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for people who care about the West

Poverty — and U.S. policy — are the roots of Mexico's problems


Dear HCN,
In my view, Ed Marston’s column "A son of immigrants has a change of heart" (HCN, 2/3/03: The son of immigrants has a change of heart) is wrong in several particulars. First, overpopulation is, as it was in the Rev. Malthus’ day (a couple of centuries ago, when he first suggested that the rapidly reproducing poverty-stricken classes were a nasty threat to the existence of his class), a symptom, not a cause. People are not poor because they have many children; they have many children because they are poor.

People in poverty or who live in insecurity have more children because these "extra" children become necessary assets in living (to take care of aged parents, to assist in making money for the family, as labor to make inadequate plots of land more productive, etc.). Yes, of course there are cultural attributes to all this (religion promoting birth rates, the prestige of having many children, etc.), but the facts remain that in developed social forms (Western, non-Western) where folks have social and economic security in their lives, population growth rates approach zero.

Take a look at the high population growth curves of the U.S. before Social Security and when lots of people still lived in rural areas and engaged in agriculture. Once more people moved to urban areas and Social Security came into being, the U.S. population growth rate approached zero.

Rather than stop there with these archaic and reactionary ideas about population dynamics, you compound your problem by blaming the Mexican government for not keeping people at home. My God, Ed, have you never heard of imperialism? NAFTA? GATT? The "Free Market"? Mexico has not had a chance — we have controlled its economy for decades, and its labor has developed our society, kept our labor costs low, our gas and imported commodities cheap. Mexican "overpopulation" comes about because people have to have many children so to be able to send some north to provide supplement to their bare existences and give them some security missing in the distorted economy. Get the U.S. out of their economy, and Colorado can stay, uninterestingly, mostly white.

James C. Faris
Sante Fe, New Mexico