Posted by: Jack | May 6, 2008

Partial Birth Abolition – The Real Solution to All of Our Problems

Offer me a challenge that lessens or will lessen the quality of human life and I’ll explain why it can be overcome by reducing our population by 90%. Yes, I realize that all of our problems could also be solved by reducing the population by 100%, but let’s assume a common goal of continuation for our species.

Let’s make another assumption and from here on out consider my first statement above to be globally valid…because it is. So now all we face is a task that many would consider to be a pipe-dream. I’m not one for smoking so I rather describe it as an absolute feasibility.

The solution is radical yet elegant, controversial yet justifiable. I can’t take credit for the concept as I first encountered it in Kim Stanley Robinson’s book, Red Mars. However, the story only touched on the basics and most of what is below is of my own construction.

With a goal of population reduction, the most obvious and efficient method is mass extermination, be it deliberate or via global catastrophe. One or both of these could definitely occur in the near future but a better option might be one that doesn’t involve any increase in the average death rate.

There are two factors in population flux; deaths and births. Since we are avoiding an increase in deaths, the only other option is a decrease in births. Of course, any regulation on reproduction will be met with great opposition but try to consider the following objectively, keeping in mind that the objective is increased quality of life for each future generation.

Things we want to consider in developing birthing regulations (from here on out I will refer to an individual’s right to produce one child as a ‘birth-right’):

  1. All people should have equal birth-rights.
  2. It takes one man and one woman to produce a child (obvious but important).
  3. Biological parents have a variety of relationships ranging from life-long committment to none.
  4. Generally speaking, there are numerous direct correlations between a child’s quality of life and his parents’ income level.
  5. A future child’s health and well-being should take priority over his parents’ values.
  6. Modern birth control and contraceptives are both cheap and effective.
  7. There should be no fixed limit on how many children a person can produce…otherwise the system will never be accepted.

That last point may seem to inherently contradict the concept of birthing regulations but in fact it does not.

The concept is simple so I will lay it out simply. The implications are great so they will require greater exploration.

At birth, every human earns an irrevokable ¾ birth-right. It’s tough to produce ¾ of a child, so when deciding to have a child, a person must add their birth-right to that of another resulting in 1½ birth-rights. After a birth, each parent is left with a remaining ¼ birth-right. Two courses of action can be taken next. If the parent(s) do not foresee having another child at the time, they can sell their remaining birth-rights. The rights can only be sold to a virtual, global bank of birth-rights. The other course of action, in the event that the parents want to have another child, would be for each to purchase another ¼ birth-right from this bank. The bank’s “vault” would originally contain zero birth-rights and so before additional rights could be purchased, other parents would have to have sold their remainders.

Important regulations which would need to be in place:

  1. An individual may only sell ¼ birth-right from their initial ¾ birth-right prior to producing a child. In other words, a childless individual will never have less than ½ birth-right.
  2. At no time may an individual purchase birth-rights that would result in that individual posessing more than ½ birth-right.
  3. Though the market value of birth-rights will fluctuate, at any given instant the buying and selling rates will be equal.
  4. Prospective parents that do not fit into the category of one fertile male and one fertile female can continue to obtain a child by all means which are available. In the event that other individuals are required to produce the child (sperm/egg donors, surrogate mothers, etc.) only the individuals who receive custody of the child must utilize their birth-rights.
  5. No purchase of birth-rights may be made on credit and no individual or organization may provide a loan for the purpose of purchasing birth-rights.
  6. No financial profit may be made from the buying or selling of birth-rights.

Result of this regulatory system: Since the global total number of birth-rights will always be equal to ¾ of the population, each generation will be at most ¾ that of it’s predecessor. If this system was implemented today, with an approximate population of six billion, our goal of 90% population reduction could be achieved in just eight generations. Generations on average are between 22 and 25 years in separation so the goal could be met in under two hundred years; significantly faster than the more than three hundred years it took to grow from 600 million to six billion.

With such a proposal, there will be endless objections and complications. I won’t thoroughly investigate every issue right now but would like to acknowledge some of those that are most obvious.

  • Abortion rates are likely to increase. However, this could be countered by greater education about, and availability of, birth control. Both would become easier as population decreased.
  • Special circumstances, such as the death of a young child, would require consideration. It would be both ethically and objectively prudent to refund birth-rights to the child’s parents. The difficulty comes in determining an age at which the refund is no longer issued.
  • Enforcement is a big one. Standard law enforcement practices would actually be counter-productive regarding our goal of improved quality of life. Imprisoning or fining parents is just as much a punishment to the innocent child. A better guide might be the U.S. laws regarding the right to vote. Each citizen inherits this right but it is revoked if convicted of a felony. Since the birth-right system likewise grants privelages to all, those who violate regulations should have those privelages revoked. It is hardly sufficient to state that an offending parent may never again purchase additional birth-rights. They’ve already managed to reproduce without sufficient birth-rights once. Further action is required and although extreme, sterilization is the only truly effective method. Many may place this on the level of capitol punishment but sterilization for males is already a very simple, non-invasive procedure and in years to come, this could be the case for females as well. More importantly, this punishment succeeds in eliminating the possibility of repeat offenders; a major flaw that persists with imprisonment and citations.

The last issue I’d like to confront is the bias that exists at the core of this system. Since the ability to reproduce will be directly associated with wealth, population will tend to decrease most rapidly in poverty stricken areas. At a glance, this almost appears to be an extremely slow form of genocide, but without the horror of mass murders. And to an extent, that is what would happen. But again, if we focus on the objective, we’ll see that this is exactly the intent of the system. The root cause of poverty is resources. A community of people living in a desert may be able to survive for many generations, but they will never obtain a level of security that comes with relative ease elsewhere. If in reducing Earth’s population, that population is simultaneously re-dispersed to the lands which can best support us, then our objective will be met more quickly.

If this system were utilized continuously, after another eight generations population would be down to about 60 million. Considering humans’ inherent curiosity and desire for wide varieties of experience, there is likely a population level at which quality of life — as measured by ability to seek out pleasing experiences — would begin to decrease along with population. As this level is approached, the system can easily be altered to provide each individual with 1 initial birth-right, rather than ¾. With this change, population would virtually level-off.

As previously mentioned, I only touched on a few of the greater ethical and practical issues that would be associated with such a system. If you feel that I missed something crucial, or if everything you read hear left you infuriated, I want to hear about it. Please comment below.



  1. For years I was in favor of putting birth control in the water system and requiring people to seek out the anecdote. Ironically now birth control actually is in the water to a small degree, but I realize the unfortunate medical implications that accompany that idea. Theoretically speaking, I understand and agree with where you’re coming from though.

    I am wondering (work is slow) how you would address multiple births however. Not having a penalty would result in rampant use of fertility pills, but forcing an unsuspecting couple to purchase another 1/2 birth-right (or more) on the spot doesn’t seem practical. Mandating embryo reduction in utero seems a bit harsh and would make twins, triplets, etc extinct. Thoughts? Also, can I donate my extra 1/4 birth-right to a sibling or person of choice or do I have to go through the bank?

    Thanks Jack, always entertaining.

  2. Jack, this is extremely logical, from a clearly sharp mind, but discounting the human factor completely, as far as I can tell. With the children and parenting issue comes emotions, which are unpredictable and impossible to regulate.

    These emotions are likely to put a spanner in the works. You’re talking forced abortions here for people who transgress the rules, if I read you correctly (only read through the theory once, so I might have got the cat by the balls there). What would the mental illness implications be?

    I agree, always entertaining posts. You’d get along like a house on fire with my dad – he thinks the same way as you do.

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