Vanity Economics
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Vanity Economics

An Economic Exploration of Sex, Marriage and Family

C. Simon Fan

This book presents an accessible and sometimes controversial economic exploration of numerous issues surrounding sex, marriage and family. It analyzes the role of ‘vanity’, defined as social status and self-esteem, in social and economic behaviors.
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Chapter 19: A 'population problem': theory and policy

C. Simon Fan


Death is life's biggest tragedy and an absolute certainty. The world population reached an estimated seven billion people in 2011. In 150 years all these people will be dead, yet seven billion or more will have taken their place. Some demographers predict that the world population will reach 10 billion by 2150. These people will be completely new. In fact, those who will be born in the next 12 months cannot be predicted. About 300 million sperm are released in a man's ejaculate to meet thousands of a woman's eggs. The probability that a certain sperm will match a certain egg, develop it into an embryo that will later result in a birth is much less than 1 in 1 billion, even when the man's and woman's identities are known ahead of time. This means that every person's birth is the result of an event with an extremely small probability of less than 1 billionth and possibly less than 1 trillionth. In this sense, every person should feel extremely lucky to be alive. In other words, every person is brought into being by God - the Goddess of Fortune. Given these facts, examining 'population problems' to investigate optimal population levels and compositions seems impossible. From an ethics perspective, researchers on this topic are vulnerable to criticisms when they try to judge whether a certain fraction of the population or even a single individual should be born. However, as illustrated by the strict implementation of the one-child policy in China, population growth and economic development are closely related.

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