Sunday, January 20, 2013

Benign Neglect and Population Control

China’s One Child policy was first implemented in 1979 in order to slow down its booming population growth. An excellent summary of the law can be found here.  In spite of many hardships and human rights issues that have resulted in enforcing this law, it has succeeded in slowing the growth of the population here.
This is an overpopulated country.  I don’t think anyone who has been here can make a convincing argument that this place needs more people.  Besides taking an active effort in controlling the birthrate, I sometimes wonder if the government here also takes a somewhat passive role in  reducing the population, by allowing reckless and dangerous behaviors in its populace and institutions that cause more deaths than you might find in other countries.  
Here are some examples that come from China’s indifference regarding safety and its Laissez-faire attitude toward business.

Traffic Accidents

Lots of people are killed in China each year in traffic accidents.  Most drivers are rank rookies with little training or practice, and their numbers are increasing every day.  Seatbelts, child car seats, and motorcycle helmets are seldom used.  Traffic laws are scoffed at and rarely enforced.  The result is vehicular carnage on a scale that only the Chinese are capable of.
It is believed that police under report the number of traffic deaths each year.  In 2007, for instance, police logged 81,649 deaths, compared to 221,135 listed on death certificates, according to a recent study.  Five years later we have more incompetent new drivers and more carnage. 
 Keep buying those cars and motorcycles, folks, and pay no attention to those red and green lights.  Those are just suggestions.


Air pollution was linked to at least 8,572 premature deaths across four major cities in 2012, according to a study by Peking University and Greenpeace published Dec. 18.
Something to keep in mind is that there are 640 major cities in China and air pollution exists in nearly all these places.  Can we assume that over 5 million people die prematurely from toxic air?
The pollution comes from everything from factories and vehicles to citizens burning garbage.
If the government was to make a real effort to clean the air, it would have a negative effect on this highly successful population reduction agent

Bad Water

Half of China’s population (nearly 700 million people) consumes drinking water contaminated with animal and human waste that exceeds the applicable maximum permissible levels, and while there has been an overall decline in mortality from infectious diseases, diarrheal diseases and viral hepatitis, both associated with fecal pollution of water, they are the leading infectious diseases in China.

As with any issue in China, the numbers on tobacco, cigarettes and smoking are daunting: More than a trillion cigarettes produced by the state tobacco monopoly; more than 300 million smokers, 740 million second-hand smokers, and, by 2020, some two million annual deaths related to smoking.
As many as 60% of men smoke, although only 3% of women say that they do.  One of the negative aspects of the One Child Law is the practice of selectively aborting female fetuses due to the preference of a male offspring.  Having most of the men and few of the women smoking is a positive move in helping to balance this gender inequity.
The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration both runs and regulates China National Tobacco Corp., the world’s biggest cigarette maker with a market share about the size of Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) and British American Tobacco Plc (BATS) combined. Tobacco tax generated 96 billion dollars in revenue in 2011.
There is not a lot of incentive for the government to trample on the rights of people who choose to smoke themselves to death. 

Work safety

Work-related accidents killed 75,500 people in China last year.  That’s over 200 workers a day.  Some “Workers’ Paradise”.

Bribery and cronyism results in corners being cut in construction, resulting in shoddy buildings and infrastructure. For example:
Six bridges have collapsed since July 2011.

This building fell over.

And thousands of crappy buildings, including schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake resulting in the deaths of thousands of people.

There are many other unsafe situations here, some of them due to carelessness of individuals, and some of it because evil people are making a quick buck by skirting safety practices.  There is lead in paint, Melamine in milk products, and excessive chemicals in food.
Libertarian Americans and others who believe that the government has no business trying to regulate what happens in peoples’ lives would love the way this government doesn’t regulate.
I doubt that these issues that cause the premature deaths of millions of Chinese every year are a deliberate effort by the government to thin the population down a bit, but it seems to be working anyway.


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