Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Population Control

One way of coping with the issues of overpopulation and dwindling resources is to institute policies concerning population control.  Today we see population control being implemented in China, where the population already exceeds 1 billion. It is hardly surprising that science fiction writers have envisioned worlds where such control is mandated by the government.

One way of controlling the population is to control who gives birth and how many babies are allowed.  In the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Ender Wiggin is bullied for being a “third.”  In a world where families are almost always restricted to bearing only two children, Ender is singled out by this.  Some see him as someone who shouldn’t exist in the first place.

We also see futures where people are required to obtain a license before having children.  In worlds where this is the norm, how do you decide who gets a license and who doesn’t?  Is it based on genetics and intelligence?  What are the ethical implications of this kind of eugenics program?  How do you balance the interests of humanity as a whole with the rights of the individual?  Should the government have any right to limit how many children their citizens have?

Sometimes people are expected to forfeit their lives.  This helps control the population, as well as eliminates many issues associated with end-of-life care.  We see this in Logan’s Run and the episode “Half a Life” from Star Trek TNG.  Should the government be able to determine when its citizens die?  How do you determine when a person’s life should end?  How can such a determination ever be made when each person’s circumstances are different?  Consider all the contributions these people might have possibly been able to make to the world had they been allowed to live.  Is the harm done to society by cutting off that potential worth the benefits of such a policy?

In the Sliders episode “Luck of the Draw,” people voluntarily take part in the lottery.  Those who win get money and all sorts of perks, but most of that will be enjoyed by their families as the winners will forfeit their lives soon after.  Should people be encouraged to make that kind of sacrifice?  Is this kind of voluntary system preferable to one that limits one’s right to have children, or should the lives of those who already exist take precedence?

What other versions of population control have you seen depicted, and what are the ethical ramifications?


  1. I loved your take on population control and the connection between art and life. Hope to read more. Good luck with the A-Z!

  2. I loved Ender's Game. Being a "third" weighed heavily on Ender's already complicated life. That's the danger with these kinds of mandates.

    I don't know if you've read "The Giver" but in that world parents have to apply for a child and I think the max they can have is two as well. And in that world the child isn't even conceived by the parents applying for the child. Basically everyone adopts.

  3. I think you mentioned most of the ones I've read about, except Fortress, where Christopher Lambert's character is imprisoned because he and his wife tried to have a child, and I remember reading a novel while at school, but I have no idea what the title was, but there is a totalitarian society where everyone is drugged into docility and at 14 sex starts where they are allocated partners and like everything else in life they have children when they are told. Everything is run by a computer called Uni.
    Tasha's Thinkings - AtoZ (Vampires)
    FB3X - AtoZ (Erotic Drabbles)