Posted on | February 18, 2013 | 27 Comments
Cover of Time magazine, Jan. 11, 1960
“You’re f–king up our future. . . . What do you think we learn at school? This is what we learned about. . . . We’re the 99 percent.”
– 17-year-old student, St. Mary’s Academy, 2011
[I]t’s one of these weird situations where everything we think we know is wrong, and it’s all wrong because of one guy, Paul Ehrlich. Paul Ehrlich is not a professional demographer. He only plays one on TV. And he wrote what I think of as the most spectacularly wrong book ever written.
He was wrong in the particulars. He said that within a couple years, hundreds of millions of people were going to starve to death, and that nothing could be done to stop this. He said the population growth was going to increase asymptotically to the moon. That — neither of these things happened.
But more to the point, he was wrong at the moment when the exact opposite thing was happening. He published his book in 1968. In 1968, the fertility rates across the Western countries fell off of the table and went into steep, prolonged, sustained decline; decline which they are still experiencing today. So he was exactly wrong.
And what’s funny — and also, you know, slightly frustrating — but funny, is that again, in the world of professional demographers, like the people who do this for a living, the people who are tenured professors and who work at the United Nations, they all — you know, for the last thirty-five, forty years, have basically ignored Ehrlich and viewed him as sort of a crank. And they’ve been actually focusing the bulk of their research on exactly the opposite question. . . .
It’s just that his books, I think, really touched a spot with the sort of deeply anti-humanist strain of the environmental movement.
Certainly, Ehrlich’s book was “spectacularly wrong,” and he was a ubiquitous media presence in the late 1960s and ’70s, appearing repeatedly as a guest on The Tonight Show, among other high-profile venues. However, Jonathan Last is incorrect to say that “one guy, Paul Ehrlich” was responsible for all this disinformation about demographics.
No, ultimately, that “one guy” is John D. (David) Rockfeller III, who became obsessed with neo-Malthusian worries about overpopulation in the 1930s. Ehrlich was merely one of the chief propagandists who helped popularize bad ideas Rockefeller promoted for decades. As I wrote in July 2009:
The population control movement . . . was largely the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller III. Rockefeller funded much of the movement himself and through a number of family trusts and foundations, and he encouraged other foundations (Ford, Scaife, Carnegie) to do the same. . . .
[B]etween 1959 and 1964 one organization alone, the Population Council, got more than $5 million from the Rockefellers, $8.4 million from the Ford Foundation and $2.1 million from Scaife. So that’s $15 million in five years, back when a million dollars was a lot of money.
Among other things, Rockefeller helped fund Alfred Kinsey’s fraudulent sex research, as well as development of the birth-control pill, and created an organizational infrastructure that coordinated propaganda campaigns for population control and related issues. Historian Donald L. Critchlow chronicled this phenomenon in his excellent 2001 book, Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Goverment in Modern America:
[T]o raise the public’s consciousness about the threat of overpopulation . . . the population movement undertook a concerted public relations campaign through a steady stream of books, pamphlets, and magazine and newspaper articles. This campaign was aided by the involvement of key publishers and editors who were actively involved in the movement, including George Hecht, editor of Parents Magazine. The drumbeat around the population crisis reached crescendo by the early 1960s. Readers of popular magazines were faced with a barrage of articles warning of an impending population crisis . . . Women readers were inundated with articles like “Are We Overworking the Stork?” (Parents Magazine, 1961), “Why Americans Must Limit Their Families” (Redbook, 1963), “Intelligent Woman’s Guide to the Population Explosion” (McCall’s, February 1965), “Overpopulation: Threat to Survival” (Parents Magazine, 1967) and “Population Increase: A Grave Threat to Every American Family” (Parents Magazine, 1969).
Pierre Desrochers has examined the intellectual roots of Erhlich’s work in two 1948 bestsellers, Fairfield Osborn’s Our Plundered Planet and William Vogt’s Road to Survival. Vogt’s book inspired businessman Hugh Moore (another leader of the population-control movement) to write a 1954 pamphlet entitled, “The Population Bomb,” and Moore granted Ehrlich permission to use that title for Erhlich’s 1968 book. Years before Ehrlich published his book, “overpopulation” hype was sufficiently intense to be featured on the cover of Time magazine in January 1960.
The point is that Ehrlich was not the originator of this neo-Malthusian theme, but merely the most public advocate of an idea with which Rockefeller and a number of other rich “philanthropists” had been obsessed for decades before Erhlich published The Population Bomb in 1968. The money men behind the population-control movement helped promote Ehrlich’s book, purchasing thousands of copies to distribute to college and university students, and mounting the same kind of P.R. blitz on behalf of The Population Bomb they had previously unleashed in support of Kinsey’s sex research and “the Pill.”
What too many Americans today fail to understand is the extent to which popular ideas about many issues — ranging from contraception to environmentalism — are not organic, but were manufactured by this cabal of wealthy population-control fanatics led by David Rockefeller.
“In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”
– William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism (1959)
These skillful indoctrinators are still at it and, after many decades of propaganda from the population control movement, their ideas have been sufficiently diffused throughout our culture that the indoctrinators themselves don’t even know the etiology of their ideas, so that their students are entirely clueless.
In May 2009, the Times of London reported on a secretive gathering of billionaires who met “to consider how their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population”:
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. . . .
Taking their cue from Gates they agreed that overpopulation was a priority. . . .
[A] consensus emerged that they would back a strategy in which population growth would be tackled as a potentially disastrous environmental, social and industrial threat.
“This is something so nightmarish that everyone in this group agreed it needs big-brain answers,” said the guest. “They need to be independent of government agencies, which are unable to head off the disaster we all see looming.”
This is counterfactual lunacy, thoroughly discredited, and yet some of the world’s richest people believe it as gospel, in the same way that the teenage private-school students who identified with the ”Occupy” movement believed they were the “99 percent.”
Such childish credulity — a stubborn refusal to examine evidence that contradicts fashionable belief — is nowadays considered the epitome of enlightenment: The truly smart people know that overpopulation is a crisis, and any skeptics who cite contravening data are dismissed as ignorant yahoos. And if you dare call attention to the fact that this phony “consensus” about overpopulation has been manufactured by a comparative handful of ultra-wealthy fanatics, you’ll be condemned as a paranoid conspiracy theorist.
So I understand why Jonathan V. Last may have wished to avoid discussion of David Rockefeller’s role in fomenting the population-control ideas that Paul Erhlich helped popularize. Start telling the truth about this stuff, and people will call you a kook.
Please read the rest of Last’s interview with Ed Driscoll, and you should buy Last’s book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster.