Thursday, April 24, 2008

Philippines and Thailand: population, agriculture, and economics

Philippine population control advocates gaze enviously at Thailand's 0.663% population growth rate (2007 est.) and sigh wistfully at our own 1.728%. (2007 est.) And for emphasis, they point to Thailand's strong economy and agricultural output. "See how Thailand has overtaken us because they have a modern family planning program? We're even importing rice from Thailand now!"

In the realm of logic fallacies, this is called post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because Thailand's population growth rate is lower does not automatically translate into a stronger economy and greater agricultural output. Comparisons of economic and agricultural figures for both countries will show why things are they way they are.

Thailand has a total cropland of 18,000,000 hectares as opposed to our own 10,050,000 hectares (1999 estimates). Thailand has nearly double the agricultural land that we do. Thailand's average annual fertilizer use is 1,802,000 metric tons, or an intensity of 100 kg/ha; our own fertilizer use is only 742,000 metric tons, or a much lower 74 kg/ha. (Because of this current administration's fertilizer scam, we ended up paying much much more for nonexistent fertilizer anyway.)

Thailand, with a contiguous land area of over 514,000 sq km, is a much larger country than our own archipelagic 300,000 sq km. What's more, they dedicate 27.54% of their land to agriculture whereas we only use 19%. Around 49% of Thailand's labor force is dedicated to agriculture, versus 35% of our own.

Roughly 10.8% of Thailand's GDP comes from agriculture, the rest even split between industry (45.3%) and services (43.8%). Our own breakdown is: 35% agriculture, 15% industry, and 50% services. We are clearly lagging behind in industry although we have roughly the same percentage of the labor force dedicated to that sector (14% and 15%).

But what of Thailand's 0.663% population growth versus our own 1.728%? Thailand's birth rate is 13.57 births/1,000 population, a little less than half that of our own 24.07 births/1,000 population. However, there are more disturbing figures for Thailand: their infant mortality rate is 18.23 deaths/1,000 live births, very close to our own 21.45 deaths/1,000 live births. Moreover, their death rate is 7.17 deaths/1,000 population.

The annotation from the CIA World Fact Book from which these figures are taken has this to say:

Estimates for [Thailand] explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.

So there's that: the secret behind Thailand's population management "success story."


  1. dominique,
    I heartily disagree that what Science counterposes to Papal Infallibility is "the infallibility of our senses, scientific measurement and commonsense".

    Rather than "infallibility" we propose "falsifiability".

    What the scientific method consists of is the proposal of HYPOTHESES that must have the possibility of being proven false.

    Thus we only accept as provisionally true any particular theory or statement about reality, and we generally only consider those that can be proven to be false, by evidence of observation, by reason of logic, and sometimes of commonsense or some combination of these things.

    In contrast, Papal Infallibility declares as unquestionably, unfalsifiably and indubitably TRUE that which the Pope or the Bishops in ecumenical council so declare to be infallibly true.

    No two attitudes towards human understanding of reality could be more opposed to each other.

    Consider the particular case of the assumption into heaven of the BVM.

    This is is a dogma that has no possibility of being proven false in any practical or even imaginable manner. Perhaps if we could fly back in a time machine and observe her dying and her flesh rotting away.

    This is not to deny that there are things even in Science that we take on pure faith. For example I've never met Albert Einstein in the flesh, but I have a fervent belief (and relief!) that he truly existed!

  2. Dominique,

    "Falsifiability" [of hypotheses regarding something in the real world] comes by another more common name. It is called "the scientific method." Here the attitude is one of humility, because we accept from the git-go that we could be wrong, and we only propose hypotheses that CAN be proven wrong by others, without our help if need be.

    "Infallibility" [of hypotheses regarding something in the real world] is an altogether different and distinct thing. Here the attitude is one of complete hubris because it says we cannot be wrong. Indeed, the subjects of infallible teachings are carefully chosen to be virtually impossible to prove wrong, which is perhaps why it is insisted that they be "believed" purely on the basis of faith and allegiance to authority of the maker of the hypothesis.

    Now you ask, "how can you falsify without observation and measurement?"

    It depends on the subject of discussion. Take the purely logical realm.

    "If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C."

    Since we cannot even have a meaningful discussion unless we agree to and accept certain axioms of logical and consistent discussion, there ARE certain statements which are not falsifiable, because they are needed for falsifying non-axiomatic statements, which we call theorems or hypotheses.

    Now is the falsifiablity [of hypotheses] itself falsifiable?

    YES! We can decide by virture of reason and logic and experience whether or not it is possible to prove or disprove the truth or falsity of any given hypothesis.

    But now I ask you. Is the dogma of infallibility [of hypothesis] itself infallible?

    My understanding of the dogma may be weak, but I think the Catholic Church insists that only something called "the Holy Ghost" can decide which hypotheses are infallible but whispers it to the Pope!

    How convenient and unfair and, well, inhuman.

    There is no discussion possible without being declared ANATHEMA!

  3. Regarding the comparison between Thailand and the Philippines, I admit that population is not the only factor that determines economic wellbeing. But it is certainly no fallacious to assert that it IS one factor. Given that we make all other conditions equal,i.e. if both countries were to adopt the same political, economic and administrative policies, except for population number, I think we are forced to conclude that we would be worse off by such measures as per capita income and average wellbeing of the individual citizens.

    The comparison is useful in that simple sense, not with some metaphysical certitude such as infalliblility would require, but in a perfectly falsifiable manner only.

    I think the Church is committing a grave injustice with its policy on birth control. Whatever evil it sees in non-abortion methods like pills, condoms and IUDs, should be compared to greater evil and injustice that an enforced poverty and hunger and deprivation imposes on millions of suffering families, who are condemned to destitute lives through no fault of their own but the lack of access to piece of plastic or copper wire that could easily prevent or avoid such evil.

    The church's position is simply inhuman. We have given them the benefit of the doubt for far too long.

    The people of Christ have to take back THEIR church from evidently malevolent teachings with horrible consequences that I cannot imagine meets God's approval.