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Reproductive Liberty and Overpopulation


  • Carol A. Kates


Despite substantial evidence pointing to a looming Malthusian catastrophe, governmental measures to reduce population have been opposed both by religious conservatives and by many liberals, especially liberal feminists. Liberal critics have claimed that 'utilitarian' population policies violate a 'fundamental right of reproductive liberty'. This essay argues that reproductive liberty should not be considered a fundamental human right, or certainly not an indefeasible right. It should, instead, be strictly regulated by a global agreement designed to reduce population to a sustainable level. Three major points are discussed: 1) the current state of the overpopulation problem; 2) the claim of a fundamental human right of reproductive liberty; 3) an outline of a global agreement to address overpopulation as a 'tragedy of the commons'.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol A. Kates, 2004. "Reproductive Liberty and Overpopulation," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 13(1), pages 51-79, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev13:ev1303

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    Cited by:

    1. Chapman, Robert L., 2006. "Confessions of a Malthusian restrictionist," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 214-219, September.

    More about this item


    Overpopulation; reproductive liberty; tragedy of the commons; Malthus; Kerala;

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development


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