In Sen’s Population: Delusion or Reality, she examines this growing (delusional) fear of overpopulation and the means in which policy makers will handle it. She calls one the “override approach”, because family’s personal choices are overridden by an external agency. The alternative approach is “collaborative”, in which women and men make rational decisions, encouraged by open dialogue and education. The override approach uses legal and economic pressures while the collaborative has the government and citizens working together to produce economic and social conditions.
However, Sen’s main point is how this fear of overpopulation is, in fact, irrational and misconstrued. For one thing, it seems as though this fear is held by those in the North concerned with an overpopulation of those in the South, or those in third world countries, when in actuality the growth in certain populations is re-establishing a balance of races that was held pre-Industrial Revolution.
This fear of overpopulation leading to an “imbalance” of races is actually similar to Margaret Sanger’s views. In Sanger’s article “The Case for Birth Control”, she argues for birth control not in fear of a general overpopulation but instead fear of overpopulation of “unfit” people. Sanger outlines nine cases in which a child should not be conceived, ranging from age limitations to health of the parents.
Sanger’s article makes me uncomfortable due to the nature of her requirements and how limiting and particular her opinions are. She looks at reproduction and population through a very individualistic lens—someone in class made the point that Sanger’s ideas seemed very much like the practice of eugenics. Though many of her reasons are understandable—for example, we wouldn’t want children to be born to those parents who have an inheritable disease because then that disease would spread—and not absolutely unreasonable, like some supporters of eugenics have advocated, her reasons are still not feasible policies to be implemented. She also does not thoroughly express her reasoning nor does she consider opposing arguments; Sanger says that a married couple should wait until after two years of their marriage to conceive children in order for them to truly know each other and understand the responsibilities that marriage and parenthood entail, but she does not consider those parents that do have children earlier than two years in and have successful families.
Sen advocates for the collaborative approach and I think her argument is successful exactly where Sanger’s is not—Sen discusses the override approach at length, using specific examples of when it has been used and how it has worked (or hasn’t). In China, though it would be assumed that the “One-Child Policy” would be a huge success, China’s fertility rates has fallen much less sharply than those countries that encourage collaborative and voluntary reductions in birth rates (page 17). I think Sen is more convincing because she explains the effects of different policies and how they affect a population on a larger scale. Sanger’s ideas, though never implemented, are not convincing nor useful because she does explain them fully. Sen argues against the clichéd fear of overpopulation while Sanger does not explain why exactly it is bad for “diseased” people to reproduce. Even though some of her reasons may make sense and not be irrational, they fail to be compelling because she doesn’t consider the counter argument.