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Bernie Sanders vs. Elon Musk and MLK on overpopulation

Time and reality have not been kind go Senator Bernie Sanders’ proposal to save the climate by aborting brown people. Admitted, Sanders did not use such stark, Jim Crow-era language, but his comments this week unintentionally revealed the competing ways dueling economic systems view human dignity.

Sanders made his comments in response to a question from Martha Readyoff during CNN’s seven-hour climate change town hall on Wednesday evening. (Imagine the resources the network could have saved had it merely ceased broadcasting.) After Readyoff asserted that “the planet cannot sustain this growth” in human population, she proposed “empowering women,” a euphemism for abortion that Sanders rendered into plain English. She also requested that Sanders have the “courage” to begin “educating everyone on the need to curb population growth.” In ordinary political discourse, for an elderly white man to lecture women about their fertility would be the epitome of mansplaining misogyny. But when it comes to advancing the Culture of Death, it appears that the ends justify any means.

Sanders responded that limiting the number of babies born, “especially in poor countries,” is “something I very, very strongly support.” He pledged to begin by repealing the “absurd” Mexico City policy, which protects U.S. taxpayers from financing or advocating abortion-on-demand overseas.

But Sanders’ words came back to hit him in the face with the velocity of a rebounding speed bag.

CNBC reported that two titans of industry, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Alibaba founder Jack Ma, set the record straight about the myth of overpopulation at a global conference last Wednesday:

“Most people think we have too many people on the planet, but actually, this is an outdated view,” Musk said while on stage with Ma at at [sic] the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai on Wednesday. “Assuming there is a benevolent future with AI, I think the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse.”

 

“The biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse. Not explosion. Collapse.”

 

“I absolutely agree with that,” Ma added.

Sanders, who has shown an aversion to learning from business leaders, may tune out these two billionaires. However, another source may prove more successful in educating the senator about the reality of population growth: China.

Since Sanders recently praised the People’s Republic of China for its “progress in addressing extreme poverty,” he may be interested in Beijing’s self-assessment how its economic future is threatened by its precarious population situation. A report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), “an institution directly under the State Council” of the PRC, agreed with Musk and Ma. CASS warned the same government that only recently relaxed China’s one-child policy that “negative population growth” is “bound to bring very unfavorable social and economic consequences” in the coming years.

This issue will not be localized to China. The population bust reaches virtually every corner of the earth. The world’s fertility rate will fall below the global replacement level of 2.1 by the year 2070. “For the first time in modern history, the world’s population is expected to virtually stop growing by the end of this century, due in large part to falling global fertility rates,” according to the Pew Research Center.

However, these are consequentialist arguments: Population control is not needed, because the world is not facing overpopulation but underpopulation. And no government can take setting population levels under its purview without accruing totalitarian powers.

Christians and other people of faith must analyze these issues at the deeper level of first principles, beginning with the paramount value of a human life. Wesley J. Smith, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, has documented collectivists’ attempts to lower humanity to the level of animals or even nature itself. In this worldview, humans merely make up a part of the ecosphere, and their flourishing is of no greater consequence than any other species. Restricting human population, by forceif necessary, may be required to save other co-equal parts of the earth. As one Christian analyst wrote, “Bernie Sanders isn’t going to save the planet for children but from them.”

These approaches to human dignity are embedded in different economic systems. Martin Luther King Jr. resisted communists’ attempts to woo him, in part because of socialism’s disregard for human rights. Under Marxism, “the state is the end while it lasts, and man is only a means to that end. And if man’s so-called rights and liberties stand in the way of that end, they are simply swept aside,” MLK Jr. wrote. “Man becomes hardly more, in communism, than a depersonalized cog in the turning wheel of the state.”

Christianity respects the intrinsic value of human life, even – perhaps especially – among “the least of these” in “poor countries.” Christians begin with the principle that we will find a way to improve, expand, and – yes – voluntarily share our economic resources to support human life, rather than destroy human life for the sake of computer-generated environmental models and collectivist economic theories.

A market economy that is grounded in a virtuous culture suffused with religious principles places the human person at its center. The free market respects human dignity so much that it gives individuals the ability to create and own enough wealth to live in a dignified way of life – and for their children to live better yet from the innovations the market produces. Christians understand that human ingenuity has allowed a progressively increasing number of people to live on a finite amount of resources and will continue to do so, as long as the person who would discover the next breakthrough is not aborted. Private property also furnishes individuals with the means to assert and defend their rights against the state. Christians who embrace this system understand that the economy was made for humanity, not humanity for the economy.

When politicians deck socialism out in Christian verbiage, and “pro-choice” economic interventionists insist they care for “the least of these,” remember Sanders’ chilling answer and the underlying truth about collectivism that he inadvertently disclosed.

H/T: Gene Veith and Carmen LaBerge.

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. This photo has been cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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Rev. Ben Johnson is a senior editor at the Acton Institute. His work focuses on the principles necessary to create a free and virtuous society in the transatlantic sphere (the U.S., Canada, and Europe). He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History summa cum laude from Ohio University and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.