A "choice-based, marketable, birth license plan" or "birth credits" for population control has been promoted by urban designer and environmental activist Michael E. Arth since the 1990s. Previous iterations of similar transferable birth licensing schemes can also be traced to economist Kenneth Boulding (1964) and ecological economist Herman Daly (1991)
Arth offers birth credits in the place of solutions to human overpopulation that may take too long (like economic development and traditional family planning), are impractical (like space colonization), or cruel (like forced sterility, genocide, famine, disease, and war).
Incentive and Enforcement
According to Arth, a woman may collect the value of one credit if and when she decides not to have children. If the desired average number of children is one per woman, then a woman can have one for free. If she has additional children, she will be required to buy one birth credit for each child. The incentive to society is the prevention of an overpopulation-related tragedy of the commons, including an immediate reduction in unwanted children. The incentive to individuals is that their economic and educational levels would tend to rise as there is an inverse relationship between net worth and the number of children one has. As with traffic laws, enforcement of birth credits could be through fines, tax levies, or loss of privileges.
The scheme would pay for itself by rewarding those who choose not to have children, and charging those that have more than their allotment. The actual cost of the credits to those opting for more than one child would only be a tiny fraction of the actual cost of having and raising a child. Therefore, the credits would serve more as a wake-up call to women who might otherwise produce children without seriously considering the long term consequences to themselves or society.
Balancing Collective vs. Individual Rights
The choice-based marketable birth license plan was offered as a way to balance the collective right to live in a world with a sustainable population against the individual right to have as many children as one can commit to raising, while also reducing the number of unwanted or irresponsible births. Some previous attempts to limit population growth in India or China, which appear to have this same intention, have in some cases met resistance because they focused on limiting the number of children that each family may have without taking into account the differences between individuals in the number of children desired. During India's state of emergency between 1975 and 1977, under the direction of the son of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi there was reported to be overzealous enforcement of vasectomy and tubal ligation programs in order to meet quotas. The resulting backlash made subsequent family planning efforts more difficult. Also in China, under the One-Child Policy (instituted in 1979 to limit the number of children born to urban dwellers to one child) there were also overzealous officials who were jailed for enforcing sterilization or using forced abortions in order to meet population quotas.