Coercive population policies, procreative freedom, and morality

Philosophy and Geography 4 (1):67 – 77 (2001)
I shall briefly evaluate the common claim that ethically acceptable population policies must let individuals to decide freely on the number of their children. I shall ask, first, what exactly is the relation between population policies that we find intuitively appealing, on the one hand, and population policies that maximize procreative freedom, on the other, and second, what is the relation between population policies that we tend to reject on moral grounds, on the one hand, and population policies that use coercive methods such as laws or economic incentives and deterrents, on the other. I shall argue that when changing a population policy, it may be morally desirable to affect people's procreative decisions more rather than less, and that sometimes it may be morally desirable to prefer a population policy that does not maximize procreative freedom to a population policy that does maximize it. I shall also point out that indirect population policies that use incentives and deterrents are not necessarily incompatible with liberal principles. Finally, I try to show what is assumed by those who defend the view that coercive population policies are morally wrong in all circumstances.
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