July-August 2000


Brazil started the century with 17 million people
and ended it with an estimated total population of 170 million people.
When the population of a country grows ten fold during
a period of 100 years, that country is asking for
social trouble, as is happening in Brazil.

Ricardo C. Amaral

On April 22, 1500 Brazil was discovered by a Portuguese explorer named Pedro Álvares Cabral, and Brazil became a colony of Portugal.

"In other parts of the world colonies were used as trading posts to facilitate the commerce and trade of products between the mother country and that particular region. Since Brazil did not have products for trade with Europe, it was necessary to develop agricultural production for the benefit of European commerce. Brazil came into being as a producer of goods for international trade with the plantation system (fazenda) as the basis for its economy to produce sugar and other agricultural commodities for trade with Europe." 1

To develop this agricultural system they started using slave labor; first they tried to use the slave labor of the native Brazilian Indians. This did not work well for the Portuguese. Later they started bringing black slaves from Africa with a somewhat better result.

The Brazilian economy was built and developed using slave labor. Slavery was abolished in Brazil only in 1888. This is a period in Brazilian history which we should be ashamed of. That is, if we analyze it from a humanistic point of view.

"Before the importation of African slaves, the main suppliers of Indian slaves were the Paulistas—the people from the Captaincy of São Paulo. The Paulistas were a new people; a mixture of Portuguese and Native Brazilian Indian. The Paulistas were a major force in the development of the bandeiras movement. This group of people called the bandeirantes were to be the chief pioneering element in Brazil. They did more than any other group to push the line of demarcation westward until Brazil included half of the South American Continent." 1 (In 1494 Portugal and Spain had agreed to a line of demarcation by the Treaty of Tordesillas.)

Brazilian Population Growth

The population in Brazil grew as follows:


1500 0

1600 100,000

1700 300,000

1800 3,250,000

1900 17,000,000

2000 170,000,000

"Brazil started the century in 1900 with a total population of 17 million people. Brazil ended the century with an estimated total population of 170 million people. When the population of a country grows ten fold during a period of 100 years, that country is asking for social trouble, as is happening in Brazil. It does not matter which system a country has: capitalism, communism, or socialism; this magnitude of population growth is a prescription for disaster.

"Today some people wonder why there is so much crime in Brazil and why its civil system is breaking down. People look for simplistic answers to the problems. They consider drugs, or something else, as the reason for the breakdown. However, the obvious reason ( population explosion ) is never understood as being the cause of the problems.

"In the United States, Americans built an economic system in which the economy has to grow, grow and grow, and can't be allowed to stagnate. Growth, growth, and more growth is the mindset of Americans. The United States had only five million people around 1800, when its Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted and put into effect. The United States population had increased to 76 million people by 1900, but they had new lands, which they had bought or conquered since 1800. The United States could still afford to continue growing at that point in its history." 2

Today there are many studies estimating the optimum population the United States can support based on its resources, wealth, location, environmental considerations and type of economic structure. "Among these studies is one by David and Marcia Pimentel, professors at Cornell University. They suggest the United States should aim at a population of less than 100 million people. University of Maryland professor Robert Costanza reaches a more pessimistic estimate of 85 million people." 2

Based on the various studies it seems that up to 150 million people can be an acceptable limit of population for the United States. Above this number Americans are looking for trouble.

The United States reached the 151 million people mark in 1950; by 1970 the US had increased its population to over 200 million people. The country again increased its population to an estimated 275 million people by the year 2000.

Is it really surprising that the prison population started exploding in the United States since 1970, after the optimum population for this country of 150 million continued growing in numbers?

With the accelerated advances in technology and automation which we have today in the United States, the optimum population for the United States probably should be reduced to an even lower amount of people. Maybe the country should not have a population larger than 120 million people.

Most people don't understand and don't give much thought to the power of geometric progression (exponential growth) and its effect on population growth. For example, to show the power of exponential growth, in the 1980's more than 10 million legal and illegal immigrants arrived in the United States. This group of people will grow in numbers to approximately 25 million people by the year 2035.

To give another example, the estimated 25 million total legal and illegal immigrants who came to the United States during the 20-year period from 1980 to 2000, will grow to approximately 60 million people by the year 2040.

Government officials and the business community only think of their immediate needs of keeping labor costs down. They never think about the consequence of a growing population on future generations and its impact on the future of the country.

Governments such as the United States and Brazil have learned nothing from the past. They brought slaves from Africa to accommodate their needs a long time ago, never giving much thought about the consequences of their actions on future generations. Today the United States is making the same mistake again regarding its immigration policies. The US is still letting one million people immigrate to the US per year, even though today the United States has a population of 275 million people; a number which is probably double the optimum population.

The limit to population growth in Brazil

If we do the same type of analysis for Brazil, we might come to a similar result. Brazil probably should not have a population larger than 80 to 100 million people as its limit. Today, Brazil might have twice the population which could be considered an optimum and desirable number of people for the country based on its natural resources, size, location, type of economy, etc.

Population explosion is, in my opinion, the most important problem in Brazil. It is the cause of all other problems in Brazil today, including poverty and destitution for a large segment of the population, drugs, crime, corruption, etc.

There are two policies, which the Brazilian government should adopt immediately to put Brazil on the right path for its future. First, the Brazilian government should put in place a policy to reduce its population from its current 170 million people to a target of 100 million people by a certain attainable date.

Second, the Brazilian government should adopt the "Euro" as its new currency. The adoption of the "Euro" by Brazil would help the country to move economically into the 21st century. These would be the major two steps, which Brazil could take today which could have the most beneficial result for its future. These policies would have a positive impact not only socially but also economically. These policies would help update the Brazilian economy and move it in the right direction in the new millennium.

Notes: Note (1) are quotes from the book José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva - The Greatest Man in Brazilian History by Ricardo C. Amaral © 1998

Note (2) are quotes from the book José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva - The final chapter to end slavery in the Americas by Ricardo C. Amaral © 1999

Ricardo C. Amaral was born in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey, USA, where he received a BA degree in Economics and later an MBA degree in Finance. He continued his Academic studies towards a PhD degree in Economics at Fordham University, but then elected to immerse himself totally into a professional corporate career. You can contact Mr. Amaral at the following address:
Ricardo C. Amaral
P.O. Box 110302
Nutley, New Jersey 07110
Email address: 

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