The Population Situation: An Exercise in Utilitarianism

You are a citizen of a developing country. The year is 2025 and your country is facing massive population growth. In the last decade alone, it has seen a population growth of nearly 200 million people, and demographics forecast continued rapid growth well into the next generation.

The nation has also seen a rapid rise in industrial and commercial development, both of which are wreaking havoc on the environment. Climatologists have noted a marked increase in the levels of air and water pollution. In addition, the nation’s reliance on mono-crops has made it food-dependent on its trading partners; it can no longer feed its growing population on its own. This has resulted in some food shortages.

The most promising option the state has at present is to try to stem the tide of population growth internally.

Demographers have noted that, primarily due to a tradition of raising large families and other cultural and religious mandates, most of the state’s population growth is occurring among poorer, rural sectors. Many families are comprised of up to ten children each. In some instances, birth control is available, but simply not used. In other instances, no birth control or formal family planning education is provided. The affordability of contraception is also a concern.

Culturally, however, it has been found to be taboo to discuss family concerns publicly. Yet the state knows that it is facing an impending food, environmental, political and even international crisis if something is not done immediately.

What is the nation to do? The following policies have been proposed:

  1. The nation should provide free contraception up to/including sterilization.
  2. The nation should enact a one-child policy, and prospective parents who wish an exception will have to apply for a license.
  3. Parents should prepare an environmental impact statement for their families annually, detailing the resources used. Families who exceed allotted resources for energy, food, etc. will be fined.
  4. Expectant mothers should be required to undergo genetic testing to ensure that each child has the potential to become a productive member of society.

Part 2: Assuming a Role

  • The government will be holding a series of regional meetings with local citizens to discuss the policy proposals. You will assume the role of someone in the community, and it will be your job to provide input from the point of view of this person. For example, if you are a teacher, you will put yourself in the place of someone who teaches school in this community. Try not to select a role that has already been taken by another student.
  • Brainstorm, considering how someone in your position might feel about the situation and the proposed policies. Do you have other suggestions? Then, refine your work, using concepts from the readings to support your points.
  • Choose some portions of your responses and post them to this discussion.
  • Comment on at least two students’ posts. Try to find someone whose perspective differs drastically from your own.

Part 3: The Vote

After completing Part 2, you will vote a simple yes/no vote on the four proposed policies using the survey linked below.

  • A YES vote means: This idea has some merit and we as a community will continue to explore it.
  • A NO vote means: This idea is not worth any more of our time and effort and we should scrap it now
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