Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Controlling India’s Population

June 20th, 2004 · No Comments

Atanu Dey has stirred a hornet’s nest with his idea to solve what is perhaps India’s Problem #1:

The entire corpus of economic insight in the human condition can be boiled down to the two simple statements that I made yesterday repeated below:
1. Markets work, and
2. Incentives matter

So therefore we use markets to solve the population problem by getting the incentives right. The central idea is to assign what is called property rights to every human with regards to reproduction. Every person should have an equal and limited right to reproduction and no person should have the right to an unlimited access to the common property resource by exceeding his or her quota of reproductive rights.

Imagine, if you will, that each person eighteen years or older has a right to have half a child ab initio. So if you want to have an offspring, you have to find someone who also has the right to have half a child. If and when you do find another person, you can now get yourself one child. Once you have that child, you and your mate will be required to undergo sterilization — with one small exception. You will not have to undergo sterilization if and only if you get yourself a permit to have another half a child at least before you spent your given reproductive right. How do you get a permit to half a child? You buy it off someone else who is willing to sell you his or her reproductive right. Who is able to sell his or her reproductive right? Some who has not had a child yet and who has undergone sterilization. That person has a permit for half a child and that permit is available for someone to buy it in the market.

So the basic point is this: as long as you hold a permit for having at least half a child, you will not be sterilized. The moment you don’t have the permit, you get sterilized immediately. You start off with a permit of half a child the moment you are of age to have a child, say at age 18. You can continue to hold that permit until one of two things happen. One, you submit to sterilization and you sell that half-child permit on the market. Or, two, you find someone else with half a permit and together you have one offspring and both of you have spent your ab initio reproductive right permits.

The above scheme allows a person to have an unlimited amount of children — provided they can buy the permits required. The price of the permits will be determined by the market. If half the population is willing to sell their reproductive rights, the other half of the population can potentially have twice the number of children that they could otherwise have. If no one is willing to sell his or her permit, then every person can have only half a child on average. If there are more sellers than buyers, the price of a permit will be low. If there are more buyers than sellers, the price will be high.

This would need to be implemented by a newly created Population Planning Authority of India.

Atanu has a challenge for all willing to debate the issue with him.

Tags: Deeshaa (Rural Development)

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