Monthly Archives: October 2015

What Place Does Social Engineering have in Civil Society?

Yesterday, the Communist government of China announced it was ending its one-child policy for families.  In its stead will  be a two-child rule.

The one-child law began 35 years ago and was always unpopular.  Poor and working class families faced forced, late-term abortions and sterilizations, while wealthier citizens had to pay bribes to keep their children.  This financial gain for government officials likely delayed the revision of the nation’s population management.  The previous policy accomplished its goal by shrinking the young work pool and leaving too many pensioners who needed support, necessitating the alteration.  Also, there are way more males, since female babies were often aborted or killed shortly after birth.  With only one child allowed, males were much more desirable for economic reasons.

So, what, if any, place does this type of social engineering have in civil society?  Failures are well-publicized; successes not so much (US immigration policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which was highly structured with quotas by country)–when scholars even agree at all.

There is a spectrum here, but matters of life and death should be excluded (reactionary population control, which can lead to genocide), including sterilization policies, because of their irrevocability for the individual, and because of the high potential for cruelty in enforcement.

The elective protection measures for vulnerable populations, such as sterilization for mentally ill females (while mentally ill males could theoretically be taken advantage of, this could likely only be for paternal financial obligations,  which can in turn be assessed by the courts) and the hormonally-altered-but-easier-to-care-for pillow angels, should be optional from a legal standpoint, and at the discretion of guardians.  What if the state is the guardian?  Then a care team decision.

There are no perfect and tidy rules that will prepare us for every scenario.  Loopholes are inevitable.  Yet the above guidelines should spark the critical thinking that is a prerequisite to morality.