How many people before we have enough?

The number of people on planet Earth is about 8 billion. The number has grown exponentially, as numbers that are the result of exponential functions do. It’s something like the miracle of compound interest. The graph tells the story.

I don’t think we’re on the verge of starving ourselves. That Malthusian apocalypse gets proven wrong over and over. That’s because Malthusians fail to foresee the agricultural productivity ensuing from technology. For that matter, they fail to foresee the general increase in well-being and comfort that technology brings about.

I’m guessing Earth could easily support double, triple or maybe even ten times the current human population. Anyone who thinks we are running out of room to grow has never looked out an airplane window on a dark night over the Rocky Mountains.

Fine, Earth can support many more people. But how many people do we want Earth to support?

That question has unfortunately become politicized and a casualty of culture wars. On the left, the prevailing sentiment is that Earth is grossly overpopulated with humans, and humans are bad animals, and so we need to cull the herd. Leftists are good at culling herds of humans, as they showed in culling 100,000,000 of them through Communism in the 20th century.

The right thinks culling the human herd is a bad thing. I think they’re right about that.

But that still leaves the question: How many people are enough? Just because the left says any number is too many, does not mean the right should say no number is enough. Just because the Earth might support 100 billion or even a trillion humans is not a good reason for us to have that many.

I get the whole “be fruitful and multiply” thing. But haven’t we been fruitful and multiplied enough already? If we should do even more, to what end? How many is enough?

45 thoughts on “How many people before we have enough?

  1. Why do we have to decide this? Population growth is slowing, the UN is forecasting a ceiling of about 11 billion people before a decline begins.

    But if we deem it necessary to decide world population totals, who will decide? Each country? The UN? Bill Gates? And how will they enforce it? Send in “depopulation squads” with rifles? Spray the offending country with a sterilizing agent?

    Perhapse best to leave it alone.

    • Empty Planet—The Shock of Global Population Decline (2019) noted that the UN projection that world population may peak at 11 billion at the end of this century is their high projection. They also have a middle and a low projection. The latter says between 2040 to 2060 population may peak at 9 billion. But various experts in this area have projections less than this. Countries such as China, Japan and Brazil have already peaked. Due to its multigeneration 1-child policy since 1979 to 2016, China has changed its culture so most do not now want more than 1 or maybe 2 children. Major factors leading to this decline in number of children in a family are level of education—which also delays childbearing, less family and societal pressure to have children, going from agrarian to urban family environments which changes children from being assets to liabilities, lesser religious influence, women having more influence in wanting fewer children in order to have more education, careers, or a higher standard of living than their mothers had. This slowing and then declining of global population will have major social, political, and economic consequences. The US Social Security/Medicare system whereby fewer and fewer will be paying into while more people are going on the system is unsustainable.

  2. Depending on your reference, the Earth’s surface is about 1 to 3 percent occupied by Man. I’ve never understood (or researched) whether that’s a measurement of our boot prints, factory floorspace, backyards/frontyards, city scapes, or what. But rational people know we’ve got a long, long way to go.

  3. The U.S. and Europe are reproducing at below the replacement rate. Our populations are being replenished–or replaced– through immigration. Steve King lost his seat in Congress for saying things like, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

    The six million Jews and millions of others Europe exterminated have been replaced by twenty million Muslims–such a deal.

    Apparently the entire world is now entitled, and being encouraged, to move to the United States, and to take advantage of the economy and culture we have built here. At some point those of us already living here will probably have to move elsewhere, perhaps Antarctica, to make room for them–as long a we continue to work and pay taxes to support those who have replaced us.

    There will come a point when Antarctica becomes more attractive than the U.S., when the former has been fully developed and the latter has subsided into a state more like the places its new inhabitants originally had fled.

    If we are fortunate, Elon Musk will have figured out how we can colonize Mars, so we can work and pay taxes there to support the new inhabitants of Antarctica.

  4. Welp, if we want to populate the uni, we’re gonna need a bunch. Of course, if we’re willing to leave all that space unfilled, and all those resources untapped, and all that drama unlived, and all that excitement unfelt, and all those stories untold, and all those lives unlived – well, then, thare you have it.

  5. There is a theory, not dogma, but a theory.
    It is based on the dogma concerning the rebellion against God led by Lucifer. The theory goes that God wants enough human souls to replace the one third of Angels who became Demons. What is that number?
    How many stars are in the night sky?

    • Wellllllll……………. maybe.
      But even the bountiful vastness of Earth won’t support a human population that is infinite. Nor would I personally want it to support even, say, double the current population.

      • The truth is Jesus wants married couples to have sex.
        Now, while it’s impractical for everyone to live in the Aspen canyon, the Earth has a whole lot of living space.

  6. Malthusians also fail to realize how small the human population is compared to the size of the Earth. One way to visualize the size of Earth’s population is to compute the size of a cubic box that could hold the entire human population. Each side of that box is about 1/2 mile long. Another simple calculation is: If you were to throw every human being on the planet into Lake Tahoe, how much would the surface of the lake rise? The answer is, less than 3 feet.

  7. It’s also worth recalling that increased CO2 levels however slight, support greater food production. This is a fact, search it, ‘increased CO2 and increased grain production’. So, ditch that Tesla, buy a Corvette and feed a starving child. You can put every person in the world on the island of Hawai’i. In the US, the land from the Rockies to the Sierras and from Canada to the Mexican border west of the Mississippi is more or less uninhabited.

  8. Maybe the answer to the question:“How many is enough?” is not for YOU to know. Did you ever consider that?
    Because it assumes whoever answers it in charge of other’s right to exist. Who do you think should have that power? Certainly no one I know.

    • I would never advocate anything like eugenics. But the fact is, lots of social policy encourages or discourages children.

      One example off the top of my head are child tax credits where we actually pay people to have kids. Maybe that’s a good thing and maybe it’s not. Itf it’s good then maybe we should increase it. If it’s bad then maybe we should decrease it.

      When it comes to population social policy, we crossed the Rubicon long ago.

      • Fair enough, in that policy has been put in place that either positively or negatively economically impacts having kids. But does it “incentivize” reproduction? Or does it merely seek to support the development of healthier offspring by allowing parents to keep more of their own money (what a concept) with the thought the money would be put towards the significant costs of having child?

      • I think economists would say that when you subsidize something — children in this case — you get more of it.

        Mind you, I’m not saying we should NOT have more children. Nor am I saying we SHOULD have more. I’m just wondering, how many is enough? To say that the answer to that question is not for us as a society to consider, is to say that we should dodge one of the biggest issues of our time.

      • I’m with Gail. If, in the name of not “dodging” what is declared to be a looming threat, a society undertakes a course of action with outcomes that it cannot possibly predict in their entirety, then it is on the threshold of grave error, if not evil. For example, what the world’s governments have done in the past three years by forcing upon us gene therapies disguised as “vaccines” amounts to massive “experimentation” on their citizens, which ought to result in Nuremberg-type trials for consequences that increasingly look like “democide” — with learned estimates running as high as 20 million deaths from the shots and over a billion adverse effects.

        “Who decides” is the question here.

      • People and societies do things all the time “with outcomes they cannot cannot possibly predict in their entirety” from crossing the street to crossing a continent, from getting married to having children, from choosing a career to choosing a medical treatment. It’s life.

        Bear in mind that doing nothing is also an act the outcome of which we cannot possibly predict in its entirety.

        All we can ever do is to act, or not, based on the best information and analysis available. There are never guarantees in this world.

      • Granted, but you’re speaking largely of individual decisions and actions. Sometimes these do involve “acting for others,” as when, for example, we hold medical durable power of attorney for a loved one. But enacting policies affecting millions of people — determining whether they are permitted to have children, or forced to inject inadequately tested new technologies into their bodies — is another matter. Sure, leaders such as Abraham Lincoln have made decisions on behalf of millions of citizens, even suspending habeas corpus and censoring a free press, but surely a distinction can be drawn between Lincoln’s actions and the more capricious and agenda-driven actions of a Justin Trudeau suppressing truck drivers in Ottawa.

  9. So, remember when China has so many people the government decided to limit families to one child each? That had some interesting results. First, abortions of female babies went way up, with the result that, contrary to the historical fact of more females than males living into adulthood, there were a lot more males. Surplus males, if you will. What to do with them? Maybe create a huge army in order to invade your neighbors? Second, it was soon ascertained that the “one child” policy meant that there would soon be insufficient numbers of replacements for the current population, resulting in a terrible imbalance in the social and economic relationships that had been traditionally enjoyed. Just not enough young, productive people to care for and support the elderly. Third, it was soon realized that the policy was likely to result in a “doom loop” where the country was simply going to be incapable of sustaining itself and would likely die out. Something like this is actually happening in places like western Europe and Japan, where the native populations have decided to quit having children. So now the official Chinese policy is to allow families to have as many children as they want, but surprise, surprise! People aren’t having children! Look at any demographic map and you will see that the places where people are reproducing in large numbers are precisely the places that shouldn’t be doing so, viz., sub-Sahara Africa. You know, all those swell places where the average IQ is about three standard deviations below that predominating in Europe, East Asia and America, where the inhabitants decided to quit reproducing. It does not take a forecasting genius to figure out that this is a sure-fire way to get to Idiocracy. But I take heart in the likelihood that we are at or near the End of Days anyway, so problem solved.

  10. We are not approaching a Malthusean trap. We are approaching an unprecedented population collapse.
    Outside of Africa and the “lands of the prophet” births per female are declining rapidly. The US does not reproduce at the replacement rate. China will see up to a 50 percent population decline within a century. There will be a severe global worker shortage.
    Humans are the primary natural resource. The most productive and vital nations are also among the most populated. Are there too many Dutchmen, Swiss, Japanese?
    As with so many issues, overpopulation is oversold. All those UN population control schemes had little impact. Birth rates decline with Increased female education and employment.
    People are the greatest thing in God’s creation. As I love my life, I cannot seek to horde that gift. I accept that I am not an “island.”
    There is enough space and sufficient resources. It is a problem of distribution…and courage.

  11. My only thought on this is I long for the days when I could spend time in the backcountry without seeing crowds of people. Those days ended sometime in the late 80s. I miss the solitude.
    From a fellow Rocky Mountain inhabitant.

  12. I read that the United Nations study says that we will have 10 million world population by 2102. Paul Ehrlich has been wrong with every decade of growth he has predicted but he’s a Stanford professor so he must be right!
    Happy New Year, Glenn. Glad to see you’re still holding down the mountain.

  13. I hear a lot of comments saying we have room for more. Ok, I agree.

    But the question is not how many we have room for. It’s how many are enough? I have room in my house for several dozen people but that doesn’t mean I need or want that many.

    Give me a number or at least an analytical framework.

    • Enough for what? What are your criteria for deciding enough? Upon what judgments and values do you base your criteria? If you look at just our country, you see a population distribution wildly skewed toward the area east of the Mississippi. If you look to those parts of the country producing our patents, books, plays, movies, and ideas they are the most heavily populated areas.

      Population growth has principally been the result of advances in the food supply, medicine, and technology in general. Those areas where population growth has leveled off or even reversed are those areas where those advances have been most concentrated.

      So, there appears to be a paradox based on the historical record. Technology rises along with concentrations of population. Population rises as technologies are applied in agriculture and medicine and the production of goods and services. Those advances reduce population growth.

      So, what persons are too many? What persons suffice? One argument advanced for abortion was population reduction. Would we need mass immigration or find ourselves with a labor shortage if the 60 million missing Americans had been born?

      The great replacement is supposed to be the replacement of the white working class by a new and more compliant and solidly Democrat brown working class. Perhaps the numbers more accurately demonstrate the replacement of a native black working class or even underclass with and imported brown working or underclass.

      I’ve lived long enough to see every prediction of environmental collapse, resource exhaustion, and population explosion-driven famine proven wrong. Borlaug was the nemisis of Erlich.

    • I think you are seeking an answer to a fictional question. There is no way to predict today what might be possible tomorrow. Agricultural, environmental, energy (cold fusion?!) etc advances of tomorrow might make quantum changes perfectly sustainable tomorrow that you cannot even conceive of today.
      While I enjoy the theoretical exercise, I don’t understand why you’re so fixated on a target number. I think humanity, as part of nature, will seek its own proper balance and when / if it gets out of balance it will do something that pushes it back into balance again. Homeostasis.

    • There will be enough people in your house when you start kicking some of them out, or poisoning them and burying them in your basement, or selling the house out from under them. Whichever, your behavior will be “determined” at least in part by some force of nature seeking what Gail calls “its own proper balance.” But I suppose the question you’re asking is when to lock the door before things get to this point. That is, indeed, the question that should be asked regarding our open borders immigration policy. So to Gail I’d say, that’s why you’re asking for a theoretical, “academic” number.

    • Are you talking about a sustainable population level? Advances in agribusiness, viable energy alternatives, and how the ruling class respects their constituents’ needs and liberties all factor heavily into what Gail referred to as ‘Homeostasis’. The last factor I listed is what should concern us all. History warns us of the consequences resulting from a dozen or so bad characters. We haven’t solved that problem yet, and likely we’ll never solve it. Right now, Americans have it really good. That’s why we can contemplate first world issues such as a sustainable population level.

  14. A total economic collapse will go a long way towards sanitizing the gene pool. Those lacking hard, marketable skills suitable for barter will be filtered out quickly, like the underemployed socialists on Twitter complaining about how harsh they think capitalism is.

    In the meantime, Paul Ehrlich should be embarrassed that old age is going to get him long before any of his predictions will. But he’s not, because he’s a capitalist.

  15. The statisticians tend to say that at least in theory, the world’s population could all fit somewhat comfortably within the state of Texas.


    Note: I think this projection was estimated a few years ago when the population was between 7 and 8 billion.

    Still … if you added New Mexico and/or Oklahoma to this model for the current population then there would be lots of space for 8 billion.

    Of course this is just on paper and theoretical, and doesn’t account for the natural resources needed and the vast tracts of agricultural space needed to provide for this 8 billion populated Texas.

    But … it is some food for thought and illustrates how little humans actually take up on planet Earth.

    In the meantime … the Left has a lot to answer for.

  16. I’m not sure what the magic number is, globally. but people are escaping overcrowded countries. The quality of life is less where they come from. The respect for life is less The places they go to isn’t prepared for them. There may be lots of space, but no infrastructure.

  17. Asking “How many is enough?” is irrelevant because the people will have as many babies as they want. More importantly, wondering or worrying about it is also pointless because the birth rate has been declining for decades in all wealthy countries and most other countries as well. Some countries are already experiencing population decline like Japan and Italy. China, at 1.4 billion right now, will decline to about half that by 2100. The global population is nearing 8 billion but slowing and it’s not certain that we’ll ever reach 10 billion. So, no worries.

  18. As I understand it the birth rate in most countries is declining except among Moslems who are breeding as fast as they can, it appears. Please correct me if I’m off on this So why is population size even a concern?

  19. I know this subject is off-topic … but since there are some notable legal beagles and constitutional scholars here I figured I would ask, along with perhaps trying to make a point.

    Question … do these Congress-elect critters get paid while this vote-a-rama for Speaker is going on?!?

    I would think that they DO NOT qualify for any federal pay as none of them are sworn in. If they are not sworn in they cannot fulfill their Constitutional duties, so therefore they cannot be paid … I would surmise.

    This might be fun to watch … especially this new batch of sniveling “Gen-Z” progressives getting evicted from apartments they claim they cannot afford to pay rent on.

    Now … watching these evictions would be some real popcorn entertainment.

    At this point I’d like to see the Speakership vote-a-rama go on … and on … and on.

    Thank you all for the indulgence … and Happy New Year.


      • Indeed. “That government governs best which governs least” . . . or, in the matter of population control, not at all? The sin of omission (doing nothing) has to be less grievous than that of commission (punishment, murder, extermination of undesirables, etc.), does it not?

  20. “But haven’t we been fruitful and multiplied enough already?”
    I probably missed a similar earlier comment to this question, but it’s logical to me that when we start limiting God’s plan, historically the alternative always morphs into a tyrannical horror show. And not the kind of show that so many people apparently like to watch on TV.
    Happy New Year to existing Earthlings as well as to future Earthlings. Go forth and do good…

  21. I can only believe that The Creator built this amazing planet for his Glory alone. With it, the blueprint contains some needed ‘governors’ (a device automatically regulating the supply of fuel, steam, or water to a machine, ensuring uniform motion or limiting speed). What those regulating devices may be aren’t put in place to punish Earth’s inhabitants. They are to educate us as life’s guardrails.
    Go Dawgs!

  22. Here’s something about population economics among other things:

    On youtube
    China Has 10 Years Left, Says Geopolitical Analyst Peter Zaihan

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