Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Commentary: 'Overpopulation and the Declining American Dream' by Joseph Ford Cotto

When speaking about the increasingly dire conditions of American society, the first thing that anyone will likely bring up is the economy. More often than not, politics follow in a summary fashion. For a great deal of people, religion is never far behind. As this last topic is intertwined with morality, and therefore translates into political and economic matters, it is frequently regarded as the crux of any given social concern. This is one way of looking at things, to be sure, but does it allow for a snapshot encompassing the social landscape’s entirety? 

I would say not. What does, then?

The study of sociology has always been of immense interest and importance to me. It can provide for the opportunity to view a nation, culture, or common group from a balanced and rational perspective. Through the sociological lens, I enjoy examining the various aspects of any given country. Whether these be financial, militaristic, ethnic, or historical in nature, a great deal can be learned from them. This is why it is surprising that one glaring recurrence regarding human development is largely overlooked or denied outright by many in contemporary America. It is the simple fact that nations with larger populations tend to be more impoverished, with negatively correlating rates of healthcare access and educational opportunities.

Unfortunately, despite being a solidly first world superpower, the United States is no exception to this rule. It stands the third most populous country on Earth, coming in only behind China and India. During the twentieth century, it did not double, or even triple, but quadrupled in size. Should this trend continue over the course of the twenty-first century, America will be home to more than one billion people by its end, though one should note that the rate of growth has declined to its lowest in a century.

Even so, the U.S. has one of the highest growth rates in the developed world.

The results of this demographic explosion are readily apparent: low wages and high underemployment rates (in some communities, rampant unemployment persists), public school systems with almost comic student to teacher ratios, and government assistance programs so heavily utilized that severe cuts are often needed to sustain them.

Considering all three of these points is essential should the damage waged by overpopulation be fully considered. First, high population tallies and sub-par salaries are intrinsically linked. This is evidenced by low income countries being home to the highest birthrates, despite economic prospects in said areas being next to nil. Needless to say, such a harsh reality gives way to soaring unemployment statistics. These standards apply to the United States without pause; in its poorer regions, conditions that might be described as “third world” can be found all too easily. 

Specifically on the American front, overpopulation has resulted in there being a crucial job deficit and applicant surplus. In the past, this has mainly impacted blue collar workers, though the offshoring of tech employment has brought traditionally secure white collar individuals into the fray.

As of this decade's onset, in public education, 8 percent of schools exceed their capacities by more than 25 percent because of population increases. One-third conduct classes in portable classrooms, and one-fifth are actually forced to turn congregation halls such as gymnasiums into makeshift learning environments. Even worse, various school districts are considering building structures on ecologically hazardous grounds.
Imagine how severe these problems have grown now that 2020 is around the corner.
Public assistance is an eminently sore subject. It is exploited almost as an art form by partisans on the political left and right alike. However, looking at the subject in an objective manner, it becomes obvious that there are certain distinguishable trends, and they pertain to generational poverty.
According to an interactive map published by The New York Times detailing the recipients of government benefits from 1969 to 2009, certain counties steadily increased in their rates of using benefits. Many of these were never in great financial shape to begin with, yet they grew ever-more destitute. Blame obviously is attributed to the gross outsourcing of employment opportunities. However, rather than cease producing offspring -- always a good idea when the chips are down -- folks by and large increased their population.
New generations have been born which make living off public sector subsidies a career in itself. As this populace continues to grow, spurred by a culture that does not value personal achievement, the problems it causes society will swell.
With all of these crises and others continuing to grow, what can be done to curb overpopulation? Over the last several decades, government has invested in reproductive health services, including educational programs. A strong education is exactly what drives down birthrates; specifically among those who would otherwise be in poverty.
Not everyone wants so much as a high school diploma, though, and without doubt post-secondary education is beyond the means of untold millions. Therefore, this cannot be mandated or expected of all. In any case, promoting messages of personal responsibility and informing youths about the staggering cost of parenthood -- averaging almost $230,000 from cradle to graduation (this was at the beginning of the 2010s, mind you; inflation and overall increased living expenses surely have added over $25,000 to this by now) -- should serve as highly effective reality checks.
Also, letting teenagers or young adults know that parenthood is not all cradles and playtime is essential. Having a child is a career in itself, and one which an individual pays for rather than the other way around. The sheer amount of psychological maturity, emotional development, and physical energy necessary for this endeavor is more than most gainfully-employed people in their thirties can readily handle, let alone those a decade or more younger. 
What would a late teen or twenty-something rather do: Play video games, have casual romantic relationships, sail from one job situation to the next as a free agent, or have a regimented schedule which not only depletes one's funds but promises years of near-sleepless nights followed by days of temper tantrums (not only a youngster's, but those of frustrated parents/guardians) and general mess?
Getting real about parenthood is essential for discouraging it among those who simply are not ready for what it entails.
Of course, in order to survive, every country needs a certain amount of its populace to reproduce. However, the indescribably important act of bringing another person into this world should be done on a reasonable basis, not as the result of purely emotional drives. As was mentioned before, motherhood or fatherhood deserves to be thought of as a career in its own right, not merely a complement to an existing lifestyle.
Should more people view the idea of having children this way, and place the greatest focus on personal productivity, then America’s overpopulation crisis will go a long way toward being solved. There are other things that should be done, such as drastically revising immigration rules and reconsidering foreign trade policies, but placing mind over matter is an excellent start.
If these pivotal steps are taken, then America might stand the chance for a spectacular socioeconomic rebound. The essential question is whether or not we will admit that overpopulation is a problem in the first place.


Joseph Ford Cotto, 1st Baron Cotto, GCCCR is the editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Review of Books. In the past, he covered current events and style for The Washington Times's Communities section, where he interviewed personalities ranging from Fmr. Ambassador John Bolton to Dionne Warwick. Cotto was also a writer for Blogcritics Magazine and Yahoo's contributor network, among other publications. In 2014, H.M. King Kigeli V of Rwanda bestowed a hereditary knighthood upon him, which was followed by a barony the next year.