The Silk Road to Serfdom

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” – Prov 16:25

There is a fairly consistent theme in the lives of men – we mess up. The thing we thought we were accomplishing ends up being farther away because of our own failed and possibly misguided efforts. It’s not a general truism, we can accomplish great things when we set our minds to it. It’s just a rather common theme that we will set out to do one thing and find out that we have accomplished exactly the opposite.

In politics and public policy, we often see this manifested in the “law of unintended consequences”. That is, a policy is set forward with a very clear goal. However, at the end it often causes other problems, greater than the ones it was trying to solve. Sometimes, it even causes the exact opposite result of its intended purpose.

Unintended consequences seem to be rampant these days. Today I’d like to highlight, again, the situation in China.

I’m sure most are well aware of China’s “one child” policy. Now, it is not universal, there are significant loopholes, but the the general policy is to limit the number of children per family to one; thereby limiting the population. The goal appears to have been to not outstrip resources and production capability. The consequences have been rather dastardly.

First, there is a significant preference amongst Chinese families to have a boy. (This is not specific to the Chinese. I spoke with a missionary from India last year who indicated that girls are utterly devalued. Families dread having female children who are seen as only a liability. But, we’re talking about China.)

This preference has led, quite naturally, to what is being called “gendercide”. The girls are killed. Not all of them mind you, but a great many. Some are aborted after the families find out the gender. In rural areas, where sonogram technology may not be available, the girls are just killed after birth. Why? Well, they wanted a boy and they’re only allowed one child.

The pain doesn’t stop there. A higher birthrate of boys leads to quite an imbalance. Estimates vary, but there are apparently between 20 million and 40 million extra men who have no mates. As you can imagine, this causes some problems.

First, the sexual impulses of those men don’t just go away. China has become a significant importer of sex slaves. That’s right, women (many of them only girls) are sold from other countries into China to help relieve the burden.

We talked a few weeks ago about the plight of North Korean women who escape starvation only to be sold and repeatedly raped. The imports appear to be coming form all over southeast Asia though, not just North Korea.

So, thus far we have mass murder and mass rape – all thanks to a public policy. I seriously doubt it will stop there though. Can you imagine? 40 million men without possibility of marriage. Talk about a driving force to invade a neighboring country – China needs the women.

On the slightly lighter side, there was an article just the other day complaining about the rise of the Chinese “gold digger”. That’s right, apparently Chinese women have caught on and are demanding more for a marriage. The fact that this would cause consternation is strange. It’s simple supply and demand economics. (Everybody who has gone to a coed college where the gender ratio wasn’t 50-50 knows the score. If there are more girls than boys, the boys can expect to have prettier girlfriends. If the ratio goes the other way, then so does the relative strength of the case for finding a mate.)

So, here we have one simple policy, designed to serve the public good, causing dramatic harm on a number of fronts (and not so dramatic, but still harm, on a different front). Now, is this worse than the alternative? It’s hard to say. The claim will be that the alternative is overpopulation and potential starvation. That we may somehow broach a “natural limit” of population, which the Earth can no longer sustain. To this I say that natural limits have a way of enforcing themselves – they don’t need our help. To accept a great evil in order to avoid a potential, but by no means definite evil seems a bad trade. I’m sure the women affected by the China policy, whether through slavery, rape, or murder, would agree.

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