I’ve criticized the Left’s warped preoccupation with population control before (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here), and this particular breed of insanity is one which is generally favored by liberals. But the Right is not without its own advocates for population control, and their ideas are no less barbaric. If anything, they might be worse.
There was much wrong with the Bush presidency, but the one thing I think just about everyone can agree on is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This program, begun by Bush in 2003, is estimated to have saved over a million lives, and millions of Africans are now receiving treatment that helps lengthen their lives and decrease their suffering. And the million human lives saved come at a fraction of the cost of, say, the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, or Social Security, or any number of other programs. Surely, we can all rally around saving lives from a slow, cruel death, right? Right?
Wrong. John Derbyshire, a conservative commentator at National Review,* began an angry screed of a blog post, “I wish George W. Bush would shut up and go away. He keeps reminding me what a fool I was ever to think that the man has a conservative bone in his body.“ He derides Bush as being “smug” for noting in a recent op-ed that PEPFAR worked. In particular, Bush claimed in the op-ed, “I firmly believe it has served American interests to help prevent the collapse of portions of the African continent.” Derbyshire isn’t buying it, saying:
Has it? How? Is any American more prosperous, secure, healthy, or happy because of our government’s efforts at AIDS relief in Africa? How would you demonstrate this? Is it not at least as possible that we have just stored up trouble for the future, as a person more familiar with Africa has written?
Bush actually explains how in the op-ed, noting that AIDS wrecks economies as well as human lives, but there’s a more obvious point: America has an interest in saving human life where possible. We’re proud of the Greatest Generation for stopping the Holocaust not because it made us richer or more secure, but because it was the right thing to do. America’s interest include caring for those beyond her own shores. But what’s shocking is Derbyshire’s citation: the article he links to is one of the single most disturbing pieces of writing I’ve seen in a major Western newspaper. It’s an op-ed from the Irish Independent entitled “Africa is giving nothing to anyone — apart from AIDS.” And the content is no less disgusting than the headline:
Meanwhile, Africa’s peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million: The equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.
So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country?
How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them?
In other words, we should let Ethiopian children starve, because otherwise, they might be poor and unhappy, and even have kids of their own. Unlike Derbyshire’s post, the editorial he linked to isn’t arguing against government charity, but against basically charity to Africa, attacking Bill Gates for his privately-funded “programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.” He concludes the article:
If his [Gates’] programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. Oh good: then what? I know. Let them all come here. Yes, that’s an idea.
So to avoid the inconvenience of having African neighbors, Kevin Myers (the author of this disgraceful piece) wishes the children would just die in infancy. If his depraved mentality seems racist, it is: he laments having once given to help a starving Ethiopian child, because he’s just sure that the boy grew up to become “a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him.” How does he know? Because the boy was African, meaning he’s part of “almost an entire continent of sexually-hyperactive indigents.” He even begins the piece by arguing we shouldn’t help feed Ethiopia, because Zimbabwe refuses to implement something “resembling civilization.” It’s not exaggeration to say that this is one of the most malicious editorials I’ve ever read: it’s an open call to kill-through-intentional-inaction millions of children. And unlike pro-choicers, Myers doesn’t even have the benefit of being into deluded into thinking the children he wants to kill aren’t real children. He knows they are, and doesn’t care.
Derbyshire and Myers seem to be advancing the absolutely barbaric argument that even where we can stop malaria and AIDS from killing Africans, including especially children, we shouldn’t. We should instead let these diseases kill millions of innocent people, because those people are from the wrong part of the world. Christ said the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11), but Derbyshire and Myers have a devious plan to make sure that this won’t always be the case.
*In her defense, National Review’s resident outspoken Catholic, Kathryn Jean Lopez briefly rebutted Derbyshire, noting that NR has supported PEPFAR from the start.