Thursday, October 23, 2008

The political economy of ethnic population growth

Population is power.

That appears to be the premise of a Ugandan political leader's comments from a few weeks ago. This seems like an interesting premise that, as far as I can tell, models of population growth don't take into account. So what would be a political economy take on population?

It would understand that ethnic elites fight for control within countries. Whether in a democracy, dictatorship or oligarchy, the key to a leader taking control is followers, and the more the better.

Take the Latin American population in California. Without the large population base created from years of faster procreation than any other ethnic group, it seems unlikely that LA would have a mayor with Mexican heritage.

This may partially explain why, despite attempts to introduce family planning, population is still growing very fast in Africa, where the colonial legacy left many different ethnic groups in the same country, each fighting for control. Population explosion, despite being bad for an economy, could be entirely rational for individual ethnic groups.

There are of course cultural aspects to large families, but even these may be influenced by a micro dimension to power. In many societies, a man with a large family is considered successful, perhaps in part because he has more power within his community because of the grater population he controls.

Of course, power from population only comes from having a greater proportion of people than your opponents. If everyone is thinking this, we have a case of an arms race of population, where no one wins, and all populations grow bigger.

1 comment:

Andrew said...
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