Margaret Sanger, "The Foundation of World Peace," 28 Mar 1932.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 129:0490."
In the past there have been many and diverse causes of War, but the economic factors and the pressure of population on the resources of a country are pre-eminently at the root of our modern wars.
It is an acknowledged fact that the big battalions of babies have made the working man’s life a constant battle to keep his productive or labor powers up to the need of his reproductive powers. We also know that the revolution in modern industry has made the necessity for man-power of less value than the ox or the dray horse.
The tragic difference is that the reproduction of the ox or dray horse is controlled and its numbers predicated on potential needs. While the man with only his labor power to sell proceeds to multiply and increase his numbers regardless of his own ability to provide for his offspring, or regardless of the social or economic needs of the labor that he has to sell.
There are two or three essential and fundamental factors to recognize at the beginning of any plan for National or International Peace: 1. Normal marriage leads to offspring. 2. The normal couple can produce during the child-bearing years from ten to twelve children. 3. Unless death through disease, famines or other misfortune, takes off a large number of these children yearly, no social order known today can provide and maintain the multiplication and increase of such vast numbers in so short a period. 4. An acre of land is limited to the number of plants it can occupy. 5. The social factors, or returns to the State from slums and over-crowded territories decrease rather than increase our racial wealth.
Populations have been kept down in the past by keeping the death rate almost equal to the birth rate. The survival rate was very low but it allowed for a Healthy, fit population and enabled it to compete in the struggle for existence. Today we have changed all this. We cannot allow disease, floods, pestilence and famines to spread over a civilized land. The consequence is that we have greatly lowered our death rate while we have at the same time increased the longevity of adult men and women.
Both of these good factors have been obtained mainly through the lowering of our birth rate. Those Nations which fight against this civilized means of applying science to the control of population, become the danger spots to World Peace.
With these facts in mind, we know that the quality of a population is an equally
important factor in its development and its progress. A population on any given
territory must produce its own food or get food from other areas. Not only food, but the
necessary means of maintenance which today means oil, iron, fuel and natural resources.
If a Nation cannot maintain its population, the first effort, and the only way out, is
through emigration. But when other countries close their gates against such emigrants
they are then forced to remain at home. There are then but one of three remaining
solutions to their problem:
1. Reduce the birth rate.
2. Lower the standards of living. 3. Expand into other territory by force of arms and declare war.
Japan recently has given us an excellent example of the fact of over-population. She has a population of approximately 60,000,000 according to the census of 1928. She has about 150,000 square miles of territory. Only one-sixth of this area is cultivable which brings her density of population up to 993 persons a square mile--the highest in the world. She has an enormously high birth rate of 34.8 and a death rate of 19.2--the second highest natural increase of any country today. Besides this she has an increase of 800,000 to 900,000 infants a year.
Japan has not the resources to feed this growing population. She has not been allowed free access to other lands as other European aliens. The world has closed its doors against her surplus population. Japan has not the natural resources of iron and coal to become a manufacturing or industrial nation which could be exchanged for food. Her silk industry cannot provide sufficiently for her needs. Her standards of living were fairly high. Japan’s population is highly intelligent and largely literate, which, like Germany in 1914, must have an outlet as well as a return on her output for educational facilities. She had three ways to settle the problem: 1. To lower her standards of living and increase her death rate, which is abhorrent to every sense of decency in us. 2. Decrease the birth rate to a very low figure as quickly as possible to check the increase of numbers. 3. To acquire new territories where she can have ready access to fuel and mineral resources in order to create industries and provide for the needs of her present and future population.
We know now which of the above Japan chose to do. She marched into Manchuria just as naturally as a chick pops out of its shell. She had little or no choice after she allowed conditions to drift until 1932. A farseeing government would have attempted to prevent the now inevitable catastrophe by encouraging a check on the birth rate back in 1910 when the U.S.A. Exclusion Act spread to Australia and other countries.
Italy is preparing herself to go the way of Japan. Already she has a population which she cannot feed from her own soil. The population in 1927 was 40,548,683, her birth rate 26.4, which had decreased as other countries in Europe had since 1914. Her death rate of 15.5 had also decreased, giving her a material increase of 10.9 per thousand--far too high for the peace of Europe. She has not over 120,000 square miles of territory, less than that of Japan proper. As Italian emigrants are now practically barred from the U.S.A., it means that she must provide for the surplus of 90,000 Italians who came each year to this country and settled here more or less permanently before the war. Italy’s problem then is to absorb the 25% national increase, or an additional 500,000 persons, into her national economy each year. Her density of population is about 345 per square mile, which is the danger point for any nation in this day of modern industry with the craze for foreign markets. Italy, like Japan, has a choice of ways to meet the situation but, unlike Japan, she has deliberately set her face by the authority of Church and State and refuses to control her birth rate. Through this course of action, her policy of reckless breeding will bring about an international situation, the detriment of which can scarcely now be gauged.
There need be no excuse today for any nation overflowing its boundaries. Population increase must and should be controlled not only as to its births but as to its distribution. The death rate is already partially controlled through the administration of Public Health Agencies. The birth rate must likewise be regarded as fully important and given due consideration and responsibility if we would lay the foundation for World Peace.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project