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This collection of a dozen papers from a conference of academics on population is mainly concerned with apologizing for present conditions by placing the blame for underdevelopment, poverty and hunger on the underdeveloped, the poor, and the hungry. There are, it seems, too many of them. The theme of the guilty poor and the innocent wealthy is clearest in the essays by Roger Revelle, the Harvard demographer, and Alan Sweezy, professor of economics at Cal Tech, but echoes of it appear in many of the other essays -- those by professors Kingley Davis, Bruce Johnston, and Carl Djerassy. Revelle particularly uses the too-many-people argument to explain low incomes, since ""the total economic output must be divided among a much larger number of persons."" Throughout the collection, the idea that people actually produce wealth as well as consume it is ignored. Population growth, not foreign debts, is blamed in several essays for the inability of developing countries to accumulate productive capital. Unemployment comes from too many people, not too few jobs. Revelle, perhaps the most prestigious contributor here, in fact suggests that mechanization of agriculture would be wrong, since industry cannot absorb those freed from agriculture. In a similar vein, Sweezy argues that in America it is not misuse of technology which is polluting the country but too many affluent people. He pines for the days when only a few were wealthy enough to take vacations and those beaches weren't so darn crowded. Sweezy stresses that it is the overnumerous masses who must pay the pollution piper, not ""just those who own stocks in particular industries."" Remarks like these at least make it clear whom all these professors are apologizing for.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1971
Publisher: Viking