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WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE POPULATION PROBLEM AND HOW CAN IT BE SOLVED?

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Keio Economic Society, Keio University
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WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE POPULATION PROBLEM AND HOW CAN IT BE SOLVED? WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE POPULATION PROBLEM AND HOW CAN IT BE SOLVED? Amartya SEN Few problems excite as much panic in the world today as the explosion of the world population. Catastrophic visions of impending doom have been increasingly aired in public discussions, often portraying the population problem as something of a "bomb" that is about to "go off". The analogy with a bomb is not at all helpful. It is exceedingly alarmist---making us search for "emergency solutions" without adequate critical examination. It also has the effect of viewing the people involved as impulsive and unreformable perpetrators of great social harm who must be kept in discipline, rather than as reasonable allies who share a common predicament and whose willing cooperation is essential for a solution of the population problem. I would argue that the population problem can be eradicated through a cooperative approach that calls for social justice and individual responsibility. It would, of course, be foolish to be smug about the growth of the world population. The problem needs recognition. Even though the dire predictions of many alarmists of the past (most notably those of Thomas Robert Malthus) have proved to be quite false, and living standards have risen fast along with population growth over the last two centuries, the rate of increase of the world population has accelerated remarkably over the last century. It took the world population millions of years to reach the first billion, then 123 years to get to the second, followed by 33 years to the third, 14 years to the fourth, and 13 years to the fifth billion, with an estimate of the United Nations that the sixth billion will materialize in only 11 years. The challenge of the population problem must be taken seriously. Let us consider the potential sources of danger one by one. INTERCOUNTRY BALANCE AND IMMIGRATION PRESSURE Some

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