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Is overpopulation a problem?

Is overpopulation a problem?
Is overpopulation a problem?

Yes and No!

Like everything in life, there are certain problems associated with a high population. For instance, the cost of living skyrockets as supply of land, housing, and general commodities cannot keep up with rising demand. Furthermore, congestion and overcrowding takes its toll by putting a strain on infrastructure and hampering the quality of life in general. As well-governed a city like Singapore may be, it cannot compare with the living standards and average living space an American or Australian enjoys.

So yes, overpopulation is a problem, but not for the reasons commonly believed. In reality, it is not population itself that is the cause of India’s poverty and chronic misgovernance, but socialism which has made the country’s governance dysfunctional and diminished opportunities (education, good jobs) for the population.

The size of a country’s population also does not correlate with a country’s level of poverty. Even in India, even as our population has grown manifold after independence, absolute poverty has declined after liberalisation of the economy. The richest parts of India, such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, etc. are also the most densely populated. Singapore, Hong Kong, Bahrain, and Netherlands are more densely populated than India but are also much richer.

A large population is an asset, not a liability. The human brain — ingenuity — is the greatest resource. Furthermore, natural resources are not finite. We are constantly discovering new reserves and alternative substitutes. Likewise, for the production of food. Food prices are constantly falling as a relative share of our incomes, as humans are able to grow more food on less land, by using better technology. Humanity is not in any danger of ever running out of natural resources or food, no matter how much our population increases.

Well-educated people who can employ their skills in meaningful, nation-building, indeed, civilization-enhancing work, are never undesired, no matter how many of them are there. In fact, more such people are there in a country (or the world), better it is for that country. But when learning opportunities and good employment opportunities are limited (which are results of bad governance and bad systems in a country), population becomes a drain on the system. In this case, a person takes more from the country than he produces for it. In that case, the person does become a burden.

A country needs to create more opportunities and setting up better systems so that each and every individual is enabled and empowered to contribute to their maximum potential. With good systems and incentives in place, each and every person can and will become an asset to our great country. A large and well-educated population is an asset, not a liability, to a nation. The more the number of highly educated persons in a country, the greater the scope for innovation. Networking and agglomeration effects (including large, competitive markets) — available only with a large population — drive innovation and prosperity.

In fact, if India were to embrace meritocratic governance system and free-market capitalist economic system, our large population (of capable people) will allow us to progress even faster. With the right education and incentives, our large population will create unparalleled wealth.

The government should just see to it that they provide essential public goods such as law and order, police, justice, and some infrastructure. It must ensure reasonable equality of opportunity through the facilitation of high-quality education and high-quality vocational training for the poor, and create a business-friendly and business-enabling economic environment for the private sector to create jobs and innovate.

The government has absolutely no role in curbing the population or interfering with a couple’s personal choice to have as many children as they wish. The entire world’s population can fit into Texas and it would have the population density of Hong Kong. So we are never going to run out of the land. Also, India’s population will stabilize at 1.8 billion (lowest projection) or 2.5 billion (highest projection) by 2100 and reduce from then onwards. We are not impervious to population decline.

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