Defending Ehrlich (sorta)

I saw this going viral:

Just as the left has its own forms of virtue signaling, unfortunately so does the right. This has become the right’s version of the Tuskegee Study or Jim Crow, as an example often trotted out to show the alleged racism and badness of the opposing side, as if an example almost a century ago is still applicable today. We are unable to make arguments, but are just signaling sentiment to our respective tribes.

Paul R. Ehrlich, who at 91 is still a professor of biology at Stanford University, in 1968 wrote a book predicting an overpopulation crisis, which turned out to be wildly wrong. But is he any more to blame than the leaders who used his warnings as a blueprint for policy? Yeah, it sounds bad until you realize that leaders do all sorts of things that are way worse, like lead entire nations into wars that cost millions of lives for everyone involved. WW2 cost 70-80 million lives. WW1 cost 10 million. This was around 3.7 percent of the world’s population between 1939 to 1945. By this logic, Churchill was a far worse person than Paul Ehrlich. If you want to consider the worst people ever in terms of direct or even indirect suffering inflicted, it’s easy to think of at least a dozen examples worse than Ehrlich.

Politicians today fear social media backlash, which I think is a major mitigating factor in how policy is created, but seventy years ago leaders acted with much more impunity. Something like mandatory sterilization was not considered controversial until even as recently as the 80s, and if someone today even hinted, much less openly advocated, such a thing it would be all over social media. ‘Whistleblower culture’ didn’t begin until the ’70s with the Pentagon Papers. We take for granted today that there is some expectation of transparency or that politicians and policy makers are at least held to some degree of accountability in the eyes of the public, but these are relatively new developments in the history of government.

As for the policy itself, I don’t see how it’s wrong per say. If the problem is overpopulation, how does more aid solve anything if it does not address the underlying problem. Aid conditional on some form of birth control is actually the prudent thing to do, to allow India to build the necessary infrastructure in order to later sustain a large population. It’s like if your kid keeps crashing the car, do you give him the keys again? No, you enroll him in driving school.