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Overpopulation is an excessive number of people. According to Murray Rothbard:[1]

by the 1960s and 1970s, antipopulation hysteria arose again, with ever more strident calls for voluntary or even compulsory zero population growth, and countries such as India and China experimented with compulsory sterilization or compulsory abortion. Characteristically, the height of the hysteria, in the early 1970s, came after the 1970 census in the United States noted a significant decrease in the birth rate and the beginnings of an approach toward a stationary state of population. It was also observed that various third-world countries were beginning to see a marked slowing of the birth rate, a few decades after the fall in death rate due to the infusion of Western advances in medicine and sanitation. It looked again as if people's habituation to higher living standards will lead them to lower the birth rate after a generation of enjoying the fruits of lower death rates. Population levels will, indeed, tend to adapt to maintain cherished standards of living. It looks as if Godwin was right that given freedom, individuals in society and the marketplace will tend to make the correct birth decisions.

Rothbard also states:[2]

England, Holland, and Western Europe generally have a very dense population, and yet enjoy a high living standard. Africa, on the other hand, most people fail to realize, is very thinly populated. And no wonder, since its level of capital investment is so low it will not support the existence of many people. Critics point to Rwanda and Burundi as being densely populated, but the point is they are the exceptions in Africa. The city of Rome at the height of its empire, had a very large population; but during its collapse, its population greatly declined. The population decline was not a good thing for Rome. On the contrary, it was a sign of Rome's decay.

The world, even the Third World, does not suffer from too many people, or from excessive population growth. (Indeed, the rate of world population growth, although not yet its absolute numbers, is already declining.) The Third World suffers from a lack of economic development due to its lack of rights of private property, its government-imposed production controls, and its acceptance of government foreign aid that squeezes out private investment. The result is too little productive savings, investment, entrepreneurship, and market opportunity. What they desperately need is not more UN controls, whether of population or of anything else, but for international and domestic government to let them alone. Population will adjust on its own. But, of course, economic freedom is the one thing that neither the UN nor any other bureaucratic outfit will bring them.


  1. Rothbard, Murray (2 August 2011). "Malthus and the Assault on Population". Mises Daily. http://mises.org/daily/5501. 
  2. Rothbard, Murray (November 1994). "Population "Control"". Making Economic Sense. http://mises.org/econsense/ch41.asp.