Walter E. Williams

What are the chances for the United States to become overpopulated? The population census has us at 304 million. How many more people could we handle? I don't have an answer, but here are a couple of facts that suggests we have a ways to go before we have to worry about overpopulation. All urban areas, any community of at least 2,500 people, cover less than 3 percent of the U.S.'s 2.3 billion acre land mass. The world's population is 6.7 billion. That means if the entire world's population were put into the U.S., each person would have about a third of an acre. Nobody is talking about putting the world's population in the U.S. It is merely to suggest that neither the U.S. nor the world is running out of space.

Population controllers have a Malthusian vision of the world that sees population growth as outpacing the means for people to care for themselves. Mankind's ingenuity has proven the Malthusians dead wrong. As a result of mankind's ingenuity, we can grow increasingly larger quantities of food on less and less land. The energy used, per dollar of GDP, has been in steep decline, again getting more with less, and that applies to most other inputs we use for goods and services.

The greatest threat to mankind's prosperity is government. A recent example is Zimbabwe's increasing misery. Like our country, Zimbabwe had a flourishing agriculture sector, so much so it was called the breadbasket of southern Africa. Today, its people are on the brink of starvation as a result of its government. It's the same story in many countries -- government interference with mankind's natural tendency to engage in wealth-producing activities. Blaming poverty on overpopulation not only lets governments off the hook; it encourages the enactment of harmful policies.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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