Saturday, 28 November 2009

Abortion bans inevitably fail in unsuitable milieux

Although I have long known that East Asia has suffered from the threat of a population implosion, it is really shocking to notice that the government of birth-starved South Korea wants to enforce laws against abortion.

Although I have known for a very long time that South Korea has had major demographic problems and a fertility rate lower even than that of Japan, it really chocks me to know that its abortion laws are so strict. However, when one looks at the models provided by Richard Nisbett, Dov Cohen and Bruce Lerro, it is no surprise that South Korea suffers from lowest-low fertility.

South Korea’s total supply of usable land is only thirty thousand square kilometres, or around one two hundred and thirtieth the supply of Australia. Yet, it has to fit twice the population onto that area. Even with more efficient use of housing space, it becomes almost impossible to fit a family into the average-sized home in South Korea. Then, the absence of resources encourages very rapid innovation and change in production, because skilled labour is the only area where these mineral- and land-starved nations have any chance of competing with nations like Australia and South Africa that possess enormous gluts thereof. Rapid innovation is of itself a handicap to family raising because people have to spend money buying new products too often to be able to spend them on their children (it is no coincidence Australia, the most socially conservative developed nation, has the oldest average age for its private car fleet, simply because with lower turnover people have more to spend on families).

In such conditions, governments have a natural tendency to try to do something to prevent fertility rates falling to lowest-low levels through punitive laws on birth control. However, the experience of twentieth-century “Catholic” Europe shows how badly this works. Expecting women to have large families or refrain entirely from sexual pleasure during their age of procreation simply is impossible when the costs financial and personal are psychologically as high as they are in land- and mineral-starved regions. Italy and Spain – seen until recently as the heart of Catholicism – were throughout the twentieth century (at least their urban areas) actually atheist (Marxist) nations ruled by devoutly Catholic ruling classes. Laws against artificial birth control were simply ignored before the atheistic masses felt there was little enough risk challenging the conservative ruling class and force alterations of the laws.

Although South Korea has never had the marianismo of Italy, Spain and Portugal, there is no reason to assume that tougher laws against abortion will not lead to ignorance or violent protest rather than the desired higher birth rates. Only when South Korea’s natural land and fisheries resources can be made economically usable will fertility increase and attitudes change.

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