How to Control the AMERICAN Population by Paul Ehrlich

Brent Jessop
Knowledge Driven

In 1968, Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich wrote a well publicized book entitled The Population Bomb*. Ehrlich predicted widespread famine and disaster unless population growth was reduced to zero in America and throughout the world by compulsory methods if necessary.

Ehrlich is a Professor of Biology at Stanford University specializing in population biology. He has written many books and scientific papers related to overpopulation and has been well rewarded for his efforts.

“Professor Ehrlich is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Ehrlich has received several honorary degrees, the John Muir Award of the Sierra Club, the Gold Medal Award of the World Wildlife Fund International, a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (given in lieu of a Nobel Prize in areas where the Nobel is not given), in 1993 the Volvo Environmental Prize, in 1994 the United Nations’ Sasakawa Environment Prize, in 1995 the Heinz Award for the Environment, in 1998 the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences, in 1999 the Blue Planet Prize, in 2001 the Eminent Ecologist Award of the Ecological Society of America and the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.” – Stanford University Bio

What is Population Control?

Ehrlich’s definition of population control is very telling toward the broader belief system that he holds. As will become clear throughout this article, he believes that the dictates of an all powerful government, supposedly for the benefit of the whole society should trump any and all rights of the individual or family.

From The Population Bomb:

“Population control is the conscious regulation of the number of human beings to meet the needs not just of individual families, but of society as a whole.” [emphasis mine] – XI

“…family planning…By stressing the right of parents to have a number of children they want, it evades the basic question of population policy, which is how to give societies the number of children they need… people would still be multiplying like rabbits.” [emphasis mine] – 79

How to Fix the Population Explosion?

“We must have population control at home, hopefully through changes in our value system, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail.” – XI

According to Ehrlich the first step to worldwide population control is the control of the American population because:

“We want our propaganda based on “do as we do” – not “do as we say.” ” – 130

A truly commendable ethical stand indeed.

“So the first task is population control at home. How do we go about it? Many of my colleagues feel that some sort of compulsory birth regulation would be necessary to achieve such control. One plan often mentioned involved the addition of temporary sterilants to water supplies or staple food. Doses of the antidote would be carefully rationed by the government to produce the desired population size.” 130

For completeness I will include, below, Ehrlich’s description as to why such a population control method would not work. Please note that his reasoning is purely technical, with no ethical or moral objection to this method. Continuing:

“Those of you appalled at such a suggestion can rest easy. The option isn’t even open to us, since no such substance exists. If the choice now is either such additive or catastrophe, we shall have catastrophe. It might be possible to develop such population control tools, although the task would not be simple. Either the additive would have to operate equally well and with minimum side effects against both sexes, or some way would have to be found to direct it only to one sex and shield the other. Feeding potent male hormones to the whole population might sterilize and defeminize the women, while the upset in the male population and society as a whole can be well imagined. In addition, care would have to be taken to see to it that the sterilizing substance did not reach livestock, either through water or garbage.

Technical problems aside, I suspect you’ll agree with me that society would probably dissolve before sterilants were added to the water supply by the government. Just consider the fluoridation controversy! Some other way will have to be found.” – 130

Some More Subtle Methods

Financial coercion is also an effective method to reduce the population. Ehrlich recommends changes to the income tax laws to encourage small families. But his creativity goes beyond just simple income tax.

“On top of the income tax change, luxury taxes could be placed on layettes, cribs, diapers, diaper services, expensive toys, always with the proviso that the essentials be available without penalty to the poor. There would, of course, have to be considerable experimenting on the level of financial pressure necessary to achieve the population goals. To the penalties could be added some incentives. A governmental “first marriage grant” could be awarded each couple in which the age of both partners was 25 or more. “Responsibility prizes” could be given to each couple for each five years of childless marriage, or to each man who accepted irreversible sterilization (vasectomy) before having more than two children. Or special lotteries might be held – tickets going only to the childless. Adoption could be subsidized and made a simple procedure. Considering the savings in school buildings, pollution control, unemployment compensation, and the like, these grants would be a money-making proposition. But even if they weren’t, the price would be a small one to pay for saving our nation.” – 132

“In short, the plush life would be difficult to attain for those with large families – which is as it should be, since they are getting their pleasure from their children, who are being supported in part by more responsible members of society.” – 131


Ehrlich makes his views on the use of abortion to help control the population crystal clear.

“[Japan’s] dramatic halving of the birth rate was achieved originally through the sanctioning of abortion. Abortion is highly effective weapon in the armory of population control. It is condemned by many family planning groups, which are notorious for pussyfooting about methodology, despite beginning 60 years ago as revolutionary social pioneers.” – 84

“One of the more encouraging signs of progress has been the change in abortion laws [in the US].” – 89

“Biologists must promote understanding of the facts of reproductive biology which relate to matters of abortion and contraception. They must do more than simply reiterate the facts of population dynamics. They must point out the biological absurdity of equating a zygote (the cell created by joining of sperm and egg) or fetus (unborn child) with a human being. As Professor Garrett Hardin of the University of California pointed out, that is like confusing a set of blueprints with a building. People are people because of the interaction of genetic information (stored in a chemical language) with an environment. Clearly, the most “humanizing” element of that environment is the cultural element to which the child is not exposed until after birth. When conception is prevented or a fetus destroyed, the potential for another human being is lost, but that is all. That potential is lost regardless of the reason that conception does not occur – there is no biological difference if the egg is not fertilized because of timing or because of mechanical or other interference.

Biologists must point out that contraception is for many reasons more desirable than abortion. But they must also point out that in many cases abortion is more desirable than childbirth. Above all, biologists must take the side of the hungry billions of living human beings today and tomorrow, not the side of potential human beings. Remember, unless, their numbers are limited, if those potential human beings are born, they will at best lead miserable lives and die young. We can not permit the destruction of humanity to be abetted by a doctrine conceived in total ignorance of the biological facts of life. [emphasis in original] – 138


The next article in this series will examine Ehrlich’s desires for the rest of the planet, especially the third world. It will also look at the issue of “optimum” world population size and who should get to decide what that optimum level will be. The third part in this series will discuss the need for altering religion, sex education and the role of women in society. Part four will examine in some detail the different organizations, foundations and individuals involved in population control. Finally, I will compare the arguments for “population explosion” with that of “global warming” by directly comparing The Population Bomb (1968) to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006).

*Quotes from: Paul R. Ehrlich. The Population Bomb: Revised & Expanded Edition (1968, 1971). SBN 345-24489-3-150.

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  • Horus

    Young people, especialy imigrants seem to have many babies as that is what is normal to them and sadly often the only thing many of them feel they can do to be happy. As society gets more technical and advanced, raising kids gets harder and more expensive. This causes huge imbalances in the number of educated and skilled workers who populate less versus lower skilled workers who populate more. These up and coming boom generations are going to find it dificult to get good wages as there will be so many of them trying to find work while those of the upper classes who create many of the jobs become fewer. It's simple supply and demand. I think if younger people were taught these concepts in school more efectively and were more assimilated to the advantages of modern life and the toys and gadgetry it provides, they would have more incentive to better their individual standards of living rather than reproducing heavily as they would see that while such may have been advantageous in a less developed agricultural setting it is far less so in a more costly consumer society. It's about making the tradeoff and adapting to the next level of demographic transition which the marketplace and normal human incentive should eventually bring about. Sadly, many of the business wing like the idea of cheap labor and they are a front in this battle as well. Religion doesn't help matters any because human suffering that is caused by overpopulation in most instances gives them much to do and be identified with as helpers and charitable outlets and while I certainly don't condemn helping those in need, it's wrong for any institution to resist changes that can improve human life and prevent suffering because it may eliminate problems they have built their existence around yet I can't help but feel that is the case all too often. The church being against condoms and birth control even in war ravaged, starvation plauged areas is one of the worst examples of such selfish ignorance. Society needs to evolve to a new level where profit and reward are obtained from eliminating suffering and problems rather than preventing improvements for the self preservation of obsolete institutions and that requires intense re education of everyone from clergy, government, business, and especialy imigrants. Anyone who watches election campaign ads these days can see we have a long way to go.

  • Maximus V

    Has Abortion done away with the next Einstein @ Beethoven?

    How would you idiots know?

  • king

    You must understand he is a intellecutraul, he has no soul. Not an insult, will his opions have no soul. We are expendable demographics that can be brought, sold, traded and killed in the name of liberty? I am confuse if anyone could answer my question