China's One-Child Policy an Utterly Useless Exercise in Human Suffering and Social Deformation

Policy being reversed after causing decades of harm.


Last week, China abandoned its 35-year-old one-child policy. The policy, Matt Ridley explains in his new book, The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, was a brainchild of a Chinese guided-missile designer Song Jian. Jian, who was influenced by the neo-Malthusian alarmists from the Club of Rome, convinced China's then-dictator Deng Xiaoping "that Chinese poverty was caused by overpopulation, not economic mismanagement…" The communist government caused massive suffering by subjecting men to forced sterilizations and women to forced abortions. Many newborn babies were either killed or left to die.

Then there were the unintended consequences of centrally-planned population control. Traditionally, the Chinese culture prized boys over girls. Thus, more girls than boys were aborted. By 2004, the sex ratio among the newborns reached 121 boys per every 100 girls. Since then, the ratio fell to 117 boys per 100 girls. Still, in the future, one in five men will be unable to find a spouse. There are 700 million men in China. What will 140 million of them do with their spare time, I wonder? Also, population size is one of the factors of production. A shrinking pool of workers, therefore, will likely retard growth and put additional pressure on social security and welfare spending.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is that all of that human suffering and social deformation were utterly useless. As we show at HumanProgress, plenty of other countries experienced dramatic declines in fertility, which is highly correlated with income and education, and does not necessitate draconian intervention by the government.

Explore more data like this at

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  1. an awful policy – everything about it was wrong.

  2. Immediately after the 1949 revolution the Chinese government encouraged its people to have large families in order to increase the work force depleted by years of war. However, production and modernization could not keep up with the growing population, thereby forcing a change in government policy. An extensive birth control program has been in effect since the late 1970s. Nowadays, city-dwellers are required to adhere to the one-child policy, and even in the countryside families rarely have more than two or three children.…..people.htm

    Governments: solving problems of their own making since 4000 BC.

  3. They should inactive the Zero Child Policy until things are under control.

  4. On a voluntary, individual basis, limiting the size of your family is an intelligent move – which is part of why it happens naturally in more wealthy, educated societies.

    Government intervention to that effect, though, is both inhuman and (as demonstrated by that graph) pretty ineffective. So I’m pretty happy that even some small progress is being made in China, although a “two-child” policy is almost indistinguishable from one-child in libertarian terms.

  5. So what? Its China, not the US. It is none of our business. We have enough problems with our own fascist police state.

    1. It’s coming our way. As Peter said, what are those 140 million bachelors going to do with their spare time?

  6. “He (they) chose poorly!”
    I’m really not that terribly upset about a geo-political rival shooting themselves in the ass.
    I am upset that we seem to be selectively doing the same thing.

  7. Morally crippled proglodytes have argued that the policy was morally sound because people kill the environment (if you think I’m kidding check out a recent article on the Boston Globe). Talk about an inverted moral compass.

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    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  9. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  10. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,


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