Billionaires, Guilt, and the Population Myth


A bunch of billionaires got together in New York the other day to discuss the world’s problems. Apparently in the minds of these oligarchs, our biggest problem is too many people. Seriously.

As the Times of London described it:

SOME of America’s leading billionaires have met secretly to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population and speed up improvements in health and education.

The philanthropists who attended a summit convened on the initiative of Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, discussed joining forces to overcome political and religious obstacles to change.

Described as the Good Club by one insider it included David Rockefeller Jr, the patriarch of America’s wealthiest dynasty, Warren Buffett and George Soros, the financiers, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, and the media moguls Ted Turner and Oprah Winfrey.

Allow me to begin by pointing out that this list of seven billionaires contains three utter loons (Soros, Turner, Winfrey); one nanny-state champion who has run New York City back into the ground after Giuliani resurrected it (Bloomberg); a one-world-government utopian (Rockefeller); and two smart businessmen who tend to operate from some extremely flawed assumptions about how everything outside their narrow areas of expertise, works (Buffett and Gates.)

Come to think of it, the fact that Bill Gates thinks the world’s biggest problem is overpopulation goes a long way toward explaining why all my Windows-based computers are screwed up most of the time.

One of the most widely held myths of our time is that over-population is a problem. As I wrote elsewhere a few years ago:

It is now universally understood that as societies develop and living standards increase, populations tend to level off and even decline. Today most countries in the Northern Hemisphere actually have a negative birthrate—meaning that not enough babies are being born to replace the older folks who are dying off. As a matter of fact, a few years ago population researchers predicted that the earth’s population would level off in the year 2050, but now some analysts think the world may already be hitting that point.

At the same time, constant advances in farming methods have made it possible to produce ever more food on less and less land. The fact is, most hunger that exists in the world today is the result of war, bad government, and/or bad religion—not overpopulation. (Of course, that doesn’t mean we, as Christians, have any less responsibility to try to ease their suffering if we can.)

Zimbabwe used to be a well-fed country and a net exporter of food. Today, after millions have either died or left, millions are starving. Why? Bad government and bad religion.

The fact is, if we have a population problem in the future it will be one of too few people.

So why do smart guys like Bill Gates insist on tilting at this windmill? Guilt, I suppose. A perverse form of guilt, to be sure. It’s a response that recognizes that there are no lasting solutions in “philanthropy” and therefore the only other answer is genocide. In other words, “If you can’t stop these icky people from being icky by throwing money at them, then lets just make sure they stop making more icky people.”

That’s Gates’ logic. Treat the poor like a computer virus. Identify them, isolate them, and stop them from replicating.

Nevertheless, there are a few among these enlightened beings that have begun to recognize the truth. Back in December I pointed out an op-ed, also in the Times of London, written by an athiest who, after years of working with secular philanthropic agencies in Africa like those funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, had come to a startling understanding:

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

Until guys like Gates and Buffett have that same awakening, they’ll continue to prescribe the wrong solutions to the wrong problems.