July 21, 2011

Why free birth control is unfair

Filed under: culture & social issues,health by Victoria Liberty @ 9:51 pm

In yesterday’s Globe, there were two stories that made me kind of mad, for reasons that are, in a strange way, related.

One was about a federal government panel’s recommendation to require all insurance plans to “offer female patients free coverage of prescription birth control, breast-pump rentals, counseling for domestic violence, and annual wellness exams and HIV tests,” as well as “screening for gestational diabetes in pregnant women; more sophisticated testing for a virus, known as HPV, that is associated with cervical cancer; annual counseling for sexually active women on sexually transmitted infections; and multiple visits to obtain preventive services if they cannot be provided in one annual examination.”

Supporters of these recommendations say that they will improve people’s health, prevent unintended pregnancies, and possibly prevent large expenses in the long run. But what people really need to think about is what is fair. None of these services will be truly free, of course. Requiring insurance companies to cover them with no co-pays or deductibles equals requiring everyone, regardless or whether or not they use them, to pay for them. This is simply not fair. Contrary to what many people seem to think, sex is not something that people need to live; it is an activity that people can choose to participate in, or not, just like playing sports, reading, blogging, or buying a house, for example. It is unfair for everyone to be required to subsidize some people’s choices.  These recommendations would force people who do not have sex (who may be a tiny minority but do exist) to pay higher insurance prices with no added benefits.

It is also worth mentioning that because the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force “has historically paid less attention to gender-specific recommendations, the law’s drafters required that the Department of Health and Human Services issue a supplementary list for women.” This is extremely sexist. Men and women should be treated equally in all respects, and giving women special treatment and attention is both unfair and insulting. Would men have to pay for contraception and STD treatment under the new recommendations, while women wouldn’t? That is precisely the kind of thing feminists should oppose.

The second article in the Globe that made me mad was Jeff Jacoby’s column arguing in favor of population growth. He writes that “the birth of virtually any baby is cause to rejoice” because “human beings…usually create more than they destroy” and “when human beings proliferate, the result isn’t less of everything to go around.” He quotes economist Bryan Caplan, who said, “The world economy is not like a party where everyone splits a birthday cake; it is more like a potluck where everyone brings a dish.”

While possibly true about some things, for the world’s most important resources this is completely false. No matter how inventive, hardworking, and talented people may be, they cannot create more land, more water, more oil, or more coal. There is simply a finite amount of these things, and it is a mathematical fact that the more people there are, the less of these things each person will have. I have seen with my own eyes houses being torn down to make way for condominiums, more people packed into the same amount of space. The Earth is not merely full, as Thomas Freidman at the New York Times wrote, it is beyond full. Although Jacoby calls opposition to population growth a “persistent and popular superstition,” I believe it is unpopular but right. He may call people like me “churlish” and “misanthropic,” but he is the real misanthrope for wanting people to be condemned to a world with inadequate space, nutrition, and fuel.

This might seem like an odd pair of beliefs for one person to have: opposing making birth control free but also opposing population growth. But it really isn’t. I thought of two ways to solve the problem of overpopulation which may not be practical or popular, but which I believe are truly fair:

  1. Health insurance should only cover medical services that are necessary and that were not directly caused by a person’s own actions. Some of the things mentioned in the recommendations, such as domestic violence and STD counseling, are not exactly health services. Others, such as contraception and pregnancy-related services, are not needed to live, because the decision to have sex and/or have children is a choice. And others, like STD testing and treatment, are only needed as a result of certain decisions that people make. The purpose of insurance is to cover large, unexpected expenses. Covering things that are discretionary or that are predictable and preventable results of people’s actions, is unjust to all of the people who pay into the insurance pool.
  2. If making birth control more easily available is unfair, how can the world solve the problem of overpopulation? In my opinion, the best solution is simply to enact a tax on having babies. Creating a new person is not a fundamental right; it is a choice that has negative externalities because it reduces the available amount of land, water, and fuel. Internalizing this externality is a perfectly fair way to get the world’s population under control.

July 22 update: The L.A. Times has an op-ed about exactly this topic, arguing that population growth is a huge problem that the public and the media ignore. I really like most (but not all) of it; check it out!

July 19, 2011

Bachmann, Santorum, and the “Marriage Vow”

Filed under: culture & social issues by Victoria Liberty @ 10:38 pm

Presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum both signed a pledge created by an organization called the Family Leader, called “The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” (PDF). The pledge is controversial because it is anti-gay-marriage and cites (possibly false) statistics showing that African-Americans born into slavery had a greater chance of living in a two-parent family than African-Americans born today. But the main impression that I get after reading the pledge, which I find more offensive and wrong, is its disrespect for single people. Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, to their credit, declined to sign.

Among the requirements of the pledge:

“Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, greater financial stability, and that children raised by a mother and a father together experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy.”

Maybe there are statistics indicating these things, but this doesn’t have anything to do with the president’s job. Laws should not be made based on statistics but should treat people as individuals.

“Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended ‘second chance’ or ‘cooling off periods for those seeking a ‘quickie divorce.’”

Welfare and tax policy should treat married and single people equally, and if someone decides that marriage is not right for them, there is no reason why they should be forced to stay in that marriage for any length of time.

“Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy – our next generation of American children – from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.”

This statement lumps a bunch of different things together and seems to assume that they are all things that men coerce women and children into doing. In addition to ignoring the fact that people can freely choose to do (most of) these things, this is incredibly sexist. It’s just as possible for women to force men to do things as the other way around.

“Prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles.”

I’m guessing this statement means opposing allowing women to serve in combat. This is wrong, in my opinion, because the law (and the rules of the military) should treat men and women equally in all respects. Also, men can be victims of rape, sexual harassment, torture, enslavement, and sexual leveraging, too.

“Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial health and security.”

This might sound harsh, but more childbearing is the last thing America (and the world) needs. The Earth’s population already uses far more energy than is sustainable, and open spaces are rapidly filling up with condominiums and suburban sprawl. In order to save the planet, the population needs to shrink.

In short, the purpose of the government is to protect peoples’ rights and liberties, not to promote one way of living (getting married and having children) over another way of living (being single). I don’t know if I would want to vote for a candidate who signed this pledge.

December 5, 2009

Excessively green

Filed under: culture & social issues by Victoria Liberty @ 8:16 am

I believe that climate change, pollution, and overuse of the Earth’s resources are serious problems. However, unlike most environmentalists, I believe that the way to solve these problems is not for each person to use fewer resources, but for the Earth’s population to decrease.

The basic problem is that we can only have two of the following things: (1) each person using a lot of resources, (2) a large population, or (3) a sustainable planet. So-called conservatives(for the most part) seem to support continuing on the current path of keeping (1) and (2) and eventually losing (3) (Earth will be destroyed). That isn’t good, so in order to save the Earth, we have to sacrifice either (1) (unlimited energy use per person), or (2) (unlimited reproduction). So-called liberals seem to support sacrificing (1), but I think sacrificing (2) and keeping (1) is a lot better.

This is because, more or less, energy use per person corresponds to quality of life. It is sometimes possible to develop green products and services that are just as good as their non-green counterparts, but in the majority of cases it isn’t. Being able to choose whether you want to walk, take public transportation, or drive is better than being pressured into doing one of the first two. Having to wash out all disposable food containers in order to recycle them is more work than not having to. Being able to take the length of showers that you want is better than being pressured to make your showers shorter and shorter or even worse, take them with someone else (yes, I have seen posters at my school encouraging people to do this).

In order to be environmentally-friendly, my school dining hall uses only brown napkins, got rid of milk and juice cartons, stopped putting out paper cups so that people can no longer take hot chocolate or coffee with them, and now uses only clear, yellowish plastic cups that often crack when you try to put the cover on. Once they even put signs reading “WASTE” in front of the packaged chips and cookies so that people wouldn’t take them, but they thankfully took those down. Professors aren’t allowed to heat their classrooms above a certain temperature, causing me to be uncomfortably cold in class, even though I keep my winter coat on. I constantly receive emails encouraging me to turn the heat down in my (cold) dorm room and reminding me how much money the school spends each year to heat students’ rooms.

Another example of excessive green-ness is this article I saw in the Metro about Vanessa Farquharson, who created a book and blog about her decision to (among other things) sleep naked and stop using toilet paper and tampons in order to be more eco-friendly.

The bottom line is that I have noticed my quality of life going down because of people’s efforts to force me to be more green. Each of these things, by itself, may seem minor, but taken together they amount to a significant decrease in quality of life for everyone. Forcing or even pressuring people to be more green violates their rights, because people have a right to do anything that does not violate the rights of anyone else. Even if the “green” pressure is exerted by a private organization or lacks the force of law, it still violates people’s liberty rights because it imposes guilt and social disapproval on innocent people, punishing them for choices they have every right to make. You have a right to live without PJs, toilet paper, and tampons if you want to, but I certainly wouldn’t want to, and it would be unacceptable for people to be expected to.

On the other hand, a world with a smaller population doesn’t seem like it would be worse at all. People’s quality of life wouldn’t go down. In my opinion, no one’s rights would be violated. This point is widely contested, but I do not believe that reproduction is a fundamental right. People have the right to live their own lives however they want, but creating a new person falls outside the boundary of my own life. I believe that the government has a right (and even a duty if it’s needed to save the planet) to place a fine or tax penalty on people who have babies or even limit the number of children people can have (as China currently does).

So reducing the size of Earth’s population is the right way to save the environment, not destroying everyone’s quality of life. The nations of the world should collaborate to figure out how much energy it takes for a person to have a good quality of life each year and how much energy can sustainably be produced each year, and then divide the second number by the first to arrive at what the population should be. To get the population to this level, any countries that have policies encouraging people to have babies should stop immediately. For example, America should get rid of the child tax credit and instead create a child tax. Countries should consider adopting policies like China’s one-child policy if financial incentives are not enough to stop overpopulation.

Anyone who’s taken basic economics knows that you should subsidize things you want more of and tax things you want less of. If you want to save the Earth while allowing people to have a good quality of life, reproduction is something you should want less of.

October 17, 2006

A terrible milestone

Filed under: culture & social issues by Victoria Liberty @ 9:22 pm

Earlier this week, the U.S. death toll in Iraq reached 3,000. With all due respect to our troops, who are true American heroes, a far more horrible milestone was reached today: the U.S. population has reached 300,000,000. I am amazed at the lack of public outcry or even the slightest trace of unhappiness at this news.

Today, only 1 in 6 Americans has blue eyes, down from almost half in 1900. In my opinion, aesthetic principles dictate that at least 40% of any population possess blue eyes, that an equal number have brown eyes, and that the rest be made up of green, gray, and violet eyes.

I understand that America still possesses numerous open spaces, but I, unlike the defenders of population growth, would prefer those spaces to remain open. I believe that every person deserves a house, and since the average house is now shared by families of four, I believe the population needs to shrink by three-fourths.

Furthermore, population growth will decimate the Earth’s resources. Mainstream environmentalists have it all wrong when they place an obligation on people to decrease their quality of life to conserve energy. It is young couples with babies, not those who take long showers or watch big-screen TVs, that are destroying the Earth. Reducing energy consumption per person can only go so far; population growth, if most people have their way, will never end. Furthermore, mainstream environmentalists’ policies are an unjust attack on people’s quality of life – there is a fundamental right to take half-hour showers and watch TV as much as one wants. There is not, however, a fundamental right to create new life. Clearly, the way to save the environment is not by obsessively monitoring each person’s carbon footprint, but by making the number of people shrink.

Here are the things that must be done to get America’s (and the world’s) population under control:

  • Determine the amount of energy that can be produced without using fuel up faster than it is being created. Build as many wind farms as can be built without a negative aesthetic impact, and use fossil fuels at the rate of a tiny bit per billion years, since that’s how fast they are being formed. Call this answer #1.
  • Determine how much energy a person should be allowed to consume. Be generous, as there’s a basic right to take a half-hour shower every other day, heat one’s house as high as one wants all year round, and watch TV as much as one wants. Call this answer #2.
  • Divide answer #1 by answer #2. This is how many people there are allowed to be.
  • Everyone must be celibate.
  • The government must be responsible for reproduction. Babies will be created through cloning, in test tubes. The government should devote as many resources as possible to perfecting the technology of cloning. In the meantime, the population will start to decline, which is a good start!
  • The government must ensure that the people are aesthetically diverse. 50% females, 50% males. 30% blond, 30% brown-haired, 30% black-haired, and 10% red haired. 40% blue-eyed, 40% brown-eyed, 10% green-eyed, 9% gray-eyed, and 1% with purple eyes or eyes two different colors. Etc.

Having read over the above list, I realize that to some people it might sound almost like satire. However, I am completely serious. Mindlessly accepting population growth will result in all of America becoming homogenized and suburban, will strip the American people of physical diversity, and will force people to live without privacy and without amenities such as television, heat, electricity, and showers. Americans must take a stand against this slow, mundane destruction and ensure that people will always be able to enjoy the fundamental rights to space, resources, and privacy.