Cap and Trade…for Chinese Babies?!? Also Chickens
China, bless its many souls, has a one-child policy, as you know, which is more accurately described as a one-child-but-sometimes-two-and-even-on-rare-occasions-when-China-is-feeling-magnanimus-three-count-them-three-children policy.
Though many in the West view it as a rights violation, China won’t stop because:
- It’s part of the culture now. It’s as Chinese as whatever the Chinese equivalent of apple pie is. Kinda.
- It appears to work – China claims it’s prevented about 400 million (!!!) babies.
So here’s my point: China could grant its citizens more freedom without easing its overall limit on children by running a cap-and-trade system. Couples could buy and sell permits to make babies. Let’s say I want 5 babies (so I can form a Motown singing group). If I can find 5 couples who plan not to have any babies for now, I can buy their permits. When I have a baby, a permit gets torn up. If those other couples later decide to have babies, they can buy permits from others. But the total number of allowable babies is the same as in the old system. When the demand for babies goes up, permit prices would rise and vice-versa. The system might stop the selective abortion of female fetuses which the one-child policy has spawned (pun!). Has China considered this?
You might rebut: the poor would end up less at liberty to have babies than the rich, which would introduce a new and unprecedented kind of inequality into Chinese society, which could breed problems (pun, again) – an Occupy Wealthy Genitals movement would be good for no one, for example. At the least, the system would have to include a rule that only couples can buy permits and a couple can only hold one permit at a time, to prevent a speculative baby market from forming (babies aren’t for shorting).
So the policy could have serious problems. Why then am I writing this? I have time to kill and I’m searching for useful ways to think about overpopulation and I hoped writing about it would shake up my thinking. It’s not working. One more thought before I close:
I, like many people, think that the one-child policy is problematic. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s inherently wrong – instead, I think it’s only wrong because so many people don’t like it and don’t want it. I’d be happy to live in a country with a one-child policy, but only if most of my fellow citizens were as comfortable with the idea as I am (and assuming it works).
In fact I might prefer it. As things now stand, I’m leaning away from having a child, not because I don’t want one , but in part because, in the absence of a societal agreement to reduce population, I regard it as my duty to you and especially to your already-living children to avoid adding to our numbers, and to provide a model to others who feel pressure to have babies. If the US had a one-child policy, I’d feel more comfortable having a child. That would be nice.
I wonder: could reproduction limits ever become acceptable in the West, by an acceptable process (i.e. not unilaterally imposed by Big Brother)? What would it take for Americans to become more like me (besides getting shorter, balder, skinnier and more appreciative of Tom Jones’ singing voice)?
I haven’t a clue. Probably not cap and trade.
The best path would be that most of us just voluntarily decide we’re going to not have many babies for a while. It’s already happening to an extent (birthrates are falling worldwide), but not fast enough given the size of our carbon footprints. The trend can accelerate if more of us openly encourage each other to limit our broods. So please limit your brood. Here, have some Durex condoms. They’re my favorite. They almost never break.
Also this is a chicken:
I put this chicken here because Google Analytics says that a bunch chicken-seekers are somehow coming to this site. I’m cool with that and will hereafter lure even more chicken-seekers by posting pictures of chickens and writing “chicken” a lot. Then later if I get bored with Climate Change I can sell wings by mail.
If you came here looking for chickens: joke’s on you pal! But since you’re here, please contemplate your role in Climate Change and consider joining efforts to address the problem.
-From the Sea