There is more than a httle truth in this percephon, yetnsince 1900, these debates ha’e proved increasingly to benmere academic exercises, setting the stage for a newnformulation of the Malthusian controversy. The raw realitynto be faced in our century is the overwhelming triumph ofn”neo-Malthusianism” as practice, rather than as idea. Thisnictory came, in part, through alliance with the women’snmoement, whose agenda emphasized the achievement ofnoluntary parenthood. As the early German feminist leadernMarie Stitt phrased the matter: practical Malthusianism wasn”the real innermost core of the woman question,” thenmeans whereby woman would “again come to be thenmistress of her own body and of her own fate.”nIndeed, this ascendancy of practical neo-Malthusianismnwas eident many decades ago. The Marxist anti-nMalthusians, for example, were in full retreat even beforenWorld War I. Orthodox socialists like Rosa Luxemburg andnClara Zetkin, preaching at mass meetings against thenartificial limitation of births, found themscKes regularlynhissed off the stage. Many Christian anti-Malthusians,nmoreover, began to evidence divergence between theorynand practice. During England’s famed 1874 Knowlton trial,ninvolving the prosecuhon of several Malthusian leafleteers,nit was noted that the clergy had families that uere as large asnthe aeraee of the whole communit’. Bv 1917, though,nneo-Malthusian propagandist C. V. Drysdale could pointnto dramadcally smaller families among the clerics, showingnthat artificial contraception had been widely accepted bynthis class. The conservative Malthusians had also beennrouted, in practice, as Drysdale cited figures showing “thatnlimitation of families is practically universal among educatednmarried persons in England at the present day, and thatnthis is due to ‘artificial restrictions’ rather than to ‘moralnrestraint.'” Een the leftish neo-Malthusians, in achieingntheir goal, found their ideological foci on “limits” andn”birth control as a means of reducing poverty” giving way tonan emphasis on personal pleasure, choice, and “rights.”nThe private, indiidual benefits of contraceptive practicensimply oxerwhelmed the ideological arguments of all sides.nYet a critical question remained unanswered. Wouldnpeople continue to bear sufficient children in the contraceptiensociety, where most offspring would be conceived byndecision and where those social controls which channelednwomen toward childbearing were gone? Both the neo-nMalthusians and feminists believed that the answer wasn””es,” that populations shaped by choice would movennaturally toward a stable level.nYet others of varied political persuasions began to sensenthat the answer would be negative. In France by 1907,ndeaths actually outnumbered births and Catholic theoristsnbegan to push for a countervailing family policy. Germannthinkers of the same era began to fret that a new ‘iew of lifenwas gaining ground, one which cast children as an intolerablenburden. Social Democrats, led by Alva and GunnarnMyrdal, warned the Scandinavian peoples that their nations’ndeclining birthrates threatened them with depopulationnand economic and social stagnation.nThis “pro-natalist” reaction to the triumph of practicalnneo-Malthusianism subsided during the I940’s and 50’s,nthough, as the unexpectedly sustained post-World War IIn”baby boom” seemed to confirm the optimistic projection.nIndeed, dominant attention soon refocused on the dramaticnpopulation growth rates found in the “developing” nations.nWith this turn, intellectual Malthusianism emergednreinvigorated. During the 1960’s, panic over the “populationnbomb” extended to the Western nations, where evennmoderate growth rates were recast as a threat to all planetarynlife. Modern neo-Malthusian propagandists such as PaulnEhrlich had rediscovered the natural “limits” to humannpotential. In this new wave of panic, abortion-on-demand,nthe “child-free life-style,” and widespread oluntary sterilizationnwon the imprimatur of progressive opinion.nPredictably, Western birthrates began tumbling again.nToday, the West German rate is two-thirds of what isnneeded to sustain even a zero-population-growth level. InnSweden, the birthrate is only . 59 of that “replacement”nfigure. The United States, Great Britain, and France havenalso fallen below the no-growth level. The peoples of thenWest appear to be losing the will to renew themselves.nAn irony lies in the fact that ideological neo-nMalthusianism has been recentiy and thoroughly discreditednas science. The “limits” of the Earth are proving to be farnmore elastic than the doomsayers have charged. The franticnpredictions of the late 1960’s seem laughable today, as bothnIndia and China are poised to emerge as food-e.xportingnnations. The famines in Africa have clear political — rathernthan demographic—causes. Moreover, serious economistsnstuding the relationship between population and econom’,nincluding Julian Simon and Nobel Laureate SimonnKuznets, have shown that moderate population growthnactually seems to make a valuable contribution to socialnprogress and economic growth. Yet the Malthusian specternremains, and the nations of the West exhibit a death wish.nHowever, a counterreaction appears to be emerging innthe United States. Practical Malthusianism—the contraceptivensociety and parenthood by choice—is no longer atnissue, with the large exception of the abortion question. Yetnideological neo-Malthusianism—the notions of “nongrowth,” “limits,” and “children as a danger”—does face anmounting challenge. In fact, “supply-side” conservativesninterested in sustaining economic expansion and socialnconservatives interested in restoring a cultural and politicalnclimate friendly to families and children are finding thenneo-Malthusian, “no-growth” specter to be a commonnenemy; indeed, a useful one. The most dramatic expressionnof this new vision came in the August 1984 position paperndrawn up by the White House for the U.N. InternationalnConference on Population, held in Mexico City. Breakingnwith three decades of official policy, this document blastednthe “no-growth” objectives of international populationncontrol programs. In fact, the document argued, highnpopulation density actually seemed to make new jobs andneconomic growth more feasible, provided that governmentsngave proper incentives to those who worked, saved, andninvested.nPro-family advocates, pro-lifers, deregulators, andnsupply-siders all found themselves cheering the same compelling,nintellectually vigorous document. The final ironynof the great Malthusian debate may be that it is contemporarynanti-Malthusianism which welds together these disparatengroups into a lasting American conservative coalition.n—Allan C. CarlsonnnnAUGUST 198517n