The government of Columbia has just begun offering free contraceptives and sterilizations to the poor.
Striking a blow for economic progress, the government of Columbia has just begun offering free contraceptives and sterilizations to the poor. Children are expensive both for poor families and for the Columbian Government, which promises free health care as a constitutional right. The Latin American nation has therefore set up a virtuous cycle: less children means mom and dad have more cash to spend, expanding the consumer economy. Young women are freer to pursue job training and enter the workforce, widening and improving the talent pool. With greater economic possibilities, young people are less likely to turn crime, which traditionally has held back Columbia’s development. Now, the government can expect greater tax revenues, while paying less for health care and security.
This is the winning formula of progress for today’s global society, in which a consumer economy is built by freeing up cash that would otherwise go to the care of children for a nicer house, a TV, and a couple of weeks of vacation. The key to progress is the discovery that we are nothing other than economic creatures, consuming and then producing for consumer demand. The antiquated idea that economic progress could be built on moral progress, on differed gratification, hard work, and solidarity between social classes, is laughable. A century ago, the word “consumption” struck fear into the hearts of men, being the common name for tuberculosis, but today it has become not only the engine of the global economy, not only the model of human behavior, but the very essence of who we are.
Environmentalists often object that unlimited human consumption could destroy the rest of the planet, the way cancer cells crowd out-consume healthy ones in an organism. This, however, is the genius of the new model: since it is by limiting the number of consumers that economic progress begins, the impact of a consumer economy on the environment is reduced. Both environmentalism and economic progress put top priority on population control. Environmentalism in fact goes hand in hand with the consumerism, and may even be a consequence of it, for it is evident in advanced countries that once humans wake up to the fact that they are nothing more than consumers, their interest in humanity wanes, and they become more open to earth-centered rather than human-centered politics.
Even as Columbia and other once backwards nations make the leap from being drug-producing nations to becoming drug-consuming ones, some still kick against the goad of economic progress, usually under the influence of a religious vision of humanity. Interestingly, it could be argued that the world’s least progressive people could be found, not in Iran or Vatican City, but back home in America. A tight-knit American subculture has been intentionally opposing itself to the dominate model of progress for decades, dropping out of school after eighth grade, laboring as farmhands or shopkeepers, marrying in their teens and having so many children that their population has doubled in a generation. According to the progress model these sub-consumers, the Amish, should be infesting bullet riddled ghettos and providing most of our prison population, but strangely, they limit themselves to a pacific rural existence. The Amish, thankfully, are not a realistic model for the rest of humanity to follow; we have neither the courage nor the conviction. So rather than be a slap in the face of our social calculations, they go a long way to proving our theory: sure, it is possible to be poor and virtuous, fruitful and content, chaste and happy, but who wants to work that hard?
David Monahan, LC studies for the priesthood in rome. He can be reached at email@example.com