Last night was Beggars’ Night, and we bought too much candy. (We had no trick-or-treaters at all visit our new house, so any candy would have been too much.) Kish’s edict was unequivocal: get the candy out of the house, immediately! So, to the office and the counter next to the fifth floor coffee station it went. By 8 a.m., another of my office mates, who had a cool witch serving bowl, also had weighed in with her extras, and the coffee station was ready for the inevitable onslaught. I’m guessing that this same scene was duplicated in countless offices around the country.
By 1:30 the hungry denizens of the fifth floor had made an appreciably large dent in the candy supplies. The Snickers bars were the first to go, followed by M&Ms and Milky Ways, and the Three Musketeers bars were bringing up the rear. There was a huge post-lunch, “its-kind-of-like-a-dessert-so-its-OK-for-me-to-have-one-or-two” rush on the candy, and one grateful consumer left a nice thank-you note.
By 4 p.m., the human tide had subsided. Only a few lonely, somewhat pathetic-looking candies remained in the witch’s straw bowl. The plate had been removed entirely, and the jar was empty. Even the boring Three Musketeers bars had been consumed by the chocolate-craving occupants of the fifth floor — if not by colleagues on other floors who heard through the grapevine that there were good candy pickins on 5.
How much candy do you suppose is consumed in offices on the day after Beggars’ Night, anyway?
Imagine living in a society where the government strictly dictated how many children you could have, and imposed crippling fines if your family exceeded its limit. It is an Orwellian concept, the kind of repressive, intrusive, Big Brother/Big Government run amok plot line that has given rise to countless movies and books about soulless future societies.
Except that such a government and policy actually exists, and has for decades — in China. Since the ’70s, China has limited families to one child, in an effort to curb its population growth. China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, instituted the policy so that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.” That decision was applauded by some advocates who were urging governments to take aggressive steps to control overpopulation; indeed, the United Nations Fund For Population Activities actually gave China an award for its decision.
There’s skepticism, however, about whether China’s abrupt policy change will work. Even if couples of child-bearing age decide to have a second child, those offspring won’t be part of the Chinese workforce for years. What’s more, China’s population has now been conditioned to accept one-child families, and couples are very sensitive to the economic and emotional costs of having a second child. And even if the birth rate increases as a result of the policy change, China’s population will begin to decline and the imbalance of young workers versus old pensioners will continue to grow.
Those who advocate aggressive government decisions to address perceived social problems would do well to consider China’s one-child policy, which shows that governments not only can be brutal, but they can also be dead wrong. And if you were an older member of Chinese society, how comfortable would you be with your position in the face of bad demographic statistics and the economic burdens of supporting a growing number of retirees? Would a government that enforces a one-child policy in an effort to control its economy hesitate to take steps directed at the other end of the age spectrum to restore what it considers to be a proper balance to its population?