. Congratulations to the host of this site.

    With regard to the article on the RH Bill etc… can I offer the following for consideration. You mention that people who are better off financially will have easy access to contraception etc and that’s so true. One thing that I believe is being overlooked was brought to light a few years ago when a member of local government (Mayor) said… “We have to find a way to get electricity into the mountains”. When I asked why I was somewhat surprised by his candid answer… “So the poor people living up there have something to do (watch TV… etc)… OTHER THAN MAKING BABIES”! And he’s right. I’ve travelled extensively through those mountains many times and often encountered families with upward of 15 to 20 children… many of whom grow up to around 14+ and begin to emulate their parents! This is NOT sustainable growth. The population growth in these areas is ‘EXPLOSIVE’ and creates all sort of additional environmental challenges such as ‘de-forestation’ to make space to grow food crops… which leads to erosion… flooding… and major calamities in the coastal regions. As long as there is such a major gap between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have-not’s’ we will never achieve true happiness. You have a wonderful country with many wonderful people… but the simple fact that not only is the Philippines all but financially bankrupt… it is also ‘morally bankrupt’ and will remain so until reality is faced and corruption addressed such that true equality in opportunity is offered to ALL Filipino! Thanks again for a great website. With much love and best wishes… B&R.

    1. Thanks, BSJSNZ and welcome to Get Real Post!

      As I mentioned, overpopulation isn’t the only cause of poverty. However, I think given the lessons gathered from various studies and even just from what we see that is happening (unemployment, underemployment, declining quality of life, scarce resources, etc.), I think it is much riskier to ignore the effects and impact of overpopulation in the life of the Filipino in the Philippines. Thanks for reading!

  4. Unemployment is the major cause of poverty and in reality, when there’s no decent job alloted for the breadwinner of the family, chances are:
    * poor education for the kids
    * hungry stomach of the kids
    * lack of decent shelter for the kids
    And someday these kids will grow up IGNORANT. Being easily influenced by the negative aspects of the society.
    Let me put it this way, in free economies like Singapore, where population is more or less 5,000,000 s’poreans, poverty is low. Well it doesn’t mean that Singapore has small population in thar considering of its size. It is much smaller as compared to the Philippines. Despite that fact, Singapore is open to foreign trade allowing %100 foreign business ownership. Aside from that, despite its size, it managed to attain GDP growth of more or less $300 billion even higher than the Philippines, andd per capita of more or less $50,000 as opposed to the Philippines. These are facts, growing the economy without prior hesitation will benefit the majority. Unlike in the Philippines where job is limited, Filipinos are forced to look for alternatives overseas. If only economic liberization is just implemented here in the past then these problems might have been narrowed down.

    1. This is happening already, poor education leads to ignorance. If you chance upon the comments on yahoo phils, you will know what i mean.

      Unemployment has been a problem since I can remember. Cory made sure that she gave the people the illusion of having more jobs by contractualization. What the people didnt see is that it was not advantageous to the people but to her clan who owns big businesses. Gone are the days, when you finished school (kahit vocational lang) and got a job and you worked and progressed within that job, until the age of retirement. Nowadays, its good if you even had a 5 month-stint at SM or Jollibee, etc. Comes with this is the decline of our educational system. I mean teachers were proud and they were somebody to look up to. Students feared them and did their school work. Now what have we done..teachers are now looked down upon and they cant even do anything if the student or pupils dont listen or misbehave. And I wonder how my kids will grow up similar to mine with the situation now.

      The point is, everything has been downhill for the Philippines when more people started to believe in the L sign and the yellow color and “freedom and democracy”. Why cant it be like the way it used to be more than 2 decades ago. I felt safer and more secure then?

      1. Thanks for reading, joeld! Yes, I agree with you. To paraphrase a quote from the movie “The Usual Suspects”…. I think the greatest trick the devil ever pulled on the Filipino people is to convince them that Yellow is the color of God. Regards!

    2. Given the system we have in the Philippines, there aren’t a lot of opportunities available. As the population increases, the less likelihood of the (limited) labor market can absorb the available manpower. Sure we can consider economic liberalization (and I really hope we go that way) but the reality on the ground is that this ideal cannot be easily obtained. The local oligarchs are much too protective of their hold on the country’s businesses. Battling the oligarchs into submission so that the country will be more open to foreign investments may take a very long time and until that time comes, the effects and impact of overpopulation and increasing poverty will continue to do a number on the country. Thanks for reading, pussyfoot!

  5. So your argument is the RH Bill is worthy of a Pascal’s Wager that it may reduce population growth. That argument would be good enough, if it was not being made on behalf of a seriously-flawed piece of legislation riddled with ambiguity, that presents no objective measures of effectiveness, and puts large amounts of public funds at risk of corruption and political manipulation. And, grossly underestimates the amount of funding that is actually needed to carry out all its provisions.

    So, you’re creating another huge public funds drain, and the best anyone can say is it might help? That’s hardly good enough. If the problem is overpopulation, then that is the problem that needs to be addressed directly. Not with a statement of unfulfillable aspirations that tap-dances around the issue by blathering on about “choice”.

    1. They’re worried that if they went straight to the point and laid the bill out straight, they would incur the wrath of “authorities” such as the Catholic Church. Really, they’ve set themselves up in a situation where no one wins.

    2. Hi BenK! I realize the probability of this government mucking things up. However, I am arguing on the side of the principle and intent of the Bill. As I said, we can have great policies and laws but the performance of those enacting and enforcing those laws and policies is another thing. I do not think that just because we have an incompetent administration means that we should not have policies.

      Sure, this Bill will likely cost a lot of money. However, I think we can mitigate the high cost by re-prioritization of budget allocation. For example, I think the Bill can be supported is, say, budget for programs such as the CCT can be reduced in favor of the RH/RP Bill. Would the benefit outweigh the cost of implementing the RH/RP Bill? I guess we can only speculate at this point. But given the effect and impact of overpopulation and poverty in the country right now, I really think we have to have a policy that aims to promote population management. Thanks for reading!

  6. It is really hard to solve a problem when the problem itself already became complicated
    (as the saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.”) especially when the public opinion is divided into thirds. Noone can guarantee the effectiveness of such a law especially that there are many other laws of the land that are not properly implemented like Benk say, it will just drain the fund allocated to it by means of what we are already overdosed of -corruption.

    1. I agree, there is no guarantee that such a law will be effective given the record of our government. However, I think we still need to have good policies in place and we need to work on making the government more accountable. Thanks for reading, pussyfoot!

  7. This does not have to be a big deal.Teach kids in school how to use birth control devices.Handout condoms to poor people.It is not difficult.Spending millions of pesos to get people to stop making babies they can not care for is not necessary.Stopping un-planned/unwanted/under-cared for babies is what is needed and it should not cost all that much.Its seemingly more about an institution losing its grip and political grandstandig that is making this a big deal.
    OMG,WHAT IS NEXT???? MAKING DIVORCE LEGAL????OMG!!!!
    This country needs to come out of the dark ages,step into the light for a change,you will be welcomed!!!

    1. Thanks for reading, RONNIE! I agree, this does not have to be a big deal. However, as much as we do not want it to be a big deal…. it is. There are so many emotions involved and sometimes people get caught up discussing things outside of the immediately relevant issue. (e.g. Separation of Church and State, Foolishness of belief in God and religion, etc.) It boils down to the prevention of making babies that parents (and the government in the long run) cannot take care of.

      By the way… I’m in favor of legalizing Divorce. 🙂

      1. That this is an emotional argument is even sadder than the lack of sex-ed/flood control put together.
        I fail to see the big deal that this has become.Taking $30MILLION to educate the public on the use of condoms seems like a robbery to me,it just should not cost that much to teach kids about using condoms.They are not expensive,neither are the pills.
        Sadly,this looks like another robbery of the treasury.

    2. Actually it is simple, I’m thinking straight forward solution such as a law that will limit the number of children from couples. That will take care of women’s health and control population growth. Wala nang ek ek pa from the church and other pro or anti groups. We just need “kamay na bakal” to have this implemented. I dont think democracy really works for the kind of mindset the Filipinos have anyway.

      1. OK,lets bring back Marcos and Martial law!!! YIPPEE!!!! Ya know,Fascism is coming to the U.S.A.,it won’t be much longer,and then it can be exported right over to S.E. Asia!!!
        Should be really popular too….MAYBE.

        1. @ronnie…in case you didnt notice, Pinoys have that mentality, that laws and rules are there, merely as suggestions. But take that Filipino outside his country, and he follows it to the letter. Maybe for the fact that, he is liable if he doesnt follow the rule of law there or is afraid kasi walang backer. Point is, you have to put that Filipino in a situation where he will be liable and he will be a first class citizen. Inside his country, the Filipino is the worst citizen you can have. Thats why, the need for kamay na bakal, hindi kamay na bakla. I didnt mention anything about the “evil dictator”, by the way, read again.

  8. What you believe is your business. If you believe in God…or if you don’t believe in God, is your own decision…

  9. Filipinos are young as a society and could be compared to children you frequently see on the streets.
    A friend of mine pointed out that the majority of Filipinos believe in the Creationist view of the origins of man. I burst out laughing and said Filipinos aren’t that stupid. There are a large number of proofs that the theory of evolution is correct. Filipinos should rationally believe in evolution.
    The kicker is that I asked a few of my peers and acquaintances who are educated and professional and they still believe in creation like it is history.

    Ugh, I’m dragging on …but whatever. The Filipino society is doomed and the culture that we seek won’t happen in our lifetime. Let’s just leave Philippines, tis a silly place. I’m not even being sarcastic

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