Steve Rattner Wants People In China to be Poor

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Sunday, 20 January 2013 06:31

What is wrong with people who write opinion pieces for the NYT, they seem to think it is a good thing that people in China are poor. Today Steve Rattner has a column that compares India and China that comments about, "India’s better demographics." What does this mean, that India maintains rapid population growth, while China has been able to reduce its population growth to a trickle? (A blogpost yesterday had the same complaint about China's slower population growth.)

Partly as a result of China's slower population growth there has been a marked tightening of labor markets throughout much of the country. This is allowing hundreds of millions of Chinese workers to have rapidly rising wages which mean rapidly rising living standards. Seeing hundreds of millions of people in a situation to substantially improve their quality of life is a great thing. These people will be protected against hunger and starvation, have decent housing, and be able to provide their kids with education. This is not happening in India to anywhere near the same extent and more rapid population growth is at least part of the story.

In addition to the impact on living standards there is also the impact on the environment. Other things equal, more people means more pollution and more greenhouse gas emissions. Who could want this?

There are plenty of grounds for criticizing China, including some of the mechanisms used to slow population growth, but the slowdown in China's population growth was an enormous service to humanity.