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The State and the Stork: The Population Debate and Policy Making in US History Hardcover – September 24, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“After decades of failed efforts by the scientific community to alert the public to the environmental dangers of population growth and overpopulation, a first-rate historian has finally detailed both the arguments and their policy implications. Derek S. Hoff has taken a comprehensive look at the debates in the United States between those who realize as Malthus did that the growing population will sooner or later outstrip Earth's capacity to support people and those who imagine that there are no limits to that growth. Everyone interested in population should read The State and the Stork. This is an incredibly timely book.”
(Paul R. Ehrlich Author of The Population Bomb and The Dominant Animal )

“Derek Hoff has taken an important, complicated topic and traced it over the whole of American history. The research on display here is striking in its breadth and depth, Hoff’s insights are penetrating, and his interpretation is original. The State and the Stork is a solid piece of scholarship.”
(Robert Collins University of Missouri )

The State and the Stork takes up an enduring but often ignored question in modern American political history. How precisely have debates concerning the dynamics of population expansion affected the development of modern public policy and statecraft in the American experience? Strangely enough, there has been little in the way of recent scholarship that directly addresses this query—nor has there been a genuine effort to construct a narrative that spans the entirety of American history and squarely confronts it. It is this gap in the literature that Derek S. Hoff fills in a significant and original fashion
(Michael A. Bernstein Tulane University )

"Derek Hoff writes with subtlety and nuance and he makes a major contribution to our understanding of the public policies of the Great Society and Richard M. Nixon years by introducing the variable of population into the discussion. . . . A careful reading of this book will reward readers with many new insights into the course of modern American history. It demonstrates the author's considerable talents in the fields of intellectual, policy, and political history."
(Edward D. Berkowitz Journal of American History)

In his excellent book The State and the Stork, Derek Hoff examines the ways in which economists, demographers, social scientists and politicians in the US have traced patterns in Malthus’ domain. Hoff’s is an elegant clarion call to demographic arms, and . . . an assured guide through two centuries of Malthusian wrangling."
(Robert J. Mayhew Times Higher Education)

[Hoff's] meticulous archival research adds considerably to our knowledge of the machinations that lay behind President Richard Nixon's decision to establish a Presidential Commission on Population and America's Future and his subsequent disavowal of its findings. He does a similarly excellent job tracing the economic and environmental thought that led to the rise of Zero Population Growth as a significant policy movement and the subsequent changes in that thinking which led to its declining policy relevance . . . Hoff has done a real service by bringing to the foreground the economic dimension of US debates over population size and growth, a topic that has been relegated to the shadows for too long.
"(Population and Development Review)

[Hoff's] survey has remarkable breadth, relating hundreds of thinkers' ideas to the shifting center of opinion and terms of the debate about whether rising population will lead to a declining standard of living (pessimistic Malthusianim) or spur improvements. . . . Highly Recommended [three stars].

About the Author

Derek S. Hoff is associate professor of history at Kansas State University and the coauthor of Fighting Foreclosure: The Blaisdell Decision, the Contract Clause, and the Great Depression.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; First Edition edition (September 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226347621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226347622
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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America has needed a book like this for a long time. Hoff's injects the grim reality of natural limits to population growth into the prevailing American exceptionalists' vision of unlimited abundance, eternal economic and population expansion, and faith in technological solutions to the resulting environmental damages.

As he notes, both strands -- Malthusian limits and American exceptionalism -- have long competed in American social thought and political economy. At this stage, and for the last four decades, what he calls "Market Knows Best Demography," a neoliberal faith rooted in conservative laissez faire economics remains the offcial secular religion. But enduring recession in the western world, climate change, peak oil and world food shortages are mounting a challenge to that faith as never before. Hoff is at his best in describing how the triumph of conservative culture with laissez faire economic thought embodied in the Nixon administration overcame neo-malthusians' effort to officially commit the U.S. to population stability in the 1970-72 Rockefeller Commission on "Population and the American Future."

Americans, without government direction, have brought their fertility down below replacement. But births forgone have been nulified by high and rising immigration, which could account for as much as 80 percent U. S. population growth (if immigrants' children are considered) betweeb 2000 and mid-century. Hoff's otherwise exhaustive work gives insufficient analysis and recognition to the immigration factor, at times suggesting that those who raise the immigration issue at all are suspected as crypto eugenecists or racists.
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Format: Hardcover
As a person who spent many hours writing what was probably the first chronological history of the population movement in the U.S. ([...] I was delighted to find out this much more detailed book had recently been written. Having spent many hours researching and compiling that simple history it is hard for me to imagine how much time Derek must have spent writing this book. It is really amazing.

I was kind of disappointed that the book kind of ends in the seventies when the population movement peaked but a lot has also happened since then and I hope that some time, if he still has the energy left, he'll do the last few decades.

It is always extremely important to know where we have been to know why we are at the place we are today.

Unfortunately younger people today don't know how active the movement was in the 60's and 70's nor can they appreciate how much the environment has been trashed because they don't know what they missed. As just one example of the activism then, the Chittenden County, Vermont, Chapter of ZPG organized a dramatic action to take over 300 people to the tiny Sloop Island in Lake Champlain to demonstrate how crowded the earth would become if the population kept on growing. A remarkable photo of that is also in the history section of Vermonters for Sustainable Population web site. Their prediction certainly proved true.

Thank you Derek as a younger man for your great effort in getting this important book published.
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