While reading yet another article about the rising teen STD rate, and the abject failure of abstinence-only programs to deal with it, I noted this odd comment:
"Because some sexually transmitted infections can cause infertility and cancer, U.S. health officials called for better screening, vaccination and prevention...for sexually active women. [It is] among our highest public health priorities."
I have been talking a lot about The Tragedy of the Commons lately, and here is a prime example of a key component of it: the divergence of private and public interest. In this case, it diverges on the subject of fertility.
For someone who desires children, fertility is obviously a very important, personal issue. But when we look at the issue from a public health point of view, that changes. The advantages that would come with a smaller population are obvious to all but the most ardent libertarian. The planet and its resources are limited, certainly in the short term, and likely in the long term as well. And whe we have limited resources, private and public priorities conflict.
And they conflict here. The speaker above is wrong: fertility is not a public health priority. If anything, INfertility is. Consider for example a disease descending on us which magically made 50% of the population infertile. Consider the impact this would have on global warming, world hunger, even crime (due to less congestion). We'd have reduced carbon emissions, less highways to build, less waste to dispose of, fewer prisons, and on and on. We would be far better off than we are now.
This is the sort of distinction that is practically nonexistent in American politics today, and is part of why so much of our public policy is poor. It's time we stopped pretending what is good for one person is good for all of us.