What A Christmas Carol Teaches Us About Forced Sterilization And Population Contro

ErikBrown

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2UtAHA_0Y7dk0np00Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (First Edition 1843) — Wikimedia Commons

Every single year you’re asked to repeat a tradition at Christmas time. Obviously, there’s the important religious underpinnings, the tree, and gift-giving, however, there’s something else you’ll see repeated. Charles Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol is often remixed or played out in various forms of media. My favorite happens to be the 1984 version with George C. Scott.

While the tale gives us the moral of helping our neighbor and personal redemption for our sins, there’s something else. This something else generally goes unnoticed — population control. While being asked to give money to charity, Scrooge indicates that if the masses of the poor starve off and die, it would decrease the “surplus population”. I originally thought this a tactic to show off Scrooge’s callousness, but it’s likely much more than that.

In the time Dicken’s wrote this story there happened to be a huge philosophical debate going on in terms of economics and society. One side believed in a world of limited resources and increasing populations must be curtailed. The other believed as the population increased, the economic output could keep pace.

Scrooge’s words on surplus population tend to echo the thoughts of a thinker of that era, Thomas Malthus. What’s more, the debate continues to this very day. Many politicians and political elite echo the ideas of Malthus and at points sound like Scrooge.

So, within the tradition, there’s another tradition. A debate going on since the time of Dickens also happens to repeat itself. Although the side arguing Scrooge’s point happens to change the gift wrapping around their idea, it’s basically the same. As populations grow, resources diminish, hence there can’t be enough to supply all.

Their answer: do something to deal with the “surplus population”.

England in the time of Scrooge

In an article in Humanprogress.org, Chelsea Follett mentions London became the world’s most populated city during the 1800’s. As A Christmas Carol entered printing in 1843, two million lived in London; this doubled the population from forty years before. By 1900 this tripled to over six million.

While they may have seen masses of people, it wasn’t entirely due to reproduction. The swarm of people mainly came by migration. Furthermore, Follet explains farmworkers traveled to the city looking for work in the industry.

If you were in Scrooge’s shoes during this time period, the idea of a surplus population may have seemed a reasonable conclusion. Moreover, Malthus had written An Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, stating economies couldn’t grow quickly enough to keep up with surging populations. The elite of that day saw Malthus’ idea playing out in London.

However, Follett explains the ideas of Adam Smith and Jean Baptiste Say espoused the opposite. Peaceful trade could keep growing populations happy and fed. It would seem Dickens agreed with this sentiment, almost designing the Ghost of Christmas Present to speak these ideals.

An economics lesson from a ghost

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The Ghost Of Christmas Present, A Christmas Carol (First Edition 1843) — Wikimedia Commons
“The Ghost of Christmas Present is …the symbol of abundance. He literally and figuratively holds a cornucopia, a horn of plenty. While he wears a scabbard at his side, it is bereft of sword and neglected in care. Peace and plenty.”
— Jerry Bowyer, Forbes Magazine

In his article, economist Jerry Bowyer breaks down the image of the Ghost of Christmas Present; one you’re likely very familiar with. However, most will miss its symbolism. This particular spirit is a collection of characteristics that display man’s ability to conquer his own poor living conditions.

In what most take as a throwaway line, Scrooge asks the Ghost how many brothers and sisters he has. He cheerfully replies 1800. When the miser announces that’s a lot of mouths to feed, the spirit takes him out to the market.

Food is plentiful and everywhere, even exotic types — Dickens goes out of his way to mention oranges. In their visit to the poor Cratchits, the family eat oranges at the end of their dinner. Remember, this is 1800’s England in the middle of winter. Yet there’s food from a far-off warm climate at the ready to eat, in addition to enough to feed the masses. The market is conquering want, despite the “surplus population”.

The Ghost also shames Scrooge with his own words, announcing what the big deal is if Bob Cratchit’s child Tim dies; it would relieve the “surplus population”. At points, the spirit could be mistaken for the ghost of Adam Smith or Jean Baptiste Say.

While the ideas of Malthus attracted many supporters, they were ultimately proven wrong by technology according to Michael Shermer in Scientific American. Mankind got much better at growing food, and advanced civilizations tended to practice voluntary birth control. As Shermer reminds us, humankind is much more capable than a herd of deer.

Moreover, Follett also sets up a chart where she shows how GDP growth in England mirrors the population increase after 1843. So, the surplus population didn’t result in chaos, it caused the economy to grow.

However, this didn’t stop the followers of Malthus from trying to save the world in their own way and repackaging the argument in later times.

Population control and the population bomb

“The first sentence set the tone: ‘The battle to feed all of humanity is over.’ And humanity had lost. In the 1970s, the book promised, ‘hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.’ No matter what people do, ‘nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.’”
— Charles C. Mann, Smithsonian Magazine

In the 1970’s a little-known entomologist named Paul Ehrlich wrote a very influential book called “The Population Bomb”. While it didn’t make waves when it was first published, he got a lucky break and was invited on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Mann explains Ehrlich was interesting enough to get invited back again.

The publicity helped push his book and ideas. Basically, the world’s population was overloading the planet’s resources; the Ghost of Christmas Past being played by Malthus. It all sounded very logical to Ehrlich, the entomologist. When insects overcrowded an area, they destroyed the environment’s ability to feed them; the same could be said with mankind.

This idea seemed to be playing out before Ehrlich’s eyes on a trip to India. The entomologist saw swarms of people in overcrowded Delhi, much like locusts he might study. Mann explains at the time the city had a population of close to three million. In nine years it jumped to over four million.

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Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich (1974) — Photo By Ilka Hartmann [Public Domain]

The United Nations and The World Bank took the warnings seriously and decided to do something about it. Another similar warning from Malthus set England’s government into action as well in the 1800's.

According to Matt Ridley in Scientific American, the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 limited government food aid to the needy. After all, feeding them only encouraged them to breed. Ridley also quotes an English politician about the Irish Potato Famine, saying famine is good method to control the “surplus population”. Scrooge would have been proud.

Thankfully, the World Bank and the United Nations (U.N.) didn’t follow the same game plan. They decided to sterilize the poor instead.

Mass Sterilization And One Child Policy

In an interview with The Daily Beast, author Vinod Mehta says the World Bank and the U.N. found a willing partner for their sterilization ideas with Indira Gandhi in India. Echoing Ehrlich’s views on New Delhi, the global agencies warned India’s leader about the dangers of overpopulation.

Indira put her son Sanjay in charge. At first, he looked for volunteers, offering money and gifts in return. When few stepped forward, the police were sent out with quotas to achieve. Swarms of men were rounded up and forcibly sterilized — Mehta reports 600,000 alone in one region in nearly two weeks.

As protests broke out, the police were ordered to be more forceful, in certain instances killing some who resisted and destroying villages. Eventually in order to receive any government services, a “sterilization certificate” had to be presented. According to Mann, at the end of the campaign about eight million Indians were sterilized, many against their will. Mehta also says Indira Gandhi received compliments from the head of the World Bank on her efforts.

Mann also explains China adopted its One-Child Policy with ideas of population control as well, forcing possibly 100 million abortions and sterilizing millions. Chelsea Follett in an article at the Cato Institute mentions the idea came from a paper published by a think tank called The Club of Rome. Their ideas happened to be recycled from Ehrlich and Malthus.

The mass sterilizations also didn’t end in India and China, Mann also says they took place in Mexico, Bangladesh, Peru, Indonesia, and Bolivia. In addition, before the modern push Shermer also reminds us the United States also took a turn at forced sterilizations. A 1927 Supreme Court decision allowed for forced sterilization of “undesirables”, particularly those believed to be “imbeciles” with low mental abilities. 70,000 were sterilized against their will in this campaign. Puts you in the Christmas spirit doesn’t it?

Resurgence of population control

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Thomas Malthus — Portrait By John Linnell (1843) Wikimedia Commons

Despite the chaos which you’ve read above, pushes on population control aren’t over. They’re just repackaged. You don’t have to go far now to hear the message that having less children is better for the environment. Marian Tupy in an article at CapX mentions comments from Prince Harry, Bernie Sanders, and American talk show host Bill Maher echoing this idea.

In fact, there’s now a movement called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (Vhemt). I could explain their purpose, but it’s kind of obvious. While many population controllers would hopefully say this movement is ridiculous, they push the same ideals — mainly humans are no different than Ehrlich’s insects and must be controlled like an infestation.

The ideas of Malthus were repackaged by Ehrlich, then repackaged again by the modern environmental movement. If the past is any guide, grand attempts to save the world by population control can result in horrors. While these people attempt to do good, they often cause incredible unplanned harm.

Just the idea of comparing humanity to locusts can likely lead to terrible consequences — for example — sterilizing the poor. It’s not much different than Scrooge’s thoughts on the “surplus population”. This is why A Christmas Carol is so important in the modern-day. It’s part of a greater tradition: the argument of what humanity truly is.

An alarmingly large group believes it’s an infestation no different than locusts. I’d suggest they listen carefully to the words of the Ghost of Christmas Present about “surplus population” and his thoughts about comparing mankind to insects. The words ring true in our day as well.

“Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.”

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Work out fanatic, martial artist, student, MBA, and connoisseur of useless information. I try and work a combination of history and philosophy into modern day life. I can be interesting and awful at the same, but you'll generally learn something worthwhile when you donate some of your time to read my work.

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