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David Beckham's Baby Girl

David Beckham's Baby Girl

The Beckhams gave birth to their fourth child. Are they bad role models?

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David and Victoria Beckham were overjoyed by the birth last week of their fourth child, a baby girl they named Harper. "We all feel so blessed and the boys love their baby sister so much!!!" the former Spice Girl exulted to her vast following on Twitter. A few days later she posted a picture of her husband cradling his new daughter, with the tender comment: "Daddy's little girl!"

What heart wouldn't be warmed by the Beckhams' delight in their newborn?

The Observer's wouldn't.

In a remarkably churlish article on Sunday, Britain's influential left-leaning newspaper (The Observer is The Guardian's sister Sunday paper) pronounced Harper's parents "environmentally irresponsible" for choosing to bring her into the world. Headlined "Beckhams a 'bad example' for families," the piece was a sour blast at parents who raise good-sized families. "One or two children are fine but three or four are just being selfish," Simon Ross, executive director of the Optimum Population Trust, told reporter Tracy McVeigh. "The Beckhams... are very bad role models with their large famil[y]."

McVeigh also quoted natural-history broadcaster David Attenborough, who recently "made a passionate speech about how the world's baby-making was damaging the planet." Fifty years ago there were 3 billion human beings, Attenborough had lamented. "Now there are almost 7 billion... and every one of them needing space. There cannot be more people on this Earth than can be fed."

Has there ever been a more persistent and popular superstition than the idea that having more kids is a bad thing, or that "overpopulation" causes hunger, misery, and hopelessness? In the 18th century, Thomas Malthus warned that human population growth must inevitably outstrip the food supply; to prevent mass starvation, he suggested, "we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction," such as encouraging the spread of disease among the poor. In the 20th century, Paul Ehrlich wrote bestsellers with titles like The Population Bomb, in which he described the surging number of people in the world as a "cancer" that would have to be excised through "many apparently brutal and heartless decisions." (His list included sterilization, abortion, and steep tax rates on families with children.)

Just last month, Thomas Friedman avowed in his New York Times column that "The Earth Is Full," and that "we are currently growing at a rate that is using up the Earth's resources far faster than they can be sustainably replenished."

Human beings, on the whole and over time, usually create more than they destroy.

For more than 200 years the population alarmists have been predicting the worst, and for more than 200 years their predictions have failed to come true. As the number of men, women, and children in the world has skyrocketed -- from fewer than 1 billion when Malthus lived to nearly 7 billion today -- so has the average person's standard of living. Poverty, disease, and hunger have not been eradicated, of course, and there are many people in dire need of help. But by and large human beings are living longer, healthier, cleaner, richer, better-educated, more productive, and more comfortable lives than ever before.

The Malthusians are wrong. When human beings proliferate, the result isn't less of everything to go around. The planet doesn't run out of food and fuel, minerals and metals. On the contrary, most resources have grown cheaper and more abundant over the past couple centuries -- in tandem with rising population.

The explanation is no mystery. Yes, more babies mean more mouths and therefore more consumption. But more babies also mean more minds and arms and spines -- and therefore more new ideas, more energy, more ingenuity, more initiative, more enterprise. "Human beings do not just consume, they also produce," writes George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan in a new book. "The world economy is not like a party where everyone splits a birthday cake; it is more like a potluck where everyone brings a dish."

It is a beautiful and uplifting insight, but the population misanthropes never seem to grasp it: Human beings, on the whole and over time, usually create more than they destroy. With more people tend to come more progress and more prosperity. That's why the birth of virtually any baby is cause to rejoice, and why parents who decide to raise another child bestow a gift on all of us. To be fruitful and multiply, says Genesis, is to be blessed. The parents of Harper Beckham know that, even if The Observer doesn't.

This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe.

Published: July 23, 2011


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Visitor Comments: 49

(39) Serena, February 23, 2014 6:52 PM

One acre of land ...

You can feed far more than one person on one acre of land and have a diet that is nutritious and healthy. Especially when that land was figured out to be tillable land by the person above. It just takes some study and more importantly hard work to do it. You can feed a family from a city-sized lot. There is a family out in Los Angelos, CA that does it and makes a living off the excess. I loved this article! Of course, I have been blessed with 7 children and they have been and are being raised to contribute to this world, not be takers and wasters, so I would be kindly disposed toward what was written anyway.

(38) Stewdrtinoz, January 2, 2014 1:23 PM

Desirable population

I read that to maintain our existing society every couple should have 3 and 1 third children otherwise that society will be swallowed up and disappear. If this be true consider the groupings who exceed this number. Consider the ZPG concept in relation to the fastest growing religion in the 'Western World. I'll give you a clue and it isn't Jews or Chritians.

(37) Gershon, August 25, 2011 6:20 AM

A poplation limit DOES exist.

My atlas gives the land area of the earth as 148 million sq km. The ocean takes another 362 million. This means there are about 2.1 hectacres or 6 acres available per person. Some half of that land is useable, the other half, near vertical or frigid,or has some other defect. One must provide room for infrastructure such as roads, factories, and public areas. This is about 1 acre per person available for a home, food production, park land, military bases and such. 1 acre will feed 1 person adequately, provided that person eats simple foods. Double the population requires also additional infra structure, so with no changes in effiency there would be no land available for food. We can squeeze, of course, but I suggest we have passed the acceptable a few decades ago. One can look at the past and find astonishing improvements, but the 2.1 hectare limit requires finding another planet which is, at minimum, a long trip.from here.

Shoshana -Jerusalem, May 7, 2012 6:43 PM

Plenty of room

Don't worry. There is plenty of room, with all due respects to your atlas. Australia has vast amounts of land that can be populated,and so do many other countries. There are islands all over the place, the U..S also has plenty of land. Texas has gigantic ranches, hardly populated. ( Which reminds me of a joke I heard when I first came to Israel. This Texan is bragging to an Israeli about how much bigger Texas is compared to little Israel (who's the size of New Jersey). "Why, my ranch is so big" says the Texan, "that it takes 24 hours by train to get from one side to the other". "Don't feel bad" says the Israeli, "our trains are also slow". ) So put away your atlas and your calculator, re-read the above article and bring as many Jewish babies as you can into this world. "Be fruitful and multiply", as it says in the Torah..

(36) Frank Adam, August 8, 2011 3:58 PM

Don't damn ! Use your eyes and maths.

Compared to a lot of show business and professional sport and modelling is part of the entertainment sector - the Beckhams have been remarkably modest and proper. It is the gutter press that has far more to answer for. The population has doubled especially in the Third World it is largely because of tortuous and bigoted attitudes to education and health. Western population has levelled with secondary education for girls and population increase in the First World is mainly a matter of immigration. More important for the Beckams is their justified desire for a sister for their sons to balance the family and their children's elementary social education. Given the replacement rate is 2.2 children per woman between 15 and 45 and that the chances of having a string of the same gender is 2 to the power of the number of children, it is NOT excessive that Mr and Mrs B not being one of the half of the population who do have a child of each sex with two children (2x2) should have tried for a third (2x2x2) and succeeded with their fourth (1:16 are the chances for 4 girls or 4 boys). They are more than making up for the selfish abstainers from parenthood quite apart from the unblessed. Further they have the money and are not burdening their fellow citizens nearly as much as the feckless who have big families without being able to support them or encourage them to qualify for a job.

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