No matter how many times Daniel saw the literally infinite view out the observation bay window it still connected him to those mythic forces unfathomably greater than himself. The broad vastness of space made him feel infinitely small, yet all the more important given the lack of life out there… and the dwindling numbers on Earth.

Then a buzzer went off, reminding him of the meeting on that very topic. Into the lion’s den, came unbidden to his mind. His serenity broken, his mind focused on the quote that seemed relevant, though he didn’t remember the source.

Daniel raced down the corridors until he arrived barely on time. A dozen faces from as many different locations faced him. Half were in person. Half were teleconferencing in via ultra-secure channels. He started the meeting by uttering, “All present and accounted for.”

Daniel started with the formalities, hoping to compose himself better for the bad news, “This meeting’s agenda is the review of available human resources.” The meeting minutes from the prior meeting scrolled on a background screen for all to review. “The primary change this period is that human population hit the 4.5 billion mark this week.” At least half of those here looked ready to kill the messenger for the bad news except that it would hurt the population statistics.

“Are the incentives not working?” a Chinese representative Lu asked.

“No.” Daniel forced out, trying to draw on the memory of his earlier serenity for strength. How do you tell your superiors that they can’t change human nature by tweaking a few minor laws or bribes? “We can’t counteract four generations of overpopulation rhetoric with a few incentives.”

“The birth rate went up shortly after the prior round of incentives a decade ago,” Representative Ahmed tossed back at him.

“I – we’ve analyzed the data. It was a spate of second births that parents had already wanted to have or the earlier birth of first borns. No one is having third children that are necessary for population growth. The incentives are not even stabilizing growth by encouraging parents to have second children above the one designer child they typically have. Children are seen as a burden; money doesn’t change mindsets.” Daniel wondered how so many experts in propaganda and public affairs could not see beyond the carrot and stick approach. The birth dearth was caused by a lack of desire for children as much as a lack of children themselves. “A single financial bonus does not counteract years of propaganda of how hard it is to raise more than one child.”

Devi Singh, the Indian representative, pulled up the latest stats for herself.  “The working population declined at an annualized rate of 0.9% last month, as it has been decreasing for the past several decades. Can’t we cut other entitlement programs further back to increase the childbirth incentives?”

Daniel saw other heads nod in agreement with his statement. ”We’ve cut retirement benefits as far as possible without facing riots by the middle aged who don’t want to support their parents. I don’t want to remind everyone here what happened the last time we enacted tighter euthanasia guidelines to save on medical costs. We can’t raise taxes any higher without driving the birth rate even further down, as it always does. The only option is to increase tax revenue, and that is by increasing the taxable population.”

“I still stand by my proposal to further increase the retirement age,” Lu tossed into the ring. Of course he’d make that proposal, Daniel thought, Lu was already 81.

Schneider, the European Union delegate, interjected, “We cannot afford to further alienate the 40% of the voting population at or near retirement age. There was enough uproar when retirement benefits were set at 75. If we even appear to be considering an age closer to 80, none of us will live very long.” Schneider would worry about that. He was close to retirement, and recent laws prevented officials from being exempt from their own edicts. All part of the plan to increase the image of accountability… and Europeans had a tendency of holding their officials accountable by calling in goons for late night home invasions or turning off the life support equipment.

“What about more drastic measures to improve birth rate?” the South African representative nearly whispered. Drastic measures? Daniel nearly voiced. How drastic was she thinking of? Perhaps along the lines of the drastic measures taken to solve her region’s AIDS epidemic decades before. By elimination of all infected to save the living. That kind of radical violent action might be of use in ending lives, but their whole discussion was to lead to their creation. If children have to be forced onto reluctant parents, does that not make that make the whole situation worse? Maybe if you saw children as a blessing and not as a burden.

Daniel repeated the obvious, in case she meant something other than peaceful and legal methods. “Altering family planning laws has typically resulted in a voter backlash of the entire age spectrum. The young decry loss of freedoms. Elders cry fears of reverting to more oppressing times.” Daniel pushed thoughts of the forced relocations of his religions ancestors to desolate corners of the world, or the children forcibly taken from them because the dared make and raise too many of them. “Decrease availability of abortion, and someone will scream we’re sliding back to the time Europe had to take children away from Muslim families to prevent becoming Eurabia or when the Islamic States authorized forced rape/pregnancy/conversion of women to radical Islam to push up their birth rates after the last Crusades.”

“Which was a temporary measure at best,” Yiril, the Omani member stated. “But we cannot discount them if peaceful, financial methods do not work.”

Daniel felt a fire he had never felt before. He’d spent his whole life serving them and preserving the peace so that he could save lives. He saw his words twisted from the love of life into a wave of death and destruction. “The violent measures were counter productive because it caused the most fertile to cease having children for fear of losing them or being raped to conceive more.” It wouldn’t do to let anyone think those prior violent means somehow were justified by the desired ends.  No permanent good could result from such evil acts, though those acts may have resulted in more than a few of his ancestors. “It is not a solution to the problem. It will only exacerbate the problem –“

Lu chimed in. “Your job is to provide solutions, Mr. Williamson. What, then, is your solution, since you decided that all of our solutions are counterproductive?”

Daniel decided to force Lu into admitting progress, or lack thereof. It makes the others more willing to listen to him in the end. “Has the third child incentive not worked in China?”

“They have the right to have two children, with 1.25 of them being boys. Allowing three children per couple causes 1.7 of those children to be boys. The incentives increase the birth rate, but the gender ratio grows more skewed. If they are allowed only two children, they tend to have a boy and a girl; they have a son to carry on the line and a daughter so that they can barter a daughter for a daughter in law. Incentives to have more children cause parents to have even more boys, in the hopes of having more sons and hence more influence in the future generations. They assume that someone else will provide the wife for that son. And the last thing the East needs now is another batch of millions of bachelors without wives or hope.”

“Siberia doesn’t have enough blonde Russians to make up the difference this time, does it?” Singh quipped. The Indian cruelly smiled at memories of the Chinese takeover of Siberia. Russians sold daughters to buy freedom or food, eventually easing the Chinese lack of women in the process. It had benefited India; China took its pent up testosterone out on Russia instead.

“India has suffered the same excess male population for years. Shall I remind you of your Tibet/Nepal invasion?” the Chinese representative retorted.

“The Nepalese have been willingly selling their daughters to Bombay institutions for years. Selling them as wives to Indian men benefits all. They are raised out of poverty and we improve our social stability.” Singh reiterated, “The invasion was not to kill off their men and take their women; it was to prevent Maoist takeover.”

“Enough!” Daniel yelled. Local squabbles would not help anyone in the long run. Tolerating the back biting here would only make things worse. That’s why the station was used for negotiation facilities in the first place, so that no one nation could play super power or gang leader. Nor could a host nation be victim if terrorism struck at this facility as the prior U.N. had fallen to Muslim nuclear attacks for not backing mandatory Sharia law world wide if the meeting place was beyond one group’s jurisdiction.

Daniel banged on the table for emphasis. He had their attention with the show of violence. “I do have a proposal. A different proposal than any my predecessors have provided you.” He had their full attention. “Do we all agree the worsening demographic and economic situation warrants considering solutions that may be … less optimal but still obtainable?” There was a round of assent. “Can we agree to at least consider the politically incorrect as an option?”

“Assuming it is legal …” came from Schneider. Germans were always bureaucrats first.

“Yes.” Daniel nodded his head vigorously. “Absolutely, it is.”

“And that no rights are trampled upon,” ironically came the response from Lu.

“Correct.” Daniel grimaced. “We don’t have to resort to violent measures.”

Singh finally ventured, “Then what is it?”

“There are American religious groups that favor large families.” Daniel remembered his own family reunions, full of people and life and two children per family, with everyone always asking for permission for more kids. His friends came from long lines of lonely only children and had no understanding of why someone would want more children – much less want to spend time around relatives’ children. Then again, he’d always had to explain the concept of aunts and uncles and cousins to them. Much like the concept of church and community, how could they understand what they had never experienced?

“Due to their less politically favorable views, we’ve denied them permits to have more than two children. This is the exception that proves the rule. They routinely ask for more than the two child limit. Mormons. Evangelical Christians. Amish. These religious and social groups want children. If they are allowed their desired third children, the planetary birth rate would go up.” If it were Daniel’s choice, he would have made it unlimited birthrights. However, he had to take the first step before he could consider the rest of the journey.

Yiril Omani scoffed, “Those fringe groups are a tiny minority. Even a 100% increase in their replacement rate wouldn’t change world wide decline.”

Daniel felt the touch of the infinite again. “I believe it would.” Belief. It was all he had right now. It was all he really had in the face of the danger of challenging authority.

“How?” came from several voices in unison.

“How many people would patriotically have a third child just to challenge the fringe groups growing numbers? If faced with numbers that these fringe elements would become a majority in several hundred years if they could have three – or even more – children, would many more secular couples consider having a third child simply to prevent their views from becoming a minority view?”

Ahmed flatly asked, “This is assuming that you have data to support this idea.”

Daniel couldn’t say yes, but he would not say no. Lying is a sin, but the goal is to save – no, to create – lives. Doesn’t that make it OK? He compromised, not willing to be as guilty as those here. “We have preliminary interviews. We have focus views. We have not actually given permissions to have more than two children to prove the hypothesis.”

“Do you think it would work?” Schneider asked.

Daniel paused. “I would not propose it if I did not think it had a chance of working.”

“The number of people in these fringe elements would grow,” Ahmed retorted. “We can’t allow them to become a majority.”

“It would not happen if others took up the challenge to prevent that from happening,” Daniel replied.

“You are asking us to give the most religious free reign to breed!” Lu asserted. After generations of Communism and mandated atheism, Lu acted as if it was treason to even make the suggestion. “And demographics are destiny!”

Daniel held onto hope, seeking to rise above the challenge. Strength seemed to seep into him from somewhere beyond, raising him up with a higher authority than the planetary authorities before him. He was right, and he would see the right thing done. “We have to let them do what comes to them naturally as an extension of their faiths, even if it means increasing the presence and visibility of their faiths.” Let me demonstrate the good that you desire, so that others may follow.  “Sirs, please, realize that if others are as passionate about preventing such a demographic shift from occurring, then they, too, will have more children – if only to prevent what you are afraid of.” All they saw was a revival of the Jihads in letting those with faith practice their faith in society. They did not see the empty buildings Daniel saw on his trips back to Earth, all of them museums to their sterile and soulless society. A glimmer of a memory flashed in the back of his mind. “People must want children in order to have the numbers of them that you require. If the ends justify the means, let it be through by these means. We will all benefit in the end.”

The representatives still argued and dredged up slogans made sane by their repetition. The definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again and expect something to change. Bureaucracy had a tendency to promote rigorous adherence to rules over intelligence, and those who rose to the top could seem especially dense. Or was it willful blindness that it required, so that they would stick to the plan no matter how irrational or impossible it was?

“If we don’t embrace life, we will be embracing death for our society.” Their eyes were on him now, more than a few shocked at his audacity in booming out commandingly at them, those supposedly far higher than them. Daniel felt his words echo over the emotional and rhetorical arguments they all made, raining down to the solid truth of it. “We must choose life if we want to see a revival of the human race.”


The End