One-Plus Child Policy

For many decades this newspaper has favored careful policies to help restrain world population growth.

The basics: (1) Thoughtful parents conceiving only as many children as they are able to love, educate, and nurture. (2) Alert societies aware of the penalties incurred when population growth outstrips economic growth, sensible living space, environmental preservation, and resource sustainability.

In light of this long-held view on population self-control, it may seem surprising that China's recent easing of its dictated one-child-per-family policy gains approval. China is, after all, the world's most populous nation (with India threatening to take that dubious title in the next century).

The reasons for giving a nod to China's loosening are fairly simple: Parental free choice on birth planning is preferable to state mandate - especially one that has sometimes provided an excuse for female infanticide. China has been fairly successful in educating citizens about population restraint. In some city areas, populations due to births have fallen. (Not so, populations from migration.) Single children complain of urban loneliness, especially when both parents work long hours. Living standards have grown to a point where more than one child can be adequately cared for. And with economic freedom should come more personal freedom and responsibility in family matters.

It should be noted that in some of China's surrounding Asian Tiger nations, prosperity has been accompanied by lower birth rates, higher education rates, gradual democratizing, and, as we have lately seen, even freedom to make economic mistakes.

Following what may now be called China's one-plus child policy, other peoples whose high birth rates are straining family and societal ability to give adequate care to children might follow the same sequence. Teach the reasons for restraint; then leave couples free to make their own decisions, armed with that knowledge.

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