Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Population, Growth, Environment, & Social Security

de minimis a few posts ago wrote on population, aging, growth and the environment in reference to a certain Muslim genius, ibni Khadun, with elaboration by Sakmongkol and the addition of social networking. I wish to add some comments.

1. Population & Food

Population has been dictated by food production. At food production level FP1, population will explode beyond what FP1 can support, and with hunger and starvation, the population will settle to Pop1. Once a new breakthrough is made in food production, to FP2, - such as the discovery of New World crops of maize and potato, the mechanisation of agriculture, the Green Revolution - the population will explode once again and then settle at the new higher level Pop2. In other words, the contention is that the population has been able to explode because of the success in food production.

2. Population, Food & the Environment

Successive improvement to food production leads to the degration of the environment through overfarming or the excess use of chemicals on the soil. There is conceivable a limit to the ability of the environment to produce food, no matter how ingenius human beings may be. At the extreme, there will be a limit to the growth of the population on earth - probably at some point in the distant future. Once this limit is reached, the rich may continue to multiple while the poor will keep on dying from starvation - given the distribution of wealth. This limit may be glimpsed from the situation in Africa.

One way that the environment may be "saved" is to take into accounting the full cost of production - of food and other products and services. With higher costs, less may be produced than otherwise would have been - and that extra cost goes into the maintenance of the environment.

3a. Society & Its Aging

Apart from food, the advancement in healthcare is lengthening the lives of individual human beings - or rather the desire of human beings to reach closer to immortality is giving good business to the healthcare business. As a result, the population ages. Now, there should technically be a certain percentage of the aged, say x% of the population, which will just be able to be supported by the income and wealth of the working population.

3b. Young, Sick, Infirmed & the Handicapped

Strictly, we should include the young, the sick, the infirmed and the handicapped in the x% so that the remaining (1-x%) of the population will represent the able-bodied, if everyone is contributing in the social effort. If y% of the labour force is employed, then (1-x%)*y% will have to support the rest of the population [x%+(1-x%)(1-y%)].

4. Social Safety Net

An individual, after an infancy and youth taken care of by parents or society, starts working life in fear and earnest and will work and save enough for sickness and old age.

When we think of waves and waves of individuals of varying ages needing help at infancy and youth, then working, then getting sick and becoming old, we can collapse the whole past, present and future of the society into the present - with its colourful array of varying ages and conditions.

Collectively, the savings of all able-bodied people must be sufficient for investment to provide the necessarily care for the young, the aged, the sick, the infirmed and the handicapped.

The necessarily care must include food, housing and healthcare - and this depends on how the whole society is organised. For these basic needs of society are to be provided properly, we must have a caring society that is organised as non-profit organisations where earnings go back into improving the services and facilities - which is real only with proper training and expertise.


With the development of a caring society, we would eliminate fear and require people not to be greedy, and at the end of it, we will all feel comfort with the world and hence be happy and content in little ways.

At present, in Malaysia, I feel there is excessive fear over the future because we do not trust the government to have the competence to take care of society, and in the process of each looking after himself or herself, greed is stroke and wealth will be distributed in accordance to the power to abuse and corrupt. Najib talked of "balanced development" and I think he needs to elaborate and provide the details of a comprehensive social development plan, inter alia.

1 comment:

de minimis said...


You certainly have brought the raw observations from that post of mine home to the Malaysian context. It is another roadmap of values for Malaysians to maintain during the best of times or, the worst of times.