The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

About Paul Ehrlich and ‘The Most Spectacularly Wrong Book Ever Written’

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

In an interview with Ed Driscoll, Jonathan V. Last discussed Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, The Population Bomb:

[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.



27 Responses to “About Paul Ehrlich and ‘The Most Spectacularly Wrong Book Ever Written’”

  1. Taxpayers1234
    February 18th, 2013 @ 12:15 pm


  2. Mike G.
    February 18th, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    And one must consider the push by Gay activists…where do they get their funding. Why keep pushing that perverted lifestyle? Well, think of the biological consequenses.

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    February 18th, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

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  4. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX
    February 18th, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

    DD#3’s fiance spouts this kind of nonsense all the time – says the Earth is in danger of being overcrowded.

    All it takes is knowledgeable counterargument. I told DD to look at where Hubs (her Dad) grew up (we visit his family
    every year) – a town of maybe 2000 people, out in the middle of nowhere; the nearest town is literally 30 miles away.

    Then told her to look at where SHE grew up – a thriving metropolis of 1/2 million people (and next to an even larger metropolis).

    I asked her to compare and contrast – how many services/amenities are available in a town with practically no people vs. one where there are SO many people that the population has the freedom to diversify and offer lots of selections?

    If there are no people, there can be no dog groomers, no nail salons, no movie theaters, a minimal (if any) choice of
    restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. Everyone basically has to provide everything for themselves, because nobody has the time to do anything else.

    She is slowly convincing The Boy to look beyond the walls of his indoctrination centers…..

  5. Rich Knudsen
    February 18th, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

    Well, Imagine the chagrin of the last lesbian and gay man on the planet deciding that lifestyle is more important than Life.Give the Apes a turn I guess.

  6. Teresa in Fort Worth, TX
    February 18th, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    And gracious me – look at that raaaaacist magazine cover; why, you might think that TIME thought that there were too many “people of the wrong color” threatening to take over the world or something…..

  7. Rich Knudsen
    February 18th, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    Funny how they who promote this absurdity never come to the conclusion to self immolate to start things off in the right direction HUH!

  8. Robin
    February 18th, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    I am so glad you wrote about this. People think the Club of Rome is some urban legend conjured up by conspiracists trying to piece together facts. When it is open and factual and more influential than ever with its influence on what is going on in education globally under the banner of “reform.” The Meadows work is the basis for much of the Science curricula and modelling coming in as the Common Core.

    I have been writing about Ehrlich and his current activities with the now renamed Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior and the International Human Dimensions Programme. And the fact that his theories are not designed to be true and factual. They are designed to be influential and change regulations and obtain grant funding.

    In the late 80s he developed a theory that we in the West needed New Minds that we not rational or logical and today his associate John Holdren is to be in charge of a 10 year project looking into the nature of the brain and consciousness.

    It does feel like a science fiction plot or a comic book these days.

  9. Googie Bergdorff
    February 18th, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

    I’ve long been under the impression that Gates gives a fortune to fight disease and other afflictions in third world countries. That would strike me as the single dumbest way to fight overpopulation. How, exactly, can there be a logical component to a person endeavoring to do both?

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  11. kenroyall
    February 18th, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    My theory on that is the AIDS crisis in the 90’s. The movement to raise awareness about that resulted in vast sums of money going to activist groups as well as new found political clout. Nobody dared oppose them lest they be accused of being uncaring about the disease.

    Once these organizations were up and running they were able to later switch gears and push their social agenda which they have been doing ever since. If you oppose them now you are called a bigot. Never let a crisis go to waste someone once said.

  12. Adjoran
    February 18th, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

    It is difficult to choose among Ehrlich’s works and career for the title of “most spectacularly wrong.” Ehrlich also was a major public voice for the proposition in the early ’70s that our use of carbon-based fuels would result in global COOLING, a “new Ice Age.”

    1974 saw the release of another book, “The End of Affluence,” in which Ehrlich predicted the coming shortages of food, commodities, and energy, precipitating worldwide crises by 1990.

    Then, in 1980, Ehrlich tired of being called a fraud and a coward by Julian Simon, and accepted (in a modified form with less actual risk to himself) Simon’s offered wager: as Ehrlich was making a living predicting shortages of ALL commodities, Simon allowed him to choose five commodity metals which he believed would be higher in price (adjusted for monetary inflation) in 10 years. They ALL went down as adjust, 3 of 5 didn’t even need adjustment.

    Ehrlich is wrong about everything he ever predicted. That he is still “respected” by academia today demonstrated how very unserious these so-called “sciences” really are.

    They’ve never been about real threats to humans or the earth. They have ONLY been about amassing power over the economy to be held in the hands of a leftist elite.

  13. richard mcenroe
    February 18th, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    We’ve been giving the apes a turn since 2006. Just imagine our surprise to learn all the beta chimps are in the DC GOP…

  14. richard mcenroe
    February 18th, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

    We’ve been pouring billions into improving healthcare in Third World countries where the established ways of life cannot survive without a staggeringly high birth/child deathrate. There is a finite limite to how many nomads, hunter gatherers and/or subsistence farmers land can support without vastly more sophisticated land management techniques than those cultures provide.

  15. Ken Grzymalski
    February 18th, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

    Ken Grzymalski liked this on Facebook.

  16. AdoEdem (D)
    February 18th, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    Beat me to it. P.J. O’Rourke pointed this out in his chapter on Ecology in Give War a Chance: all the concern over “overpopulation” zeroes in on poor, non-white populations. There’s no outcry over population explosions in wealthy, white Martha’s Vineyard in lieu of hand-wringing over impoverished and thoroughly Other Bangladesh. He summed it up pretty well: it’s a politically-correct way to be racist. And given the history Stacey outlined, that’s a feature, not a bug. (One of the most damning criticisms of abortion-on-demand was from a black-empowerment feminist, the kind of person who sees “white privilege” everywhere she turned — who labelled it as “the genocide of an entire generation of women of color”.)

    At the time Rockefeller was indulging his racism, eugenics was all the rage, and it was the perfect pseudo-scientific cover for rich whites to keep non-whites from sullying their elite ranks. White supremacist and Nazi sympathiser Margaret Sanger took it to the next level by founding Planned Parenthood and specifically targeting “undesirable” populations for culling. Wealthy whites such as Sanger and Rockefeller knew their ideology would — quite rightly — horrify most people, which resulted in them laying the veneer of “philanthropy” over their racism to slip it past the decency radar.

    Sadly, their scheme worked so well that even now most have no idea that the hand of turn-of-the-century racism is alive and well. Most ironic of all is that the people Sanger and Rockefeller were intent on eradicating are the very same people carrying out their loathsome agenda today.

  17. Bob Belvedere
    February 18th, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

    Damn well put and dead solid perfect. What we are seeing today is just the Eugenics Movement under a different name, ala: the Communist->Socialist->Progressive->Liberal situation.

  18. Bob Belvedere
    February 18th, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

    Of course not! They are The Illuminated Ones, who have been granted The Secret Knowledge that will bring about Heaven On Earth.

    Meet the new Gnostics, worse than the old Gnostics.

    There was a damn good reason The Church had to suppress the old Gnostics.

  19. Bob Belvedere
    February 18th, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

    Ehrlich has been one of the leaders of The Long March.

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  21. Joseph Moore
    February 18th, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

    It is amazing. Another amazing thing – the individuals personally consuming the largest amount of the planet’s resources in the form of goods, land, houses and jetting to conferences to discuss how there are too many people are sure careful to divert attention from actual consumption to raw numbers. It may well be that a planet might lack the resources to support 100 million Al Gores yet accommodate 100 billion people who live more simply.

    The only honest place to put the claim that there are too many people is on one’s own suicide note.

  22. jakee308
    February 18th, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

    paul Ehrlich is to demographics like Rachel Carson was to ornithology.

  23. ATDavidD
    February 18th, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

    So who is in the cabal of wealthy global-warming fanatics? Who pays Al Gore to peddle his fantasies?

  24. AdoEdem (D)
    February 19th, 2013 @ 8:03 am

    Leftist ideas *never* die, they just get rebranded ad infinitum.

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